Lessons I Learned Traveling Alone As A Female

Traveling alone

Myself traveling solo through French Polynesia

Despite the fact I’ve traveled to countless countries as a solo female, I’m still told every time I book a flight on my own how dangerous what I’m doing is. While friends ask me I’ve ever seen the movies “Hostel” and “Taken” (yes, and they’re called movies for a reason), my parents tell me they hope I have children who travel solo so I can experience the anxiety I put them through (I hope so, too!). While I’m the first to admit there are certain risks you take traveling as a solo female — as there are with group travel, leaving your bedroom and being alive in general — I’m also passionate about the belief that traveling solo as a woman can be an empowering and life-changing experiences. To help you understand what I mean, here are some of the most important lessons I learned from solo female travel.

There Are Certain Dangers That Go Along With Traveling As A Solo Female…As Well As Certain Benefits

When traveling solo as a woman — or man for that matter — you need to lookout for yourself. You won’t have someone there to watch your stuff when you go to the bathroom or help you navigate unfamiliar terrain; it’s all up to you. Which is what also make traveling as a solo female so great. Everything is up to you: What cities you visit, where you stay, what the budget is, what you eat, what you do, when you go to bed, when you wake up, what transportation you take — all things you normally would have to compromise with a travel partner. Traveling as a solo female means you control the itinerary, which can be as pre-planned or spur of the moment as you like. It ensures your itinerary is never dictated by someone else, and that you can enjoy ultimate control and freedom of the journey.

I’m More Capable Than I Thought

Before I traveled solo there were many skills I didn’t believe I possessed: Managing money, reading maps, handling stress in unfamiliar places, asking strangers for help, navigating cities where I didn’t know the language; however, after traveling as a solo female I now understand just what I’m capable of. The truth is, relying on others makes us lazy. Of course I didn’t think I could read a map, I’d never had to. Why would I think I could get around a foreign city on my own when I had always had other people to guide me? When women say things to me like, “I would love to travel solo but I could never [insert fear here],” I tell them that they would be able to overcome any obstacle presented to them because when you’re traveling solo you’re forced to. It’s a great way to challenge yourself and improve your confidence.

traveling alone

Hand-feeding stingrays conch in the Exumas, Bahamas.

I Truly Enjoy My Own Company

While it isn’t difficult to make friends on the road when traveling solo, I love having the choice of when I want to spend the day on my own or exploring with new hostel and CouchSurfing friends. As I consider myself an introvert, I end up spending much of my time exploring new cities and landscapes on my own. This has helped me to realize just how much I enjoy my own company and getting lost in my thoughts. Now when I’m home I don’t think twice about spending a Friday night in by myself with a movie and a glass of wine or going to a restaurant I really want to try on my own. In fact, I look forward to it.

How To Nourish My Independence

If you’ve ever wished you could be more independent, patake in some solo female travel. As stated above, you’ll realize exactly what you’re capable of and that you are worthy of spending time with. From this experience, you’re ability to do and enjoy things on your own will grow. Additionally, you’ll also discover new interests along your journey as when you travel your mind is more open to new experiences. That calligraphy class in Japan, tango lesson in Argentina or bread-making experience in France could lead to a new hobby, which only makes you a more interesting. Bonus: If you’ve ever had trouble with dating, men love interesting and independent women.

The Kindness Of Strangers On The Road

There have been countless times on the road when I’ve been moved by the kindness of the strangers I meet along the way. Locals offering to show me around, other backpackers consoling me when I’ve heard bad news from home, hikers offering me food and water along the trail. One instance in particular that I was shown the kindness of strangers was when passing through Mendoza, Argentina. My 25th birthday was approaching, but because I was traveling solo I had nobody to celebrate with. After posting to the Mendoza CouchSurfing forum and telling people I was in the city for my birthday and didn’t want to celebrate alone, I ended up with 11 complete strangers taking me to dinner, singing me Happy Birthday and dancing with me into the wee hours of the night to help me have a good time. It was one of the most memorable birthdays I’ve ever had, and introduced me to some new friends I still talk to over a year later.

traveling alone

Doing my “strong woman” pose after jogging up the Rocky Steps in Philadelphia.

I’m Strong, Brave And Smart In Every Sense Of The Words

I’ll be the first to admit I couldn’t win an arm wrestling contest if my life depended on it. That being said, after traveling the globe as a solo female I consider myself a very strong woman. Yes, after hauling a backpack around the world, traversing long distances and walking up hills, I do consider myself decently strong physically; however, I’ve also come to realize I’m emotionally and mentally strong, as well. I’m strong enough to do something that pleases me — traveling solo as a woman — despite what society thinks about the practice. Moreover, I’m strong enough to handle the challenges and hardships that come my way, which are difficult enough to deal with at home but especially challenging when in unfamiliar territory. Traveling solo as a woman also allows you to hone your street smarts as you navigate yourself around foreign places. It also takes a brave woman to take the road on her own, but trust me, brave women are handsomely rewarded with life-changing experiences.

Very Few Problems Will Ruin A Trip

When I travel with others I notice I tend to complain more as well as have to deal with the complaints of others; however, when traveling on your own there’s no one to whine to. This is a positive thing, as it helps you to realize that some of the issues you encounter when traveling that would normally upset you aren’t that big a deal at all. For example, I remember being in Nice, France, waiting for the train to Riomaggiore, Italy, when I noticed it was late. I waited and waited, until it was 30 minutes past its scheduled arrival time. According to the ticket office the train had switched tracks, but because the announcement had been in Italian I had missed it. There wouldn’t be another train for four hours. If I had been with someone else I probably would have moaned about how bad our luck was, but because I was on my own I switched my ticket and killed time by going to a local park and taking some pictures and doing work in a local internet cafe. I didn’t need to consult with anyone else or listen to anyone else complain, but simply restrategized my plan to suit the new circumstance.

Recommendations:

Global Gal Travel Wallet [Travel Style]

The Solo Traveler’s Handbook by Janice Leith Waugh [Travel Books]

How Solo Female Travel Changed My Life (And How It Can Change Yours, Too) [Blog Inspiration]

Fox 40 Sonik Blast CMG Safety Whistle [Travel Gear]

6 Comments

  1. Hi, I love your posts about solo woman travelling. I’m doing it and my parents hate me for that! Literally and my friends think I’m crazy! I do learn lots from travelling alone and hopefully would be able to do more of it..

    1. @Belina: Thank you for the kind words. My parents and friends had the same reaction when I first started traveling solo five years ago. They still do to an extent but over time they’ve come to a realize that I am capable of taking care of myself. You should take your parents on a trip with you and show them how travel savvy you are. I just took my dad with me to Greece and Turkey and he told me seeing how I was able to handle myself and navigate us made him feel more at ease 🙂

  2. This cannot be my approach. If being a woman traveler has taught me anything, it is that the freedom to have an adventure, to have the adventures one chooses, is illusory. It is a privilege denied me, but it is a privilege all the same: the assumption that I have the right to impose myself, my story, my thoughts upon a place. If I could magically change my gender, just while traveling — like the Gertrude Bell of old, who often traveled dressed as a man — it would certainly make things easier for me. But I know, deep down, that it would also mean unlearning the lessons that I, as a specifically female travel writer, have learned from my own experience.

    1. @Bob- Great point. It is all our life experiences, whether good or bad, that combine to make us the people we are today.

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