With nearly 30 years of international travel under my belt, I've been in more than one sticky situation where I didn't know how to read the signals. These 10 Crucial Tips for Solo Male Travel come from my own experience and that of other guys I've met along the way. Every guy setting out to travel overseas needs to do some preparation if they are travelling solo.
1. Develop situational awareness
Don’t be the guy who said “I didn’t even see what was going on”. You have a duty to yourself to prepare for your own safety, as well as those around you and the best way to do that is to learn how to read situations pretty rapidly and react calmly and smoothly.
2. Lose your Saviour Complex
Nobody needs for you to jump into situations in a new culture. Allow yourself to bear witness to how that culture operates, respond in a calm and generous manner and know when is the right time to just observe and when to take part. Learn what is too much and use official, state-sanctioned routes to report concerns.
3. Men are vulnerable
Solo Male Travelers are vulnerable, with much to learn from the self-awareness that solo female travel bloggers have written about. Men do get robbed, by pickpockets and encounter more serious assaults. In some cultures, other men will pick a fight for seemingly weird or low level reasons: looking at ‘their’ woman, being drunk in the wrong bar. The best thing a solo male traveler can do is to practice situational awareness, and when trouble does arise, to try to de-escalate, give in, simply leave.
4. Unintimidating Behaviour Reduces Threat
If you’re from North America or Europe, you may be a LOT taller or broader than people in the culture you are visiting. In social situations, you may appear to be intimidating, both to women and men. Don’t assume you ‘read’ as Mr Nice without taking steps to display that. Move calmly, moderate your speaking voice and make it clear you are asking for something in a gentle and unintimidating way.
5. Don’t be the statistic: avoid dying
If you’re traveling solo and hook up with a group from your hotel or hostel for excursions, nobody needs your Big Dick Energy approach to safety. That bungee jump, white water raft or rock climbing adventure needs to be treated with caution, and you need to adhere to the safety guidelines offered by trip organisers. Don’t use this as the chance to show off. You want to come home with a story, not in a box.
6. Put your Papaya away
In Colombia, local people say that show-offs have their “papaya” on display. That is, you’re wearing the latest designer brand, big watch, new iPhone, jewellery, and you've got all your tech on show. You’re showing off, and you’re making yourself a target. Successful travel, especially long term travel, means packing wisely and making sure every item you carry serves a purpose. Leave the new iPad at home, invest in a money belt that goes under your shirt, and put your “papaya” away.
7. Have fun, but within limits
Part of your trip preparation should be to learn about local customs for party time. What is night time culture like? How do your drink or drug habits fit into that? The best idea is to enjoy yourself, but maintain awareness… don’t go crazy. What you don’t want is to be out of control and in a situation where your response might lead to a serious complication. Your buzzy drunk banter back home in the US or Ireland might read as threatening in Brazil or South Africa and lead to some big consequences that you really don’t want.
There’s endless stories, particularly in South America, of getting in the wrong company because you want a hit, or ending up in the local police station. Take it easy, enjoy your travel, get your hit somewhere else.
8. Sexy time
You really don’t want to get sexy time wrong by being ignorant of local customs and laws. The opportunities to mess this up are multiple. Read about the country you visit before you leave home. If you’re gay, sex might be forbidden. If you’re straight, sex outside of marriage (or with someone already married) might be forbidden. For all sexualities, the age of consent might vary from what you know about at home. You have no excuse. Learn before you go.
9. Sexy time (again)
If you’re going to have sexy time, rubber up. Bring some with you (best) or buy some locally (quality can vary). Most solo male travelers aren’t setting out to get someone pregnant, or pick up an unexpected sexually transmitted disease.
10. Falling in love
Oh, you fell in love. Congratulations. Or did you? Your new partner might be enthusiastic, or might be frightened of you. Recently, on a trip to Medellin, Colombia, I was warned that some Colombian women may think about love in a very different way to expectations (the person was barking up the wrong tree with me). I don’t know enough to make an informed assumption about that culture, but I can say that in some cultures, a person may develop feelings faster or in a different way to you. This can be lost in translation. In some other situations, you may be an opportunity, especially if you appear to be wealthy. Be cautious about falling in love ten minutes into a relationship. If you’re a 3 and they are a 10, it’s not your good looks that are selling you.
Successful travel for the solo male traveller is mostly down to preparation and using that awareness to minimise any tricky situations that arise. You should have fun and enjoy yourself. Knowing the safety parameters in advance gives you some sensible tools to make the most out of your travel and will keep you on the road for longer.