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We catch up with experienced solo traveller Marine Dansette as she shares some of her top tips and advice for anyone hitting the high road alone.
She may only be 29 years old, but Marine Dansette has already travelled extensively on her own. She’s ticked off many countries along the way, including China, South Korea, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Russia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Iran and most recently, India.
Solo travel – especially for women – is dramatically on the rise, with many people seeking out independent adventure and wanting to try something different.
Here at Jayride.com, we know that many of our travellers head off on their own, whether on a business trip or a solo adventure. We also know that stepping out solo can be daunting, so we caught up with Marine to get some invaluable advice about the solo travel scene.
‘The reason I started travelling on my own is quite unexpected, actually,’ laughs Marine. Back in 2014, when she was living in Shanghai, Marine had organised a trip to the Philippines for two weeks with a friend from the UK. However, a few days before they were supposed to meet in Manila, her friend called to say he couldn’t make it anymore.
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‘I didn’t know what to do. I’d not been away on my own before, so I didn’t know whether to go or just give up the flight tickets. ‘Of course, one of the first thoughts that crossed my mind was safety,’ says Marine.
‘But I decided to just go for it. Winter in Shanghai is cold, and I didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to spend a couple of weeks in the sun! And that was the start of my solo travels... unplanned, but it was a trip that shaped the traveller I am today.’
When it comes to concerns about travelling solo, there are plenty of things that need to be considered, and being worried is perfectly normal.
‘I would be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned before going off on my first solo adventure,’ says Marine. ‘I was petrified on my way to the airport for my flight to the Philippines. I didn’t know anything about the country apart from what I’d seen on the news, and that wasn’t great. I had no idea how I was going to communicate with the locals, and I didn’t know how I’d travel around.
‘Nowadays I’m far more relaxed. I do plenty of research prior to my trips, and I have much more experience,’ she explains. ‘Recently, I’ve been travelling to what some may think as more “difficult” countries, such as Iran or India, and yes, I do have some concerns before getting there. But that’s part of the fun, and part of the reason why I do these trips. You know how some people are looking for an adrenalin kick by doing extreme sports? For me, travelling solo is my adrenalin kick!’
Marine has plenty of tips for travellers who are going it alone, whether it’s a business trip or a holiday. And it doesn’t matter if you’re heading off on the road less travelled or going to a popular tourist destination, there are things people need to be aware of if they’re travelling alone. ‘My top tip before going away solo is to inform yourself,’ advises Marine. ‘Read about the country, its political context, some cultural do’s and don’ts, learn basic sentences in the local language if it’s not your native language.’
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There are some really important first steps when you arrive in your destination, too. ‘The first thing I do when I arrive somewhere (or regretted not doing if I skipped it), is to buy a local prepaid phone sim card and message my friends and family with the new number,’ says Marine. ‘That means you’re reachable, but more importantly, you have a way of calling if there’s a problem. Always save your hotel number ready to call if you get lost, or can’t communicate with your taxi driver and so on.
‘Another thing I always do when I arrive somewhere is to inform my local consulate that I’m there. It might not have crossed your mind, but when you’re in countries known for natural catastrophes, if your local consul knows your whereabouts they will inform you and even come get you if something happens!
‘It’s also really important to make sure you have adequate insurance. I’ve seen far too many travellers who had to cut their trip short because of injuries not covered by their insurance,’ advises Marine.
Female solo travel is definitely a hot topic, and as a female traveller herself, Marine has a few specific words of advice. ‘Unfortunately, as a woman you do have to take extra precautions and be as aware of your environment as possible,’ warns Marine. ‘This is valid while on the road as much as back home, actually. If you do your research properly before jumping on the plane, you should know about any risks before you get to your destination. Part of the fun while travelling, besides sight-seeing and experiencing a new culture, is to meet new people. But trust your instinct, and don’t put yourself in a situation you don’t feel comfortable in.’
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Solo travel is very common in the business world, and for many of our Jayride.com travellers. From the dread of eating out alone to what to do in your down time, for many the idea of a business trip is no fun at all. But, it’s important to make the most of it, says Marine.
‘When I lived in Shanghai, I was working as a sales manager for an international Freight Forwarding company, so I travelled for business quite a bit. And of course every time I tried to make the most of it!’, says Marine.
‘Find out what’s going on in the city while you’re there – ask the hotel staff as they usually have information about what’s going on nearby, or contact your country’s Chamber of Commerce prior to your trip and ask for their event list in the city you will be visiting. That’s a great way to meet people and also to network.’
But what about keeping yourself entertained when you’re on your own? ‘It might sound strange, but sometimes it can actually be quite hard to find time for yourself when you travel alone!’, laughs Marine. ‘It’s quite impressive how fast you actually meet people when you’re travelling. You’ll find yourself in last minute adventures around a local food market, or on a boat heading towards that small island in the middle of the city lake...,’ says Marine.
Entertainment may not be a problem for many, but eating alone is dreaded by many solo travellers. Whether you’re on your fiftieth business trip or you’re first ever solo holiday, the dreaded solomangarephobia (fear of eating alone – there’s actually a name for it!) worries many travellers.
‘I must admit that the first time I was on my own at a restaurant, I wasn’t completely comfortable,’ says Marine. ‘Knowing what you want to get out of your trip will help you decide how to tackle to solo eating issue. If you’ve got your own schedule and don’t feel the need to meet other people, then a quick room service dinner might do. But if you’d like to meet others, then find a nice restaurant and if you see another traveller eating on his/her own, don't be afraid to ask if you can join. Who knows, you might become best buddies!
‘You can make the most of being in a restaurant with local staff, too. Start talking to the waiter and ask for some advice on what to do in the area. I don’t like to bury myself in my phone or book, as I find that it’s hard for people to approach you then. But it completely depends on what type of experience you’re after. If you’re on a business trip, then you might just want to get on with work.’
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Marine has a wealth of online resources she uses to help plan her solo trips, as doing the research before you go is one of the most important steps. ‘The internet is so full with information, it can be pretty overwhelming actually,’ she says. ‘But now I have my favourite list and I just stick to that. TripAdvisor is great to find good (and cheap) restaurants. Unsurprisingly, Facebook has become a huge source of inspiration for travellers – you can find a group for almost any country, and then you can post your questions, requests for a travel buddy and so on, in the groups. I’m also a big fan of Instagram, where I regularly post pictures with advice about the place I am currently visiting alongside stories of locals I’ve met. I’ve also used Instagram to contact people who have been to the places I’m visiting in order to find information about a specific place. It can be really useful.
‘For female solo travellers, I’d always recommend doing some research for blogs of solo travellers that have been to the destination you want to visit. You’ll get another woman’s honest opinion on the country and get tips that you can directly apply to your trip. My best source of inspiration for female solo travel is the blog Teacake Travels.’
For Marine, travel is all about trusting your instincts. ‘Trust your gut and assess the situation’, she says. ‘I have lied a few times when asked “Are you alone?” and I felt something wasn’t right. The world is full of wonderfully kind-hearted people though, so my tip is to connect with as many of them as you can.’
On that note, Marine has a one particular bit of advice she always passes on to others considering solo travel. ‘Don't be scared, and do not base your judgment only on what you see on the media and what others tell you. If I had only listened to the news and to the worries my mum had, I would never have fallen in love with some of the countries I’ve been to. However, and this is extremely important, do your research before you go. Travelling is fun, but it will be even more fun, and safer, if you’ve done your homework properly.
‘What I love most about solo travel is the feeling of freedom it gives me, and that strong adrenalin that kicks in when I’m pushing myself out of my comfort zone. There’s nothing better than being free and getting a thrill out of being in a place where you know nothing and nobody.’
Follow Marine’s adventures on Instagram (@travel.endlessly).
Thinking of heading off solo, or got a business trip coming up? Why not pre-book your airport transfer so you can rest easy knowing how you’re getting to your accommodation when you land.
My top tip before going away solo is to inform yourself. Read about the country, its political context, some cultural do’s and don’ts, learn basic sentences in the local language if it’s not your native language.