On the second Wednesday of the month, Kristin Addis from Be My Travel Muse writes a guest column featuring tips and advice on solo female travel. It’s an important topic I can’t adequately cover, so I brought in an expert to share her advice for other solo female travelers!
There are a lot of unknowns before you travel solo for the first time, like whether it’s going to be safe, how to find others to hang with, and how to choose where to go.
While solo traveling is an amazing chance to be the architect of your own adventure, to see the world on your terms, and to get to know yourself, it can be scary, exhilarating, and bemusing all at the same time.
As someone who has been traveling and blogging about it for the last four years, I’ve seen all sorts of questions from first-time travelers. Many of them are the same questions I had when I first started.
Today, I’m going to answer the 10 most common questions female travelers have so as to help alleviate your anxiety and inspire you to get on the road quicker!
What is the one thing you know now that you wish you knew before you started?
I wish I knew back then that I didn’t have to stress so much about meeting people.
It’s normal to be afraid of being alone, but the reality is that when traveling, it’s possible to meet more amazing people than you could’ve ever imagined. Travelers are incredibly friendly people.
Even if you’re socially awkward, it’ll work out.
There are so many other solo travelers out there that you tend to find each other. It’s as easy as sitting in the common room of a guesthouse and asking the person to your right where they’re from. Even if you don’t break the ice, chances are someone more outgoing at the hostel will involve you in the conversation.
One thing I really appreciate about traveling is how much less shy it has made me. I used to find it hard to talk to people I didn’t know, and now I’m a lot more confident. That has been a huge benefit of solo traveling.
Have you ever canceled a trip because you felt a place had become too dangerous?
The best thing to do is to make the choice on depending on the severity of the situation. It’s hard when all you see in the media are images of destruction, but remember, this is how they sell their stories.
If you feel like it would be stupid to put yourself in harm’s way, then don’t go. But if it seems like an isolated incident, ask yourself if one bad story should scare you off.
What are some of your strategies for deflecting unwanted attention as a female on the road alone?
The most effective strategy for deflecting unwanted attention abroad is to learn about the modesty requirements and the meaning of gestures before you visit that country.
In Nepal, Indonesia, and Malaysia, for example, it is important for women to wear things that cover their knees and shoulders. That’s true in many countries and covering up is often a sign of showing respect.
It’s also important to avoid getting too intoxicated or going out alone after dark in certain areas — which goes for both sexes — and always remain respectful, but demand respect as well.
As someone who is planning her first solo long-term travels, what is the most important bit of advice you could give?
Be as prepared as possible. That doesn’t mean planning out every little thing that happens during your trip, but rather being financially secure, having things like healthcare, visas, and a strategy for earning on the road all in mind before going, and reading up on customs and scams first.
It’s all about doing everything you can to tie up loose ends at home before you go, so that you can be present when you are on your trip.
Do you know of any networks where women can find female traveling buddies?
You might be surprised by what already exists in your personal network. Put up a Facebook post to see if your friends know anyone in new places you’re traveling to. Even if your friends aren’t the type to travel, you might be surprised by who knows whom and where.
Forums are also a great way to meet other travelers. Check out Nomadic Matt’s forum, and the Thorn Tree forum by Lonely Planet is also good. Some people use regional Couchsurfing boards as well. There are often regional Facebook groups, like Chiang Mai digital nomads and Backpacking Africa, for example.
There are new apps as well, like Wandermate and Tourlina, that are designed to connect solo female travelers, but I have not personally tried any, so I cannot comment on how good they are (or aren’t).
How do you deal with loneliness?
Loneliness gets to me about as often as it used to get to me before I started traveling.
I think it comes down to remembering that life is still life and there are up days and there are down days. It can’t all just be perfect all the time, and traveling won’t change the nature of being alive. It’s a great chance to get to love time spent with yourself, and that’s a benefit of solo traveling at times.
Have you found it difficult to talk to locals?
Talking to locals is one of the safest things you can do, because they are the ones that know about the area and can tell you where to visit and what to stay away from. Bonus: I almost always get really good info about where to eat or where to go next when talking to a local person. It’s the best!
Couchsurfing, talking to the owners of your guesthouse, or hanging out in the places were locals hang out and eat — and especially showing an interest in their culture — are all great ways to meet and chat with local people.
Do you notice female inequality when you travel solo? Do you get the same treatment and opportunities as male travelers?
There is definitely inequality in the world for females, but the good news is that we are also living in one of the most progressive times to date, so I think it’s an exciting and important time to travel.
There’s also a lot of benefit to being a solo female traveler. The locals tend to really look after us solo travelers and often take us under their wing.
A lot of amazing things can happen when you’re solo because you’re free to be completely open to serendipity. And while I’m sure this happens for guys as well, I can say with certainty that traveling solo as a female opens up doors that wouldn’t open when with a group or in a duo. So many times there will be room for just one on a motorbike, or a plus one at an event, and you never know what exciting things that might lead to.
Is there a specific age (or age group) that you would recommend for traveling solo?
Not at all! People of all ages and of all walks of life travel, and there is no magic number for when you should travel solo. You should just do it when you have the opportunity and the desire to.
If you are an open, curious, and friendly person, your age doesn’t matter.
Do you ever think to yourself, “Shit, what am I doing? Shouldn’t I be back home now and own an apartment or house or something?”
Every now and then I have a little existential crisis, but I totally had that back when I did have an apartment and a 9-5 job. If I’ve learned anything, it’s that I’m always going to pause and question things every now and then. Perhaps that’s just part of being human.
I think the way it’s traditionally done right now is backwards. Staying in one place when I’m young and fit and then traveling the world after I retire and can’t do as many crazy things just looks like the reverse of what it should be. I’m just happy I found a way to get around that.
So no, I don’t stress about not having a settled life, because I just wanted to have freedom and to be able to choose whatever is suitable when it’s the right time.