Are you a girl thinking of solo travel? Have you been met with doubt, fear, and skepticism from your friends and family when sharing your plans of seeing the world alone? Do you have an inner voice questioning your sanity and wondering if you’re brave and courageous enough to really do it?
Kayaking around Milos, Greece 2011
I’ve been there. And take it from me, you can do it. And it will be the best thing you’ve ever done for yourself. It will change your life in the most amazing way possible. But first things first:
Is it safe?
YES! Solo female travel is safe. I cannot stress this enough. It’s a question I’m asked the most frequently, followed by discussions about women getting raped, harassed, or ‘disappearing’ while traveling. Here’s a wake-up call: this happens to women all over the world, whether they’re traveling or not. Most often, it happens to them while they’re at home, by the hands of someone they trust. Traveling does nothing to increase the chance it will happen to you.
But women can’t do everything men can do while traveling, right?
WRONG! I once talked to a seasoned traveler who was aghast when I mentioned I would be couch surfing during my travels. “I would NEVER couch surf as a single woman,” she assured me. Well, I’ve couch surfed in the homes of strange men from Mexico to Morocco and I’ve never been treated with anything but respect and gracious hospitality. In fact, most of my interactions on the road have been with men. They’ve given me directions, shown me incredible off-the-beaten-path places I never would’ve discovered on my own, given me advice and tips on how to travel safely, and become some of my closest friends.
In reality, I think traveling as a solo female has opened up more opportunities than if I were traveling with a friend or male partner. In most cultures women are treated with immense respect and care. This has been to my advantage time and time again.
Don’t you get lonely on the road by yourself?
Not at all! In fact, sometimes I feel as if I don’t have enough alone time on the road. I’m constantly surrounded by people everywhere I go who become fast friends, whether it’s fellow travelers I meet in hostels, locals I’m couch surfing with, or families I’m volunteering with through Workaway. I’ve never felt so much a part of a community as when I travel. If you are open to meeting new people and exchanging experiences with others, you will have absolutely more company than you could ask for.
Hanging out with my volunteer family in Ghana, Africa 2013
What about your friends and family, don’t you get homesick?
Of course. I would kill right now for some freshly baked homemade chocolate chip cookies from the oven. I would love to wrap my sisters into a big bear hug and snuggle with them on the couch while watching sappy movies. BUT the depth of joy I’ve discovered on the road eases the ache. In fact, I’m more homesick for places and people I’ve encountered during my travels than what I have waiting for me at home. The truth is, it’s easy to keep in touch with loved ones back home. Facebook, blogging, Skype, and good-ole fashioned snail mail make it simple to communicate no matter where I am in the world.
If you’re scared people will move on with their lives while you’re gone, it’s more likely they won’t. You’ll come home and realize things are pretty much the same. There might be a new baby or a new spouse in the picture, they might’ve bought a bigger house and gotten a promotion at work. The biggest change will probably be you. But if they’re your true friends, they’ll welcome you back with open arms and be eager to share their life stories with you as you share your own.
What do I need to know before I leave? How can I plan my own travels?
First of all, there is an amazing community of fierce, trail-blazing, women wanderers out there who are happy to give advice and share their experiences with you. Before I left on my own journey, I found a travel mentor and picked her brain with endless questions. She encouraged, supported, and gave me tips on everything from the perfect backpack to love on the road. Find these women and learn everything you can from them. (To get started, you might check out the ‘We Go Solo’ movement, full of inspiring stories and solidarity).
Secondly, the best thing you can do to prepare for your travels is to trust your instincts. Fear and faith cannot co-exist, confidence and insecurity are polar opposites. If you have the desire to do anything, it means you already possess everything you need to carry it out. Do not listen to the fears and doubts of others, they are only trying to validate their own fears and anxieties, holding them back from pursuing their dreams.
Taking in the view in Rome, Italy 2011
Your own intuition is the most powerful tool you have at your disposal and it will be invaluable on the road. Practice acting upon it and use it along with a good dose of common sense. If you follow your heart, nothing will be able to stand in the way of your dreams!
For more practical advice and tips, check out my “Travel Tips” page. Looking for specific recommendations for travel gear? Check out this page. Want to check out some resources for getting started on your own journey? Check out some cool travel related services I’ve found extremely helpful.Google+
Beautiful Write. Wonderful article, I appreciate your thoughts. This is so helpful and TRUE! This blog really speaks to me! Now I will definitely go on a solo trip. Thanks for sharing it with us.
Travelling solo, visiting local places and making new friends is a great idea to explore the world. As you said there are lots of solo travelers but most of the people afraid to to travel solo, i think this is the best article to boost their confidence. The ways you describe how to prepare yourself before solo travelling is very nice and informative. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and ideas!
Thank you so much! I hope it’s helpful for others wanting to take the plunge!
This topic is so relatable to me!! I’m backpacking along the Pacific North West right now and it’s much more safe than I could ever imagine. When I was at home planning my trip and I told people about my plans about backpacking, the first thing they would ask me was: ‘all by yourself….?’ I’m sure that if I were a boy, nobody would react with that same question. Thank you!!!
Hi Esther! Your backpacking sounds amazing! I love the Pacific North West. I’m so glad you’re following your heart and dreams and not letting other people’s doubts or fears get in the way.
“But women can’t do everything men can do while traveling, right?”
Ha! Indeed. I’ve noticed the people who say this are the people who have never tried. In my travels across the world, I’m pretty sure that solo female travellers have made up the largest ‘tranche’ of people I’ve met, and not just in places you’d expect like Australia and Europe either; I met a a lady at the Afghanistan embassy in Kyrgyzstan who was getting a visa to solo there, and another in Samarkhand who was headed over to Iran (actually, I’ve got a couple of female friends who have solo travelled to Iran as well). I met another woman in Uzbekistan who was travelling solo around the country documenting the local people & culture, and several in Chile who were either travelling around like me, or volunteering at local schools.
I do even sometimes think I’d be a more confident traveller if I were female, but that’s more to do with me and the way my head thinks rather than anything particular about male v female solo travel in general. 😀
I love those examples you gave! Yes, women are fierce and brave but so are men who travel alone! I wish the dialogue were more just about humans traveling and seeing the world and confronting their fears than a conversation about gender…but alas. There are still some stereotypes to break through for all of us!
All I can say is, you have one spectacular travel blog, Mariah. And I’m happy for you that you’re following your heart and doing what you love – and that is to travel. It’s inspiring women travel bloggers like yourself that inspire me everyday to step out of my comfort zone and try a new adventure.
I’ve been a fan of your blog from day one and I will continue to for as long as time goes on. Keep the great stories coming! 🙂
Thank you so much for the kind words Scott! Your encouragement and support mean more than you know. Wishing you safe and happy adventures way beyond your comfort zone 😉