Published on August 11, 2017
So you like traveling? Great! Many people love to go abroad and expand their horizons, so the main question becomes why travel solo? What are the advantages of traveling alone in a world as big and scary and intimidating as this one?
Beth Whitman, travel writer and speaker with hundreds of thousands of solo miles logged around the globe, summed it up quite nicely. In her latest novel, Wanderlust and Lipstick, she broke solo travel down into a four main motivators:
Have you ever been on a vacation with friends or family and felt like you didn’t really get to do what you wanted to do? Or perhaps had the experience of not being able to eat when you wanted to, or having to go out when you were tired? If you go solo you are in charge of your own experience and you choose how much fun you’re going to have. It can be easier to let someone else plan your trips for you, but in the long term you will be able to do more of what you like to do and you will be able to do it on your own agenda.
Being part of a group will isolate you and make you appear less open and therefore less likely to meet interesting people while abroad. Adding just one additional person will automatically make you seem more cut-off. Personally, all of my best experiences hanging out in bars and pubs have been when I was on my own and got talking to, and eventually befriending, the locals. I like to start by making a comment about some aspect of the bar and going from there. If your goal is to really immerse yourself in a culture and learn about a place while abroad then being alone is the most effective tool.
Gaining Independence and Finding Your Strength
Without being able to lean on others for help traveling you are forced to work out every problem on your own. You won’t have a friend to lean on and that’s a lot of added responsibility. Yes, it’s quite hard sometimes but in the long run you will be a much stronger, smarter and more resourceful person because of it.
“Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience”, a novel by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi explains “flow” as being the “time in which you become lost in your actions”. It is when you reach such a peak of enjoyment, ability, and immersion in your reality that you feel as if you are experiencing the world at your best. When alone you absorb experiences fully. They are far more bare and raw, because you are doing what you love without any distraction. The addiction to travel, the urge that wanderlusting individuals constantly feel, comes from the yearning to obtain flow and have peak experiences.
Okay, so you’re convinced. You’re ready to launch out on a host of rad, explorative experiences and see the world with nobody but yourself to call boss. Great! As a woman traveling abroad there’s a little bit more consideration to do, just to ensure you have the best time while traveling. Here are some tips for general safety.
Tips, Tricks and Safety - essential tips for solo female travelers:
1. Follow your instincts. If it seems like you might be in a bad situation, don't wait around. Get out of there. It might take some experience to learn gut instinct from imagination, but you won’t ever regret removing yourself from a scenario where you don’t feel safe.
2. Make sure to have a paper map at all times and have your bus and train routes either memorized or printed out and kept on paper. You never know when your phone might die or be lost!
3. Don’t give up too much about yourself and your plans unless you fully trust a person. Don’t go telling the stranger at the pub what hostel you’re staying in and where you plan to go next.
4. If someone seems creepy off the bat, tell them that you have a boyfriend to prevent unwanted attention. Though you’d hope that men wouldn’t continue to pursue you if you simply weren’t interested, some will only be kept at bay by thinking that there’s another man involved whom they might offend.
5. Don’t carry around too many expensive things, and don’t flash them around. Avoid carrying a lot of money. It’s when you flaunt your treasures that you might be preyed on.
6. Leave the mace, tasers and other weapons at home. They won’t make it over borders and even if they do they likely won’t be useful. Whistles tend to be a much more helpful tool in scary situations.
7. Avoid behaving like a victim! If you walk around like a lost, timid puppy you are far more likely to be preyed on than the confident woman who walks with her chin up and her shoulders back. Be the person that you think people wouldn’t want to mess with.
8. Be generally smart when going out to bars and clubs. Go out a bit earlier than you might back home and come back earlier. If you meet some fun people in your hostel, invite them to join you! There’s safety in numbers. At the very least, on your way home stick to well-lit roads and avoid taking that back-alley shortcut home.
9. Be careful about taxis, Ubers, etc… The likelihood of any danger is very, very low, but there have been a lot of cases of fake Ubers picking up clubbers who were too drunk to check that it was the right car. Always check that the license plate matches the one in your app.
10. Keep an eye out for pickpockets, especially children. Many don’t think it, but kids can be incredibly effective thieves. General awareness and not flaunting belongings will prevent such thefts.
11. In scenarios that involve haggling down prices, don’t let them rip you off. Oftentimes, people may try to con you out of more money because they think that you, as a woman, don’t know any better. Do some research before you shell out your cash. If you think you’re getting charged extra, put that confident face back on and let them know that you know what you’re talking about.
As a woman traveling solo it is very important to remain cautious and aware. Keep these tips for solo female travelers in your toolkit to take on the world and achieve peak experiences of your own.
Inspired by Cara's solo travels? Learn more about how to launch your career with a travel adventure.