The Ugly American: Sleep Around and 4 Other Essential Tips for Traveling Solo

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If you’re traveling solo, which I highly recommend just for the judgment-free day drinking alone, remember to lie like a con artist when talking to taxi drivers, bell hops and various other possibly nefarious-minded service-industry types who might see your solo status as opportunity to roofie your ass, shake you down and abandon you behind a dumpster. Lying is easy. Just pretend you’re speaking to someone on your cell phone and say something like, “Hi, Bluto! See you in a few minutes! What? You’ll be in the hotel gym pumping 100-pound hand weights? Good for you.”

Don’t Be Nice
Learn how to say, “Hell no,” in the local language of the country you’re visiting. In fact, practice saying it in your own language a few hundred times while you’re at it. The fear of being impolite will get you tied up in the trunk of a car in no time. You’re not obligated to accept anything from anyone—be it an invitation or a drink—and the last thing on your list of concerns should be the feelings of the person trying to pressure you into doing something that doesn’t feel right.

Sleep Around
Vacation rentals by owner ( and AirBnB have changed the playing field for solo travelers. Pick a place with good reviews that rave about helpful owners who are full of recommendations on where the locals go. Avoid the listings that don’t have reviews, yet. A solo trip is not the time for you to be a lab rat for inexperienced hosts. Stick to the veteran listings. These owners can also serve as emergency contacts, reservation makers, taxi callers or just simply someone who will notice your absence if you go missing after not saying “hell no” when you should have.

Get a Paypal Debit Card …
… and leave it in your room. This’ll makes it easier for you when you wake up robbed and bleeding behind that dumpster, because family and/or friends can instantly send you emergency money to your account, which you can instantly retrieve in the local currency at almost any ATM. This will come in handy for paying ransoms and purchasing bandages and such in case that “hell no” is still stuck in your throat.

Bring a Book
A book is like a force field against unwanted company (unless, of course, the book is Fifty Shades of Grey, in which case you deserve to suffer a barrage of idiots just for buying it). For example, if you’re sitting at a café and spot a human walrus trying to make eye contact with you, just bury your nose in your book and that should build a decent barrier. The only problem is that it sometimes works a little too well at blocking people out. It could be years before you see your server again, too. Half the statues in Europe are really just solo travelers who turned to stone waiting for their check to arrive.

Photo: Jean KOULEV, CC_BY

Hollis Gillespie is Paste Travel’s The Ugly American columnist. She is a writing instructor, travel expert and author of We Will be Crashing Shortly, which is on bookstore shelves now. Follow her on Twitter.

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