It sounds so harsh. You, one little person, out in the great big world by yourself! Actually, it's one of the most freeing things you will ever do. I promise.
I have been traveling alone since I moved out of my parents house to go to school at age 17. I lived at the top of the continent and studied at the bottom. Navigating airports full of strangers and finding my own way with my (sometimes very large) bags was just a way of life. Traveling by plane, train or car became a norm but it never lost it's excitement because it always meant I was going to see something new or different. It might have been somewhere I had been before but it was a change of scenery, a breath of fresh air.
Now in my twenties I'll admit I travel alone because I want to do what I want to do. I have done the traveling with friends and significant others that didn't work out. Not everyone is good at traveling with others. Talk about seeing the ugly habits of a person. My rule now is that I will only invite people whom I really want to share the experience of a trip with or who I think will make the trip even better.
I want to go where I want to go when I want and eat at every opportunity in between (major snackaholic here). Personally, efficiency is a word I live by. Museums do not take all day in my book and if my legs can carry me the distance of the city, then they will! So just getting to go my own route, seeing everything I want to see at my speed is heaven!
I do a lot of research before I go and find the best of everything; touristy, yummy, spectacular, local, fun, experiential, beautiful...you get it. If I'm going somewhere I'm interested in it, and I get very very excited about traveling so I just can't help but learn before I even leave. I have my notes and a general direction and time I want to start and off I go. Honestly, I don't usually get all of my planned items in because I end up stumbling upon equally as amazing things to see, eat and do! Traveling is not a 'Type A' friendly activity, because the world is always changing and that unpredictability just makes it more of an adventure.
Ignorance is anything but bliss when traveling, it can get you into trouble. By planning my route and getting a little familiar before I go and right when I arrive I can get my bearings. Ahead of departure to a new country I read up on the news a little bit. Knowing your landscape, both actual land and social/economic/ political/ religious, you won't be such a tourist target. This helped while I was in Venice recently; I knew having my arms and legs covered in all of the churches was mandatory for entry and that that portion of Europe is unfortunately the land of pick-pockets, who can and will take everything. Most importantly, I knew there had been a terrorist attack in a nearby country and that was why I kept running into heavily armed military inside the city and bomb squads on the trains. Having this knowledge helped me avoid what would have been rather unfortunate surprises and the fun never had to stop!
Honestly, my "worst case" plan I have (thankfully) never had to use in a foreign country is getting to the consulate as fast as possible. It is there where home help lives. (This plan is the exact directive from my Mum, it's essentially written in stone, found in the brick inlay of Mum's driveway.)
They know you are alone. It's pretty hard to hide and that, for the most part, is okay. People have the most interesting reaction to a young female traveling alone. It sounds like it would be bad but I have met the kindest people in the world while traveling by myself. People want to help you, they want to share with you and they very nearly treat you like family. I have had people invite me to their homes for a family meal, give me free tickets to places, and escort me to a safer street when they notice I'm headed to a less than safe direction. Locals really do like to share their home if you are willing to look and listen. Even if you don't speak the same language, you can meet in the middle with some polite effort (even if you learn the Spanish word for puppy by someone handing you a puppy and then saying "perrito!"....learning happens in lots of ways!)
It has been less than a handful of times that I have been approached and been very uncomfortable about it. In those circumstances I stood up tall, excused myself and left with purpose towards a public place. I stay very aware of my surroundings, sometimes it looks like I twirl in the street but I'm just surveying all the way around myself. Being aware is just being smart because at the end of the day the world is a dangerous place but that shouldn't prevent you from seeing it. (Mum tip #2 written in the 7th book of Mum: Walk with purpose and no one will question you.)
So there you have it my solo travel speech! It's so so worth it!
If you have questions on where I do my research or just in general let me know!