In the blogosphere and social media concerning all things travel-solo female travel is a hot topic. Some people love it some people think it’s crazy. This is just my opinion but know that I for one love it! Traveling as a woman alone in the world gives you a unique outlook.
Disclaimer that these are *my* experiences, all ladies who choose to travel abroad will have different experiences. There are obviously lots of factors like age, race, etc. For your consideration: Please Step Over Here: The Perils Of Traveling As A Trans Woman, How Gay Travel is Different (and why it matters), Solo Travel for Black Women, Viewpoints: Traveling Solo as a Woman of Color with Maya Bhardwaj and Brown Girls Fly. These blogs are great and there are many out there on the subject.
Why is solo female travel such a revolutionary or controversial idea for Americans? I think I know why
So in the United States we’re pretty known for not wanting to leave our boxes. By boxes I mean comfort zone. We’re content to stick to what we know and places where we’re comfortable.
When I was a study abroad peer advisor I worked these events called “parent mixers” during Freshman orientation. So talking to parents of incoming college Freshman about their child studying abroad they had one of two reactions. Either they really wanted their child to go abroad because they had traveled or they had not traveled and wanted that for their child. Or “MY KID ISN’T GOING ANYWHERE/ABROAD/LEAVING THE STATES” and then they would refuse to hear me out. As if their kid wasn’t an adult who could make their own decisions.
Obviously they care, they want their kid safe I understand that and safety is a huge part of any study abroad program or office. However I think it’s kind of a combination of helicopter parenting and perpetuating these fears or the movie taken that really discourages a lot of people especially young women from traveling let alone traveling solo.
The things solo female travelers hear
“HAVENT YOU SEEN TAKEN?!”
“A traveler doesn’t act like a tourist. BLEND IN. WATCH YOUR DRINKS.”
“I always worry about traveling outside USA specially if you go alone”
“and this is why you don’t leave America”
“Seriously stop vacationing in the third world!”
Don’t you get lonely? Is it safe?
Solo doesn’t mean lonely or alone. One of the best things about solo travel is you get to plan your itinerary and do exactly what you want to do. You can meet up with friends who live abroad, make new friends via airbnb/couchsurfing/hostels or a female centered FB travel group like “Girls Love Travel” or “Girl vs. Globe”.
My rule of thumb is to take precautions, never compromise safety and only do what makes you feel comfortable. Do your research and avoid sketchy areas, don’t go out at night alone without a friend, always watching your drinks when you do and not drinking too much by yourself. Trust your instinct and if something feels off just get back to where you’re staying. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times no matter where you are.
“But the world is a scary place”
Yes the world can indeed be a scary place, I don’t want to say it isn’t and pretend that everything outside of the US or inside is completely 100% safe. And of course traveling alone can be scary but there are things you can do!
Like share your itinerary with a friend or family member. Come up with a realistic communication plan with a family member or friend and check in with them. Sign up for the STEP program and get travel alerts from the US embassy sent to your phone or email. Change sim cards so you have cell service in the country you’re going to. Do your research on the local customs so you can blend in a little better and maybe look up some basic phases in the language to get around.
Of course things do happen and when they do it wasn’t your fault. These things do happen at home and abroad and the best thing we can do is listen and support them. The worst thing we could do is live our lives in a box out of fear and never go out and have experiences in new places. At the end of the day we’re all different with different needs and you need to do what feels comfortable for yourself while traveling.
Solo travel makes me feel….
Empowered. Alive. A part of the world. Like I can do anything I put my mind to.
What about you?