According to Conde Nast Travellers ‘Women Who Travel’, almost two-thirds of solo travellers are now female. Women are the pioneers in modern travel, but it doesn’t make stepping out on your own any less daunting. This blog aims to inspire a little forward thinking combined with a big dose of common sense, for women (and men!) to finally believe that solo travel is one of the best educations you will ever get.
My favourite way to travel is solo and as a 27 year old female I can say I have done quite a lot already. Stepping out at the tender age of 19, I made my first solo trip across to the other side of the world. Rather than ‘finding myself’, I mostly found a lot of hangovers, slogan t-shirts and a nasty case of head-lice, but this was the starting point of where I am as a solo female traveller today.
My love for solo travel isn’t because I’m a loner (I don’t think…), if anything the intention is quite the opposite; you are thrust out of your comfort zone as soon as you board that plane with no other person to lean on. It sounds scary, but it is one of the most enriching experiences you can ever treat yourself to; cultural awareness, building on social skills, and most importantly spending time with the most important person in your life, yourself. I ‘treat’ myself to at least one solo travel trip a year; it keeps me sane.
Back in 2015 I boarded a plane to Australia, having booked it just 10 days before and arriving with no idea of what the future would hold. Look at where life has taken me since; I worked on the Great Barrier Reef, met lifelong friends and met my first true love (can’t get be any more of a cliche right..?). I am not asking you to pack up your bags and emigrate to the other side of the world, just to take small steps into being comfortable and confident on your own in an unknown place. You don’t know where it could take you.
When I was a little girl I had an absolute fascination with Indian culture, so as I got older it naturally became top of my list for places to travel. For years I listened to the negative comments my family and friends made about it being such a dangerous, dirty and challenging country. “Why on earth would you ever travel there, never mind alone?”. I eventually listened to my gut, took the plunge and travelled around the subcontinent for 3 months alone. To this day it has had a lasting effect and will remain the most incredible country I have ever visited, having been back since. This trip didn’t come with a lot of preparation however, so here are my top five tips for travelling alone…
TOP FIVE TIPS FOR TRAVELLING ALONE AS A FEMALE
1 With the media being flooded with stories of the dangers women face on a day to day basis whether that be random acts of violence or religious/traditional extremism, there’s no wonder some are scared to step out alone. Here lies the first lesson. RESPECT CULTURE AND RELIGION.
Whether you believe in their cultural appropriation or not, you wouldn’t think to break their laws so don’t abuse their respect. Dress appropriately, this goes for not only women. If you are visiting a religious site or memorial, dress accordingly. In some countries, it is common sense to keep covered up all the time, not only out of respect but for your own safety. Different countries have different laws, make sure you’re clued up!
2 When I think back to my first backpacking trip at the fresh-faced and incredibly naive age of 19, I do admire how responsible I was in preparation for the big trip. Maybe it was this initiative that convinced my parents to let me go! My point is you never know what your trip will throw at you and exposing yourself as a solo female always presents its own risks. There is no one to lean on the day your purse gets stolen…
Here lies lesson two; BE PREPARED/STAY SAFE. Book a taxi for your late night arrival and make sure your first few nights of accommodation are sorted before you depart. On overnight trains and buses, put all of your valuables in a travel wallet that is strapped underneath your clothing. It may seem overboard in particular places, but you never know what situation you are putting yourself into. Leave copies of your passport and travel documents at home with your family.
3 In the world of smartphones and free wifi, one of the easiest things you can do is stay connected to your loved ones. Not only is this a nice way of sharing your adventures, but incredibly important for someone to keep tabs on your whereabouts. So naturally lesson three is STAY CONNECTED!
Whilst travelling India alone, I would check in with a reliable friend or family member before a long train journey to let them know my destination and estimated travel time. Think about being alone in a foreign country; without any connection to your world you can quite literally disappear. Drop pins, send itineraries, take photo’s of your taxi…stay safe and stay connected.
4 Gone are the times when you have more outfits than days. There is nothing worse than being lumbered with too much ‘stuff’. The added responsibility of your belongings puts pressure on a trip that you are already having to think a lot about. Here lies lesson four….TRAVEL LIGHT. Less baggage, less worry. Trust me.
Pack, re-pack and then re-pack again, this is the seasoned traveller mantra. You will always be able to buy clothes whilst you’re away, so make sure the essentials take priority in your suitcase or backpack (that will be carried on your back remember…). I will be writing about my ultimate packing list for every type of trip, but in short make sure you are prepared for any situation; make sure you have a medical kit, essential toiletries, two pairs of shoes, something warm, something comfortable and obviously the most important thing, your camera!
5 Finally, the most obvious for any traveller… PICK THE RIGHT DESTINATION. This ties in with staying safe, staying connected and being culturally appropriate. If you don’t feel comfortable with the destination, you won’t feel confident to conquer it on your own. Do your research before deciding on your destination; is it safe?
Now it’s time to take the plunge! For some serious inspiration, take a look at my favourite two travel communities by clicking on the profiles below…