Updated: May 25, 2018
Are you tired of seeing other people travel the world and not you? Can you not seem to get your schedules aligned with your friends’? Are the mountains calling, and you must go? Then just go! Save some money, buy the plane ticket, and travel solo.
I can already hear some of my friends saying, “I could NEVER travel alone.” Or some of my family saying, “Isn’t is too dangerous for women to travel by themselves?” To my friends, I say yes, you can travel alone and you should. Women’s decision to “never travel alone” is mainly dictated by insecurity and fear—fear of being lonely, lost, afraid, manipulated, hurt, taken (insert Liam Neeson’s voice) and the unknown. But all of these fears can be easily mitigated by having the right information (see tips below). To my family, I say heck no. There are times and places where being alone as a woman is more dangerous, like at night and in certain countries. But traveling solo is not too dangerous when you have the right information (see tips below).
So here are some tips, advice, and wisdom for all females everywhere who have a desire to travel and the will-power to make it happen. 1. Do Research
Before you go, look up tips online about the destimation(s) you will be traveling to. Search for videos on YouTube or articles on Ecosia or Google. Doing some research can save you a lot of time, money, and headaches. Sometimes there are cultural differences you should know about before you travel. If you’re from the US, you don’t want to look silly when tipping 20% at a restaurant in a country that doesn’t expect tips.
2. Blend In
If you’re traveling solo to a country that speaks a different language, try to learn a few phrases. You can do some research on useful phrases to learn when traveling to a foreign country. Wear the garb of the natives, and don’t wear shorts in a country where shorts are inappropriate.
3. Dealing with Loneliness
It’s likely that you’ll find yourself feeling lonely while traveling solo. The best thing you can do for yourself in those moments is to embrace the loneliness—get comfortable being with you. Embrace the uncomfortable “what am I even doing?” feeling. Give yourself some time to get used to silence and your own musings and daydreams.
4. Making Friends
Though embracing loneliness has it’s time, so does making awesome traveling friends! The best way to make friends is to stay in a hostel. Many countries have nice and safe hostels you can stay in. If you aren’t comfortable staying in a mixed gender room, often times there are all-girls-room options. Cook dinner in the hostel kitchen; you’ll meet a lot of people that way as well.
Guided tours are another great way to make friends. There are always other solo travelers on a guided tour you can befriend. But at the same time, don’t be afraid to approach a group of people. People traveling and backpacking are open and used to making random friends. Spark conversation by saying, “Hi, I’m [your name].” Ask where they are from and where they have been. Easy-peasy. Challenge yourself socially and put yourself out there.
5. Be Safe
Don’t walk alone at night, and use your instinct. If you’re in a situation where you don’t feel safe, get out of it. It’s ok to lie about traveling alone if you are uncomfortable—say you’re on your way to meet with friends. You can also let someone back home know when you are heading to a new city, so someone knows where you are at all times. Also, there are certain countries that are safer for women to travel solo. If you are just starting out traveling, stick to those places.
It’s not uncommon to catch foreign men staring (or cat-calling) at you when you are walking. Firstly, because you’re beautiful, and secondly, because you are different and interesting! Without a doubt, just ignore it. Don’t try to be polite by smiling or waving; that could be perceived as inviting not being polite. If you meet a cool guy while traveling, get to know him. Have some coffee, go for a drink, and enjoy yourself. But be smart: know where you are at all times and know what to do in case of an emergency.
Stay in hostels. AirBnBs and hotels are other options but I don’t think you quite get the travel experience unless you stay in hostels. You’ll make friends, be inspired, and broaden your horizons when you stay in hostels. Also, staying in hostels adds an element of surprise and excitement because of the people you’ll meet and the experiences you’ll have with them. Other backpackers will give you tips on where to go and what to see.
Pack lightly. Once you are finished packing, lay everything out and get rid of half of it. You’ll thank yourself later. TRY to fit everything into a single backpacking pack. You’ll regret bringing 4 pairs of jeans (in most circumstances). Again, do some research on what to pack in the region you want to travel to. There are tons of video resources about this topic.
Make a list of things you want to do and places you want to see. Keep a schedule but be flexible with your time table. Let the other backpackers guide you. You may be inspired to see a different place once you hear about how amazing someone else’s experience was.
Write down everything. It helps you process, especially when there isn't someone there to talk to. Use a journal to write out your feelings and to keep track on your experiences. You won’t regret it, especially if you meet a special someone, you’ll be glad you had some notes from that day.
Traveling not only broadens your horizons to cultural differences, it helps you grow and develop as a human of this world. You’ll be bolder towards the challenge that you face. You’ll be a stronger and more independent woman. And you’ll have some good stories to tell your grandchildren.
All in all, have fun. Get out there and enjoy the world. “Life is huge. Live in awe.” Do the thing that scares you, be safe, and make good friends along the way.
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