Solo Female Travel Rocks!
I thought long and hard about whether I wanted to post about the perks of solo female travel.
While it’s true I’m female and travel alone most of the time, my blog doesn’t necessarily focus on the rewards and challenges of solo female travel in particular. Instead I gush about my love for bookshops and literary sites, as well as my determination to kick my flying anxiety in the butt. “Female travel” as a genre is very broad, all-encompassing, and overwhelming. I feel as if my small site wouldn’t be able to do it a justice.
Additionally I can’t help but feel single women are shoved into the “solo female travel” niche – regardless if it’s the main focus of their blogs or not. It doesn’t matter if the blogger’s true passion is food, adventure sports, or responsible travel. A female writer? Single? Yup! Must be a solo female travel blog.
However I was still inspired to write a few reasons why solo female travel rocks because I feel like a lot of misinformation, especially about safety, exists about the solo female experience. Kidnappings. Murders. Sex slavery. I’ve heard all the warnings and more. I wanted to make my voice heard to hopefully change a few minds about solo female travel.
Besides you can’t ignore pesky inspiration, right?
I don’t know what happened in New Jersey, but ever since I returned home from Central Europe, I’ve been asked multiple times if I felt scared on the road and/or experienced loneliness. To be honest, I’m over it. Can’t someone ask for hotel recommendations for a change? How about a “yay, I’m glad you had a good trip” or a “cool, I want to go to Vienna now, too”? I suppose I expect too much from my fellow Americans. Besides my parents, grandmom, brother and a couple friends, I can’t help but think most people are relieved I returned home with all my organs still intact. Not exactly inspiring.
Anyway I already shared a warm and fuzzy tale from Portugal explaining why solo travel isn’t always lonely. Go check it out if you haven’t read it.
Now it’s time for the next step, to indulge my burning desire and tell the world why solo female travel is absolutely AMAAAAAAAAAZING. Not dangerous. Not stupid. AMAZING.
Without further ado…
1. It’s All About You, Baby
Think about all the compromises you make every single day. What time you wake up. What you wear. What you cook for dinner. What you do on the weekends. What television shows you watch. The list goes on and on and on. As a teacher, “compromise” is my middle name, believe me.
Argh, after awhile, making all these concessions is enough to make you wanna bang your head against the nearest wall (I’m a bit selfish, have you noticed?). Furthermore, in general, women are told to “play nice,” cater to the needs of the people around them, and put their own desires at the bottom of the totem pool. We’re meant to care and nurture; it’s our stereotype.
I don’t hate compromises. No one likes greedy jerks. Again, I’m a teacher. I’m all about supporting people around me, especially wide-eyed teenagers, but my god, it’s refreshing to do what I want for a change.
Solo travel gives you a socially acceptable excuse to act self-centered. Think about it: you’ve arrived in a new city alone and all its contents are your oyster. Do you want to take a cooking class? Go for it! Do you want to sit on the beach for six hours. Do it! Do you want you to stare at renowned pieces of art? Yes, stare away and enjoy!
Traveling alone means never having to sacrifice your wants for the benefits of other people.
2. You Meet Incredible People
If you travel with a partner, friend(s), or family, then you only talk to those people and don’t usually make an attempt to reach out to others. I’m aware I’m speaking in generalities, I’ve met many outgoing and kind couples and friends, yet most of the time, they stick together. And who can blame them? It takes courage to talk to strangers. I keep to myself when me, my mom, dad, and brother travel together. I can’t be bothered to muster the effort to chat outside my built-in circle.
Traveling alone forces you gather your confidence and speak to strangers. Sometimes the effort is terrifying. I can’t count how many times I’ve wandered into the hostel common room and felt myself shut down because I was too nervous to utter a single word.
But trust me, guys, the effort pays off, because saying “hello” to unfamiliar faces means you meet incredible people from around the world. I’ve made so many meaningful connections by traveling alone. My global pals and I stay in touch via social media, and we even plan to take trips together in the future.
So how do you meet people if you’re alone? Hostels are the easiest way. Common rooms and evening activities exist for the purpose of meeting other people. If you’re my age (ha), make sure to read hostel reviews to avoid sterile places swamped with school groups and 18 year old gap year kids. But if you dislike hostels, then join a class or go on a tour to build an instant circle of friends. Couchsurfing.org is also a fantastic resource to help you meet travelers and locals in your city of choice. AirBnB is also popular. Pick a place with a highly rated host and you’re set.
Keep in mind: talking to strangers is usually pretty safe if you use common sense! Which leads me to my next point…
3. It’s Actually Not That Dangerous
Admittedly travel safety for women is different than men. Men need to be cautious, yes, but we have other safety concerns due to our gender that men don’t share. End of story.
However, I talk to a lot of people who seem to think traveling is more dangerous for women than living their day-to-day routines. It’s not.
According to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, more than one in five women has experienced violence at the hands of an intimate partner. Scary. Meanwhile RAINN states 4 out of 5 assaults are committed by someone known to the victim and 47% of rapists are a friend or acquaintance. Also scary.
I hate to be a Debbie Downer. I do. But the horrifying truth is – especially if we believe statistics – women are far more likely to be raped, murdered, or abused in a familiar environment rather than in public and/or abroad.
So, while woman may need to take extra precautions traveling that men don’t, the mere act of taking a trip isn’t inherently more risky than regular ol’ life. The odds of being kidnapped Taken style are low. L.O.W. On my own journeys around the world, I’ve found people are very welcoming, protective, and trusting of female travelers.
4. Your Self-Esteem Skyrockets
We don’t have much of a Gap Year culture in the United States. We’re told to immediately work or attend college upon graduating high school. Some students study abroad, of course, but the programs add even more expenses on top of an already pricey degree. For myself, I couldn’t leave the United States until I was 21 years old.
Plus the idea of a young woman traveling solo abroad raises a lot of eyebrows. Solo female travel isn’t the norm here. Heck, solo travel in general isn’t the norm. So when you return home, you turn into an object of admiration and awe thanks to your epic, global adventures.
A lot of people compliment me on my bravery and tell me what I do is absolutely amazing. My courage floors them. Hearing what an adventurer you are boosts your ego. C’mon, who doesn’t like receiving compliments? I eat them up!
I’m not to most confident woman in the world. My difficulty finding a teaching job practically destroyed my sense of self-worth. Traveling gave me many opportunities to come to terms with the fact that yes, I am awesome and no, no bad economy can spoil my awesomeness.
5. You Learn About Yourself
You meet tons of other travelers on the road. I’m not super outgoing and always manage to strike a conversation with someone. But if you’re alone, there will be moments when you’re completely and utter alone. Personally, I think a bit of solitude is beneficial, not depressing. Embrace the quiet.
For me, wandering through an art museum or enjoying a pleasing view of the city gives me time to think about my life and goals. Thanks to social media, we’re always connected to other people, and in a way, I think it’s bad that we never have opportunities to enjoy our own company.
Solo travel makes you realize who you are and what you want.
Are you a woman who has traveled alone? Do you love to travel alone? What are your reasons why female solo travel rocks? For more information, check out my beginners guide to solo female travel. As always, I appreciate your support. Don’t forget to subscribe to Blond Wayfarer’s email list to never miss an update.