Trust your gut
If something is telling you it’s not safe, listen. Move on. Generally there’s a reason we get that feeling even if we can’t pinpoint why at the time.
Even if it is the safest place on earth, the fact you feel uncomfortable means you won’t enjoy your time there anyway. Don’t stay.
Communication is key
If you want mobile phone coverage outside major cities, Telstra really is the only option. Things are changing, but very slowly. William Creek on the Oodnadatta Track only has Optus coverage, but I haven’t heard of anywhere else like that.
If you are going really remote you need a satellite phone. You can hire satphones, but if you’re going to do a fair bit of travelling it’s worth investing in one of your own. They are expensive, but worth every penny for the peace of mind if you’re in an area with no mobile coverage.
EDIT: I have been advised that Optus is now available along the Oodnadatta Track, West MacDonnell Ranges, and Watarrka (Kings Canyon). Both Optus and Telstra have maps on their websites showing what areas they cover. Check each before you make a purchase decision.
Have a communications plan
Make a plan with somebody at home about when/how often you’ll call to let them know you’re ok. Then stick to it. The plan should also include what they should do if you miss a check in, and when they should start worrying. You don’t want them sending out a rescue service just because you decided to stay for one more sunset!
Know your equipment
One of the best pieces of advice I got from Doc was “Check over your car every day. You might not know what you’re looking at, but you’ll notice when something changes. That’s when you fix it, or get help.” This has been invaluable for me, and also taught me a lot about the car so I can fix minor things on the go, like when the car started leaking water in the Simpson and I was able to fix the hose.
Put together a toolbox of things that you’ll need to do repairs on the run, and learn how to use all the tools. Include essential spare parts, not just for the engine but for other parts of your set up.
Do your own research
There are always people to tell you “it’s too dangerous”, or “it’s not very interesting, don’t go there”. If I listened to everything people told me I’d never go anywhere or do anything exciting! Do your own research. Find out about the place/s you want to go: what is there to see/do, where can you stay, do other travellers go there, what are the roads like, etc. Then make up your own mind. Sure, you might be disappointed by some experiences, but, as they say, you’ll never, never know if you never, never go.
Learn how to meet people
Loneliness can be an issue when you’re travelling solo, even for the most introverted of us. You need to be able to push yourself out of your comfort zone and take the first step in approaching and meeting people. If you’re approaching a couple or mixed group, start speaking with the woman first. Stupid as it sounds, some women do think you are trying to chat up their partner (and some men think you are trying to chat them up). Those people are best avoided, but you probably won’t know which they are until you start talking with them. That said, most people are very happy to have a chat, and share a campfire or even a meal. But you often do have to make the first move.
Perhaps the most important of all. Don’t get so hung up on trying not to do anything stupid that you forget to have fun. After all, that’s why you’re out there travelling! And we all do stupid things, I know I’ve done a lot. They might even become the most interesting parts of your stories about your travels when you get home again.