It may have taken years of staring at the same four walls of my office, but finally, my dream became a reality. I broke the chain of monotony that had become the harsh mistress of my existence and finally made a plan to travel solo and see the world. Nerves and doubts raced across my mind for months, but something snapped, and I realized if I didn’t head out into the great unknown, I would never know what I was missing out. There was a whole world out there waiting for me, and the thought of being too old and too late to do what I want to do was far scarier than the prospect of traveling solo!
Ten years ago, it might have been unusual for a woman to strike out on her own to see the world, and no doubt there were endless questions over our safety. However, these days there are communities centered around the gutsy, bold women who are passionate about traveling solo that I can’t wait to be a part of.
No longer are women just heading for the same old wellness retreats or leisure breaks; instead, we are pushing our limits and seeking adventures. Today, the women who inspire my travels are those heading on a safari in South Africa or hiking around the Mont Blanc Circuit. Now, I want to take hold of the opportunity to explore amazing new countries and discover myself against a backdrop of new cultures.
Where once perhaps the fashion was to enjoy luxury holidays relaxing in resorts, now my generation of women are encouraged to get out of our comfort zones. Solo travel has shown me that there is no better way to learn who you are than by stepping out alone.
While embarking on a journey of discovery might not help me to discover the meaning of life, it could be the experience that changes my life. From discovering a self-confidence, I never knew I had to expose myself to new cultures and worlds, going in solo means throwing myself in the deep end. And even if I don’t come home a changed person, at least I’ll have an epic collection of travel pics to launch me into Insta-fame! My main challenge – to avoid becoming one of those solo female traveler clichés, because there’s nothing worse than being the girl who never ventures out of her comfort zone!
- 1. Not trusting locals
- 2. Not keeping family and friends in the loop
- 3. Don’t be afraid to say no
- 4. Never leave your bags alone
- 5. Being unprepared for an emergency
- 6. Don’t scrimp on travel insurance
- 7. Don’t be a flashy traveler
- 8. Let your confidence shine
- 9. Not trying local cuisine
- 10. Get out of your comfort zone
1. Not trusting locals
Before I went traveling, I heard the same warnings over and over again. Be careful. Is it safe? Watch out for thieves and pickpockets. Don’t trust anyone. Sound familiar?
I can tell you that the people who warn you of these things spend far too much time reading scandals in the newspapers and not enough time trying something new. Of course, all solo female travelers should be smart and safe, but that is no reason not to get to know the locals. What's better to learn about the culture of a new place than by meeting the people who live there? Enrich your traveling experience as I did, and make a point of meeting the locals everywhere you go! Who knows, you may even find some new friends.
2. Not keeping family and friends in the loop
In the past, traveling might have meant going off-grid and sending a letter home every three months. Now, traveling is a whole new ballgame, thanks to social media and Internet connectivity in every building. While it is very tempting to disappear and cut myself off from home, it’s important to remember the family and friends who are at home worrying about me.
Again, I always stay smart and safe by letting my family and friends know where I am. You never know when things might not go to plan and when you might be grateful for people checking in on you. I know I certainly have been when things have gone wrong. Plus, it’s always good to stay in the loop. My family has helped keep me up to date with current events that might affect my travels – always helpful when you’re on the road and lose track of the news.
3. Don’t be afraid to say no
One of the most important things I always remember when I travel solo is to put myself first and always trust my gut. No matter where I am or who I’m with, if something doesn’t feel right, I will do everything to get myself out of that situation. While every traveler wants to have fun on holiday and to meet the locals, sometimes it’s important to recognize when you might be at risk. It’s important to remember that being polite should never be more important than protecting ourselves and that it is perfectly okay to turn down an invitation if something doesn’t seem right. I’ve learned through years of traveling, always to trust my instincts and never hesitate to say no and be assertive when it comes to staying safe.
4. Never leave your bags alone
As much as we would love to trust everyone we meet, it’s not always possible, is it girls? When it comes to traveling solo, one of the most frustrating things is never being able to leave your bags with someone when you pop to the loo. However, when I’m on the other side of the globe, and all my worldly possessions are in my backpack, there’s no way I’m leaving it lying around. It takes just a second for a thief to ruin your trip by pinching something valuable. Whether you need the loo or are traveling by bus or coach, never let your valuables leave your side. I always make sure to hide my money and passport and never take chances with them. Because who wants to get mugged on their holiday?
5. Being unprepared for an emergency
If there’s one thing years in the Brownies taught me, it’s to be always prepared! Never leave home without a backup plan. It’s always fun to be spontaneous, but sometimes planning ahead can save you from the worst that can happen. Don’t be a naive traveler – go prepared with spare money, a translator app on your phone, emergency phone numbers, and a few local words. You never know when an emergency might happen, so always have a plan B.
6. Don’t scrimp on travel insurance
Too many travelers make this mistake and find out the hard way how important travel insurance can be. Before the plane even takes off, every traveler should have this ticked off their checklist. I always make it a priority to renew mine yearly, and I make sure I have the best policy for me. Why is it so important? A good travel insurance policy will cover you for everything from flight cancellations and trip delays to emergency medical treatment. As some of my traveling friends have found, medical bills in foreign countries can easily rack up bills of £1,000s, and without the correct cover, you may be liable for the whole lot! If, like me, you would rather save your hard-earned money for your travels, be smart and get travel insurance.
7. Don’t be a flashy traveler
It can be tempting to treat yourself to all the latest traveler gear, gadgets, and jewelry to look your best on your trip, but remember that theft happens all over the world. Be smart and don’t make yourself a target by flashing the shiny stuff around. No one wants to have to replace their new camera or precious engagement ring during their trip. Instead, leave the jewelry behind and hide your gadgets and more expensive items in a bag, so you don’t stand out to thieves.
8. Let your confidence shine
The most important thing that every solo female traveler should remember to pack is her confidence. No matter how nervous I have felt about an upcoming trip, I never leave home without a big smile and a bold attitude. Not only does being friendly make it so much easier to make friends and meet people, but I also find that deters the wrong attention.
Even if it all goes wrong and I end up lost or in trouble, I always try to remain positive and assertive because it can help you to talk yourself out of trouble. Remember that if you seem worried or vulnerable, it could attract the wrong kind of attention of those who prey on solo women. Stay calm, be street smart, and even if you don’t feel confident, fake it until you make it!
9. Not trying local cuisine
One of my favorite things about traveling has to be the food! From authentic Thai curries and delicious Japanese ramen to Greek honey and Spanish tapas. The flavors of a country are just as important as the culture and heritage when it comes to getting to know a place. So why do so many people go abroad and just order chips? Don’t be afraid to try street food and indulge in the local specialty to embrace the differences between cultures.
So many people worry about eating street food, but honestly, in my experience, it’s often the tastiest and freshest food out there, usually prepared right in front of you! Don’t feel like you have to try everything all at once, but don’t be afraid to try new dishes. If you are feeling unsure, ask what ingredients have been used or ask to try before you buy.
10. Get out of your comfort zone
Why did I travel solo? To make myself step out of my comfort zone. I’m sure you want the same – to challenge yourself and everything you call home.
You can be as cautious as you like, but sometimes you just have to get out there, take risks, and enjoy yourself! I always think travel should be filled with adventures and moments that take your breath away, but you will never experience those without stepping out of your safety bubble. Be smart, but throw caution to the wind and have fun. Make memories that you will treasure forever.
As Angelina Jolie said, “If you don’t get out of the box you’ve been raised in, you won’t understand how much bigger the world is.”
I’ve traveled solo often, here are a few pieces of advice that have surely been advised before:
Always, before leaving make several copies of your open passport, driver’s license, airlines ticket(s), VISAs, credit cards, cell/international number and even a “soft” itinerary to be updated as you travel and leave these with responsible adults who can e-mail, scan, text, etc. Check your auto insurance inquiring if they cover car rental abroad. I also notify my credit card that I will be traveling and where so they don’t view a transaction as possibly fraudulent.
I always take the time before departure to have some folding money in the currency of the countries I’m traveling to, you NEVER know, need to tip someone or need something bought on the street.
Also — several granola bars, a self-opening small can of tuna, or tiny peanut butter/crackers, just in case the food is questionable in a remote area.
A few times I’ve been on foot in an isolated location surrounded by buildings, and I see a group of local guys walking a little aggressively towards me. What to do? I raise my hand and look up a bit towards the building and start having a little conversation: Loud Voice: “Hi, sorry I’m late, I’ll be there in a minute” and the oncoming few moved away. Maybe I was targeted, maybe not — but I’ll never know. But it worked.
Dear Dee Dee
Thank you so much for sharing your experience with us.
We are sure your tips will definitely help other solo female travelers.
Keep traveling and stay safe 🙂