My parents are responsible for my love of traveling, but the idea to backpack Europe did not come from my parents. In fact, I think my mom and dad would have been fine if the thought had never even entered my mind. I was determined to go backpacking after watching an older cousin and close family friend go on a summer backpacking trip through Europe. Years later, I boarded an international flight with one of my best friends. We were armed with our backpacks and a haphazard plan for the month ahead of us. There was no turning back.
Throughout our trip, we encountered a handful of solo female travelers. I would typically say the following things within the first 5 minutes of learning they were traveling solo:
- You’re all alone?
- Do you ever get scared?
- What do your family/friends think about you doing this?
After these conversations I would wait patiently until I was alone with my friend and say:
- I could never do that.
- It would get too lonely.
- I can’t imagine being by myself like that.
- Nope, traveling alone would definitely not be for me.
I began graduate school the fall after we arrived home from our backpacking trip. A few months into my program, I petitioned for funding to attend an international conference in Istanbul, Turkey. I almost fell over when I found out that the school approved my request.
But I was the only one who had made the request to attend this conference. This meant that I would be traveling alone, solo, by myself.
No one was available to attend the conference in Istanbul with me. Lack of vacation time, school obligations, family commitments and low funds are all reasons why other people might not be able to travel. I, however, didn’t have a single good reason not to go.
Being a female doesn’t mean I’m less capable of traveling alone, but I believe it means there are different considerations for when I travel alone.
I take safety precautions as I live my daily life. These precautions might mean not walking alone to my car, being aware of the way someone is looking at me or thinking cautiously as a stranger approaches me. When traveling solo I am still taking precautions to keep myself safe, but I may have to adapt my safety measures to the new environment I’m in. Safety precautions when traveling are more intentional and deliberate than they would be at home in a more comfortable environment.
- Do your research before you leave.
- Always, always, always trust your gut instincts.
- Be aware of your surroundings at all times.
- Talk to other travelers, locals, and employees — ask them questions.
- Don’t be afraid to look stupid if it keeps you safe.
With proper preparation, solo female travel is not scary like society might lead us to believe. Media teaches that traveling as a female leaves you vulnerable to being kidnapped, drugged, sold, harvested for organs or we may end up waiting for Liam Neeson to come save us.
My first solo trip included time spent traveling in Turkey and Greece. The experience was unforgettable. I successfully navigated myself in two countries, made new connections with people, experienced things I never knew I would and I did all of it by myself.
I’m here to tell you solo female travel is actually an empowering experience that will teach you more about yourself than you could ever imagine. I want to tell you not to be fooled into thinking you can’t travel alone as a female. Maybe you’re longing to go somewhere you’ve always had your eye on. Don’t be afraid to go solo. Embrace the unknown.
About The Author
Katie Maus graduated from the University of Michigan in the summer of 2013 with a Master in Social Work. She will spend the next 27 months working in Namibia as a Community Health Volunteer, focusing on HIV/AIDS, with the Peace Corps. Katie holds her parents responsible for her love of traveling and adventure. Her personal philosophies include taking full advantage of every opportunity, embracing the unknown, and living in the moment. Katie Maus can be reached at maus.katiemarie (at ) gmail (dot) com with questions or concerns.