View from middle of South Congress Avenue in Austin, TX looking toward the city.
View from middle of South Congress Avenue in Austin, TX looking toward downtown.

I love traveling the world with families and friends, but I also love exploring on my own and have had lots of practice doing just that with my job as a flight attendant.

Whether on foot or on bicycle I usually follow these tips when exploring solo as a girl:

1. Research it first: I’ll use free tourist maps from hotels/airports because they simplify a city to it’s main streets and attractions. This big picture knowledge allows me to walk with purpose and confidence, and helps prevent me from getting too lost as I wonder.

Checking out a map of Salvador, Brazil in 2010 in a hostel before heading out to explore.
Checking out a map of Salvador, Brazil in 2010 in a hostel before heading out to explore.

2. Know where I am and blend in: Once I’m out in the city, I never use a physical map because it targets me as a nonlocal. Instead I use my phone, which helps me blend in.

3. Stay in crowds: Regardless of the time or locale, if there are a bunch of people out and about (tourists, business people, commuters, families, etc.) everything’s usually okay. Conversely, I know I’m most vulnerable walking alone on an empty street.

4. Be aware of my surroundings: As I walk down a street, I assess conditions of buildings, streets, people, sidewalks, litter, etc. to see if the area is overall maintaining, improving, or deteriorating.

Even though there weren't many people on the street in midtown Sacramento during a recent visit, I wasn't worried because the streets were clean, the sidewalks manicured, and the buildings overall in good shape.
Even though there weren’t many people on the street in midtown Sacramento during a recent visit, I wasn’t worried because the streets were clean, the sidewalks manicured, and the buildings overall in good shape — sure signs the community was invested in making this space welcoming and safe.

5. Follow my gut instincts: Exploration is inherently about being tuned in, and by trusting my gut instincts I’ve met fascinating people and had unique experiences that I would have otherwise missed out on. On occasion, I’ve also chosen to avoid individuals or specific places by crossing the street, turning direction, or ducking into a store.

6. Document explorations as I go: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Vine, etc. are not only great for memories, they’re time-stamped archives that can be used to help locate me in the event of an emergency. I try to post hourly when I’m on my own. Sometimes, I’ll go old-school and call a friend to let them know when I leave and when I get back.

Documenting solo explorations on Twitter.
Documenting solo explorations on Twitter.

— Laura Rowley

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Written by Laura Rowley

I am an artist, flight attendant, and travel blogger.

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