Solo travel is such a rewarding and fulfilling experience, I am a firm believer that it teaches you a lot about yourself. Perhaps at home, we’re less inclined to be adventurous or spontaneous given we are comfortable with the people around us and our general routine. Solo travel has a tendency to open people up more and to take risks that they normally wouldn’t even consider.
Even with it’s perks, solo travel has it’s unfortunate surprises which some of us think about and perhaps, even try to mitigate. More often than not, it is unexpected and we have to deal with the situation as it arises. Honestly, I thought long and hard for the past couple of days on whether I should write about this topic and I believe it’s important enough to address it. My hope is that readers of this post will at least give serious thought if not, put together a safety plan before their travels.
On July 9, I was supposed to depart to Colombia to enjoy some solo travel and also launch a pilot project I had been working on for the past six months. Packed up and ready to go, sipping on a Tazo Passion Tea Lemonade and getting comfy in my seat. I was scanning through the in-flight entertainment realizing that I could easily watch seven straight episodes of Suits before landing in Bogota.
On my way to the South American country I’ve always wanted to go to, getting to spend my birthday there, launching my pilot project with amazing support from back home, spending oodles of time at the beach, eating amazing food and now I get to watch Suits all the way there?! Amazing.
It’s me – I should have guessed it would be too good to be true. ~1.5 hours into the flight, it seems that I ended up having a seizure. Yup, that’s right – a seizure. The captain ended up turning the plane around, to bring me back to Toronto so I could get access to medical attention. I only have fragments of what occurred but given that I was solo travelling, this was probably one of the scariest things that could have happened.
What did I learn besides scaring the crap out of passengers, my parents and friends? Put a safety plan in place, because I certainly didn’t think this would ever happen to me.
Copy your ID and leave it with a friend/family member at home. You should always have a hard copy of your photocopied passport for yourself abroad but make sure that you copy your passport, driver’s license, health card, health insurance card, bank cards, credit cards, etc (back and front) to be left with someone you trust at home. If you get robbed or lose it, at least you know someone has a copy. Additionally, you can scan your IDs in an encrypted PDF so you have it available to you via soft copy.
Health Conditions. On a piece of paper in your wallet or daypack, if you have medical conditions make note of it. Usually most have a med ID bracelet, but it doesn’t hurt to have it written down somewhere just in case. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have emergency contacts written down (names, numbers, emails) just in case someone needs to relay a message home.
Itinerary. I get that some of us like to figure things out as we go, but generally, we will have an idea at which hostels/hotels we’d like to stay at. Give the list, with full address and phone numbers to a friend at home just in case something happens on your trip. Also, give a rough estimate of where you think you will be so at least, people can have a general idea.
Social Media. When we’re abroad, we have technology on our side. Whether it’s facebook, twitter, instagram, tumblr or whatever it is a way for us to connect with the rest of the world. Silly? I call it strategic. Sometimes I won’t be able to get reception to send an email, but will have enough to just scrape by with an IG. My methodology is simple, I always tell my friends and family that my IG is a way they can track my travels. My routine is to post daily, and should I miss a day or two – it would be cause for concern especially abroad. Between what’sapp, instagram and email – there’s no reason for me to be incommunicado for more than a couple of days given I’m moving from city to city.
Other Research. I always suggest researching where you are going and understanding the local customs. Find out where your consulate is, e-mail it to yourself with a google maps attached so you have it accessible. Should you need to take a flight home asap, it doesn’t hurt to have an emergency travel fund or credit card to bail you out of a quick jam.
This incident was terrifying but it won’t deter me from future solo travel trips. I will certainly be more responsible in putting together a safety plan prior to taking off, but like I said, I find solo travel one of the most rewarding life experiences and will happily continue this practice for as long as I possibly can.
Especially, since I still need to launch Project #ShowSumLove!