The Solo Traveller.

I know a lot of girls who are scared of travelling alone.

My mother for one goes into a state of panic every time I mention I might be going on an adventure solo. Even as simple as driving between states in Australia was enough to cause her to go into a spiral of What if’s…

I travelled overseas solo for the first time at 21, and I went for a year. I had an incredible adventure as I explored through Hawaii, North America, France and England. I made incredible friends who I will have for my lifetime and I had some crazy experiences that just wouldn’t have come about if I’d been with anyone else. Last year I did transit trips between India, Thailand and Australia on my own and survived and now I’m gearing up for a 12 day stint in Vietnam at the beginning of next month… and I’m really looking forward to it. Going solo is sometimes the best way.

It certainly has its downfalls though, and there is no denying that it is hard at times both physically and emotionally. During transit you can’t curl up on the floor of the airport and go to sleep, there is no one to watch your stuff or wake you up when its time to board. There is no one to share a beautiful new site, a sunset, a funny anecdote, new friends or just weird and wacky things that you see when you’re on the road. But what you do get from solo travelling trumps everything that you miss out on.

I just don’t see how a fear of travelling alone is good for anyone. Why should anyone miss out on any experience they want because they don’t have a suitable (male) companion to travel with? What is this? Are we really still going to play the card that women are more vulnerable and therefore more of a target than men travelling solo? I thought we had been through this before, last century.

Most of the world is only as safe or dangerous as you create it to be through your own actions.  Now, this isn’t to say that you don’t take precautions, and there are of course some places where it is just really dangerous (regardless of your gender) to travel solo. But for Gods sake. There are hundreds of countries out there who will welcome you, take care of you, get excited with you, and enlighten you – and if you listen to the fears of your parents and friends – you will to miss out on all of it.

Elephant kisses in Thailand

So what are the tips and tricks for the solo female traveller?

Having talked to a lot of girls (and boys) who travel alone, there seems to be a few things that help smooth the way.

I’ve found that travelling on your own as a girl, it is extremely important to dress appropriately and be well aware of the culture that you are stepping into. In India for example, women don’t have a high place in society, and white women travelling alone can be seen as ‘easy’. In some places drinking and smoking are a sign of a loose women, because only prostitutes behave in that way. Being aware of how you are being seen and respecting culture is very important.

If you are getting unwanted male attention, either wear a wedding ring or talk about a boyfriend who is going to be meeting you shortly. Or if you find someone is coming on strong, make a point of talking about other men and their unwanted advances, often this brings out the chivalrous nature in a man.

The same as travelling anywhere on your own, you shouldn’t really be going out to nightclubs without a buddy – there is just too much risk. If you are staying in backpackers you are more than likely going to meet scores of other travellers who you can tag along with – safety is in numbers at large events and parties – you do want to go home eventually… If you would prefer to hang out with the locals, then make friends with your hotel staff or the workers around you – more often than not they will have great tips on where to go and offer to come with you when they knock off from work.

There is nothing to be scared of if you keep your wits about you. 

Above all, the best tip I can have for travelling solo is to trust your gut. There is no better judge of character, situation and safety as that little voice inside your head. It’s a five second rule. You will know that quickly if you feel safe or not. If you don’t, get out. Simple as that. I’ve always trusted my own intuition and have never come across any real problems. I got very sick in Bangkok when I was there on my own. It was very scary. But I got a good vibe from the people around me and I put my trust in them. And everything turned out fine. It was just a bump in the road. People are generally good… don’t let this fear mongering get in the way of exploring the world and enriching your own life.

Travel barefoot.

One Response to “The Solo Traveller.”
  1. I always love to hear when women go against the grain – and many people’s advice – and take off to travel solo. You can’t really tell people how much this will open their minds – they have to try it for themselves. I often travel solo – one trip lasted three years on my own. I’ve had moments of loneliness but they’ve never lasted, because it’s too crowded on the road. You run into plenty of fellow travelers and meet a lot of people locally – there’s no real time to be lonely for more than a few minutes.

    I also find that traveling solo means I get to do more things and interact with people. If I’m with someone or with a group, we tend to stick together, looking inwards. When I’m alone, I look outwards and give out welcoming signals. People don’t keep away because I look or sound busy.

    As a woman alone I also get invited to things I wouldn’t otherwise… often hospitality just takes over and no one wants to see a woman traveler left out, so you get asked along. Most people welcome newfound friends, especially if they come from different cultures.

    A final word – trust your gut, yes, but use your common sense. Follow some simple rules. Arrange to have regular contact days/times with folks back home. Carry around emergency contact information. Read the travel warnings before you go – you don’t have to heed them but you should know them. Don’t get into dicey situations with people you don’t know. And you’re absolutely right about the clothes and the culture: the best way to prepare is to do plenty of research beforehand. Find out about a place’s culture and habits before you go, and act accordingly.

    Great piece, and happy travels!

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