Confidence is a solo traveler's armor.
Let me explain.
While I've written extensively on the things you can do to keep yourself safe (read Solo Travel Safety: 50 Tips), there's one area of safety that definitely requires some special attention: how to be confident as you travel.
Traveling confidently will help keep you safe. As a friend, Gwen McCauley, wrote to me:
I’m a big believer that safety is an inside job. The safer you feel about yourself inside yourself, the safer you’ll find the outside world to be. Now that doesn’t mean that I flaunt common sense at home or abroad, but it also means that I know my self confidence and self assurance make me much more likely to be the person that a hustler or scammer passes by.
This makes perfect sense to me. The con artist and other undesirables seek the weak and naive. Yes, confidence is a traveler's armor.
How to Look Confident When You're Not
What if you're not really that confident or what if you're generally confident but not so in a situation that makes you very nervous? Sometimes, you need to fake it 'til you make it. I did a bit of research and offer you 10 ways to increase your solo travel safety by looking confident:
- Know that you're amazing. Many people are still astounded when they meet someone traveling solo. They think you're strong. To them you're exotic. Think that and know that and it will show in your body language without any effort at all.
- Smile. A worried look on your face does not project confidence. A smile does. Use it.
- Walk with your head up and with awareness. Stand tall. Lift your torso up as though stretching your spine. Pull your shoulders slightly back so that they widen. Walk looking side to side as well as in front of you so that you look very aware of your surroundings. In a cafe or other public space scan your environment from time to time. Appearing aware of your surroundings can cause pickpockets and the like to look elsewhere for a mark.
- Be decisive. A hesitant person looks vulnerable. Be decisive in your actions and you will look confident. This may require a bit of research and map memorizing so that you know exactly where you're going, but it is worth it.
- Look alert. You're safest when you have all of your senses working for you. You know it and so do others. Don't wear earbuds so that you can't hear what's going on. Don't be distracted by your mobile phone or reading a map on the street so that you don't see what's happening around you.
- Make a statement as a statement. When you make a statement don't let your voice rise at the end as though it is actually a question. This suggests that you are uncertain of yourself and are looking for confirmation from the person you're speaking with. If you have a question to ask, that's fine. If you have something to say, say it with confidence.
- Make eye contact. If you're speaking with someone, make eye contact so that they know you are a strong person. In more general situations eye contact is not necessary but don't hide your eyes either.
- Stand strong. When standing still, stand with your feet apart (as much as 12 inches) and your weight evenly distributed. If you're speaking with someone face them directly to look confident.
- Take up space. Sit back in a chair and use the armrests if they're there. Resist the urge to fold your arms under your armpits or fidget with your hands. Put your hands on your hips or use them to emphasize a point as you speak. Lean against a wall but don't slouch against it. This way you look like you own the room. This is all called power posing.
- Act natural. This is likely the most difficult point of all. Do all of the above as though it is absolutely natural to you.
Watch this TED Talk on how you can use body language to affect how confident you feel. You'll learn that “tiny tweaks can lead to big changes.”