If you’re a woman who’s been bitten by the travel bug, travelling alone is one of the best decisions you can ever make.
You probably have a romanticized idea of what a solo trip will look like (and your parents probably have a whole different dystopian vision), but the reality is often a completely different story.
Preparation is key, and as long as you’re prepared for the potential good and bad, travelling alone as a woman could be just the adventure you need.
Here are some of the deep and dirty secrets that the movies don’t tell you about travelling alone ...
People will be friendly
Travelling alone as a woman doesn’t mean you’re sentenced to 100% solitude, and when people see you they’ll most often be very open to giving you directions, helping you with your bags, chatting about the city or just giving you that little bit of human interaction that you’ll crave from time to time.
… But sometimes too friendly
That same approachable quality that a woman travelling alone possesses can also open you up to the unwanted attention that solo woman often experience, at home or elsewhere.
You may be catcalled, offered roses on the street, fed pickup lines pretty much anywhere, and offered everything from free meals to helicopter rides and free personal city tours just for being your normal fabulous solo self.
From friendly to annoying to downright pushy and inappropriate, attention is inevitable in many places, which leads us to number 3…
Headphones are your friend
If you don’t take public transit at home you may not be aware of this brilliant fact.
Somehow in the digital age, headphones have become this wonderful universal sign that means ‘back off’, and wearing them around will often magically decrease the number of people that try to talk to you.
Even if the volume isn’t on, they send a message to other people that you don’t want to be bothered, and if you really wanna be left alone, crank up the volume and tune out the attention altogether.
Biology waits for no vacation
It may seem like a coincidence, but your body seems to like to go on vacation too. Often timely with boarding that flight solo.
Early period? Worst cramps of life? Sensitive stomach? Instant acne? Crippling migraine? Lingering cough? Every person seems to have a story about travelling solo and their body deciding it’s a good time to give out on you, and especially if you’re a woman, there are necessities that you often just can’t find at the local pharmacy.
Come prepared with your favourite emergency items, because it’s better than trying to find tampons or Midol in a foreign country on a Sunday. Things that may seem common to us at home aren’t always too common everywhere else.
It has its financial perks
Not every discount is too good to be true. Ladies night is a blessing for a budget. Free drinks for women before 12am is a great way to have an early-yet-fun night on your own terms while avoiding the late night characters.
The gratuities and wait times you’d experience travelling with a bunch of your friends is so satisfying to avoid when you’re slipping in and out of the coolest places in record time without the burdensome bulk of a group.
Your gender does make you a target to some people
It’s a sad fact, but female tourists are often the targets of mistreatment. People may think that you are naïve and try to overcharge you for things, mislead you into spending more or guilt you into an unfavourable situation.
Whether it’s a cab driver, street beggar or market vendor, there are people who will think that they can fool you because of your gender, which leads to point number 7…
You’ve gotta be prepared
Being informed, organized and confident is the best way to avoid the worst-case scenarios of travelling alone. If you look like you know what you’re doing, you’ll most likely garner more respect and less attention.
Always have a map on hand. Know approximately how much things should cost before you go to buy them. Know what a real taxi looks like and what a typical ride should cost you in every city. Keep copies of your documents. All of these things are especially important when you’re travelling alone.
It’s also a good idea to keep people informed while you’re away – not just to placate your mother, but for safety reasons as well. Whether it’s a quick text home, a note placed on your file at the front desk of your hotel or a post on social media, it’s good to have other people know where you’re going and how long you’re expected to be gone.
Sometimes selfies are the best option
When your favourite profile photo taker isn’t along for the ride and can’t help you set up that perfect shot at every turn, you’ll probably start to feel awkward asking strangers to take a photo of you after a while.
Not only can it be awkward, but the photos usually don’t turn out like you wanted, and many locals will actually ask you for a tip for taking a photo for you in touristy areas. This can get pretty expensive if you’ve got a real photo fetish.
Also, the fear of handing our shiny iPhone to a total stranger is real – even if it is only for a few seconds, you never know.
And maybe selfies aren’t necessary at all
When you’ve spent some quality time travelling alone, you start to realize that maybe you don’t really need a photo of yourself in front of every monument.
One photo is enough to prove to your followers that you were actually there, and after that you’ll learn to spend your time either living in the moment or developing your real photography skills.
Your instincts will take some time to develop
Some people will set off your shady radar instantly, but don’t expect every scammer to look the part. These people do this for a living, and after a while, you’ll come to recognize the telltale behaviours of someone you should probably avoid.
Your first table for one will be scary AF
Where do I look? Are people judging me? Is that table laughing at me because they think I’m being stood up for a date? Will it look weird if I order a bottle of wine for one? Am I overthinking this?
Your first solo meal at a restaurant can undoubtedly be a scary experience that leads you to take out 24/7…
But once you’re used to it, it can be your new favourite thing
There’s something so peaceful about enjoying a meal alone, and once you get over the fear you’ll really start to enjoy it.
The flavours of your food will be better. You’ll learn the true joy of people watching, and you can take your sweet time without pacing your meal based on anyone else.
Bring a book or a newspaper if it makes you feel more comfortable, but learning that a meal without the distraction of conversation really is so much sweeter and a great personal victory.
You don’t always have to 'play it safe'
The thought ‘who will know or care if I go skydiving and I’m never seen again?’ is a natural worry, but it shouldn’t stop you from doing all of the crazy things on your bucket list when you travel alone.
As long as you’re keeping in touch with someone as we mentioned in number 7, you should have the confidence to go out and do all of the things you’ve always wanted to do. And you’ll learn that the best part of doing it alone is that there’s no one there to psych you out or laugh at you for years to come if you scream like a banshee.
Not every place is the same
Safety should be a key consideration for all travellers, but when you’re travelling alone it’s especially important to know where you’re going.
Being respectful to local customs, dress codes and cultures is always important, but can be especially important in countries where women’s rights are different than at home, or in areas where religion is prevalent.
Also, if a bar or alley looks sketchy, maybe don’t go there. Check travel advisories, research local customs, and trust your instincts – if you’re not comfortable, leave.
Being nice can be best
Again, number 14 applies, but shelving your inner Beyoncé and stomping around like a Sasha Fierce isn’t always best.
Being calm and nice can get you out of some escalated situations, but you also need to know when to be loud and forceful. Being outwardly aggressive as a woman may cause issues in some countries, so being smart and strategic about your demeanour is ideal.
Honestly, some things are just better solo
Museums, classes, book stores, enjoying nature, bike rides, afternoon naps, spa visits, lunches in the park – there’s nothing better than doing them with no one but you. And the list of amazing solo experiences will just grow and grow the more you travel alone.
Blending in isn’t always easy
How you dress can put a target on you, and unfortunately, women can have it worse than men in this department.
Dressing too well can make you a target for pickpocketing. Wearing a lot of accessories and jewellery can invite sticky fingers, and purses are an annoying burden that aren’t always built for function or safety.
If you wanna blend in, try to dress like the local women, and keep your look simple.
You’re not the only one
How scary can travelling alone as a woman really be?
Women have been doing it for ages, and we’re still doing it. We’re everywhere, and we’re amazing.
Join the club, and when you see a fellow solo female like us in your travels, feel free to give her a knowing smirk.
People might ask questions
“Are you an exchange student? Is your husband travelling with you? Where are your parents? Did your friends ditch you for another museum today?”
The reality is that some people might think you’re crazy, and some might be truly bewildered that you would choose to do such a thing as travel alone. It can get annoying to answer questions, but who knows, you may inspire someone else to give the same thing a go.
If it gets really tedious, creating an alternate identity to really mess with people might be fun too. Maybe you’re looking for the Lost Symbol like Robert Langdon today, or maybe you’re a professional food critic searching for the best doner kebab in the world. Do you, girl, and have fun doing it even if it’s at a nosey person’s expense.
But in the end it can be the best experience ever
Do what you want, when you want, and how you want. Spend some quality time with yourself. We would never sit at home pouting, waiting for someone we know to agree to come on vacation with us.
Explore the world, and forget the party-poopers who’d rather stay home.