You don't know where you are. You don't have a map. You don't speak the language. You're on your own and you're lost. What would you feel in that situation: panic or exhilaration? Is the idea of travelling alone fun or frightening?
Jill Greenan can tell you how it feels because she's done it many times. The 36-year-old shop-worker has often travelled by herself but on the first occasion, it looked like it would go horribly wrong in the first few minutes.
Jill had just got off a plane in Hong Kong on her way to New Zealand and was looking for her hostel. "When I arrived I discovered I'd only packed half the map," she says, "and the hostel was on the wrong half.
"So I just wandered round the streets with no idea what to do. Some guy pitched up who could see that I was some stupid Westerner, a lost tourist. He came up and took the bit of paper with the address out of my hand and just pointed, and it turned out I was standing right beside it."
Jill felt a mixture of exhilaration and fear in that situation, she says. "I hadn't really thought out what I was going to do," she says. "I suppose I might have ended up back at the station or slept on a bench. But I think I must have been changed by that trip. Before I went, I was quite timid – less so when I got back. I was more willing to just do things. It made me think: if I can do it once, I can do it again."
So what stops other women from doing what Jill Greenan does, from travelling alone on holiday, either at home or abroad? Is it fear that they'll be judged? Is it fear that something bad will happen? Jill prefers to reverse those questions and points to the positives she has experienced on her many solo holidays.
For a start, she says, she's pushed herself outside her comfort zone. Second, after some bad experiences on holiday with other people, she loves the fact that she doesn't have to compromise or put up with moody or bossy companions. And then there's the best reason of all: escape. In a world full of obsessed connectedness, a holiday on your own can offer you freedom from all of that. For a week or two, you can cut the connections. You can be a little more free.
Jill, from Glasgow, has certainly found this freedom on some of her camping holidays in the north of Scotland. She says people don't expect to see a woman travelling on her own but the only time she has ever felt uncomfortable has been in pubs at the end of the night when she fancies a pint after a day of walking.
"Sometimes I wouldn't bother and just stay in the tent," she says, "but sometimes you just go for it and you meet somebody. During the day, I'd be walking; at night, I'd be reading. I'm quite happy in my own company."
Jill says she is never worried about appearing to have no friends, and besides, she has done the holiday with friends and family and says it can be over-rated. "We usually fall out," she says. "I went on a cycling trip with my best mate and we didn't speak for seven weeks afterwards." It's a reminder that going on holiday with a friend, or even a partner, can be risky – it's often when you're away together that the cracks show.
Jill is also sanguine about security on her trips. "You can't not do things just because of the risk," she says. "Otherwise, you'd just be stuck in the house."
There are two ways of looking at the world, says Jill. You can go out into the world expecting that people will be out to get you, or you go out expecting people to help you. Most people will help you, she says.
This doesn't mean you shouldn't be prepared – Jill recommends that you always research the area you're going to, particularly when you're going abroad. It is particularly important to find out what areas are best avoided for a woman on her own. Jill also thinks that rather than a hotel, a hostel is a good idea because there are communal areas where you can talk to people.
Anthony Page, who runs a travel company for solo travellers, agrees with this advice. "There's more opportunity to meet locals when you're travelling alone," he says. "As a solo you're more likely to be seen as approachable. If you're staying somewhere for more than a few days, try and hang out at a cafe or a bar and become a local."
Page admits the idea of dining alone can be daunting for many people, particularly women, but says there are ways round that too. "Try and have your main meal at lunchtime as it's often seen as more acceptable to dine alone then," he says. "In the evening take a book with you but be open to conversations with nearby tables too. Eating at the bar can be sociable as well."
As far as Page is concerned, the balance between pros and cons definitely comes down on the pros. "Travelling solo means you don't have to be thinking of someone else meaning you can travel at your own pace, get up late, miss that train and do what you want," he says.
"Once you've come out the other side of a challenging solo experience, such as getting food poisoning in India, you'll realise there are few things you can't handle and you'll have a sense of accomplishment."
However, this isn't the only model for travelling alone. Sandra Picken has also been on holidays without friends or family but prefers to go in a group of other solo-travellers, in her case through the travel company Breaks2go, which is based in Glasgow.
Sandra, 58, has been on several trips, including to the Lake District, and likes the company a group provides. "I like to meet other people in the same position," she says, "and you get a company representative who looks after you and gets everybody mixing in with others. You go away yourself but it's a safe environment."
Sandra is in a slightly different position to Jill – she isn't going on holiday by herself through choice but rather because her friends are married and go on family holidays. Sandra's theory is that if you have to go on holiday on your own, it might as well be with other people like you.
"I would say go with a group because you will meet so many friends," she says. "You won't be friends with everybody obviously but you all get chatting and you all get on well. You can also have your own space because you've got your own single room."
Sandra has made several friends this way – and is going on holiday with one of them to Spain in November. However, Jill would pretty much never consider another holiday with anyone else. "I find that when I do things with other people, travel or whatever, I tend to take a back seat and let them take control of things," she says. "Being alone also means I can please myself and change my mind whenever I feel like it and that sense of freedom is very important to me."
Jill thinks fear of assault is one of the reasons more women don't travel alone. "The potential dangers of a female travelling alone didn't really cross my mind, perhaps naively. There were a couple of times where I had to get myself out of a potentially sticky situation but it wouldn't stop me going away again.
"I was on a train in New Zealand once and there was a Chinese chap. He said to me 'I'll buy you dinner' and I thought: is this OK? So I did a half-way thing – I went for a drink with him and said I had to go. It was getting away from that situation that was quite tricky."
None of this would ever stop Jill though – quite the opposite. You have to be aware of the risks of strangers, she says, but meeting new people is also part of the fun. While on a solo trip in Thailand, for example, she ended up spending a train journey getting to know the Malaysian deaf football team.
As for her next trip, Jill is now in the middle of planning a solo walking trip from Glasgow to Cape Wrath, which she thinks will take about three weeks. Other times, she just gets on her bike and goes. "There's no room for any nagging insecurities or self-doubt when you do that," she says, "and that's a great feeling."
For more information, visit www.solotravel.org and www.breaks2go.co.uk