While traveling solo might not be everyone's cup of tea, people who do it often come back with rich experiences, stories worth remembering for a lifetime and a whole lot of friends from around the world. Apart from these, solo traveling also taught me a few basics of travel.
Always keep some cash handy.
Being someone who looks for an ATM when only money left in my wallet is some change, I have learnt this lesson the hard way. You can decide a minimum amount based on how elaborate your trip is because the nearest ATM can run out of money, your taxi might break down, you might reach the hotel in the dead of the night, etc.
But keep the cash divided!
Over breakfast in Hampi, I met a French lady who took out her change from one wallet and notes from another. She told me (and also advised me to do the same!) that she keeps her cash divided. There is always some money in her backpack, some in her pocket/wallet and some in her books. Simply because wallets can get stolen, or forgotten, you can lose your credit card or worse. This just ensures that in those exigencies, she will have some money left with her.
Spontaneous trips can do with some research.
I love spontaneous plans. To be fair, those are the only ones that work right?! But some basic research about where you are going, what is the local scene, any news updates always helps. It will just help you to avoid situations like reaching a destination where a single hotel is not available due to an ongoing festival or getting stuck in a landslide which has been in the news for the last 3 days. So, take some notes, keep some numbers on you and you are all set.
Maps are always handy.
Learn how to read maps. And always keep a local one handy. Period.
Know what will be your time pass.
I always have a few books and my Kindle with me when I travel. I have realised that as part of the travel, we spend a significant amount in trains, buses, rickshaws and we need to pass time. Also, being engaged means less people trying to get talking to you. So find your time pass - books, music, sketching, whatever works for you.
Talk to people :)
If you are a girl traveling alone, you will get the stares. Accept it. Also, remember that some people are looking at you just in awe of you, some could be wondering if you need help and some are plain assholes. In my travels, I have met so many people who have helped me, with translations, directions, finding a decent hotel and even negotiate for tinkers. To get to know a place, chai dhabas, roadside vendors are great people to start a conversation with.
Trust everyone, trust no one.
My boss often says this. I also happen to apply it to my travels. Small additions to your bag like a pepper spray, an army knife are crucial.
Keep your eyes and ears open.
Solo traveling has taught me a plain, simple truth -- being careful. I am always tuned in to the environment when traveling alone. I keep my ears open, I hear what people around me are saying, if I can't understand the language I try to read their faces, expressions. I usually take mental notes of my vicinity, roads, directions.
While it all might sound like too much of a bother, it actually is not. Every trip will help you learn something that will make your next trip better. And that in my opinion is the beauty of solo travel.