First off, everyone should travel. As the famous Saint Augustine saying goes, “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.” I focus on women in particular because I’ve received numerous comments since announcing my round-the-world journey that center around warning me of the dangers of solo woman travel.
They go a little something like this:
- “Central America and South America are dangerous! You’re a woman traveling alone, and you’re going to get kidnapped!”
- “You can do this, but don’t go out at night. Stay in your room. Keep a blog and write every single day where you are and what you’re doing. Have a ‘code’ word, so your friends know if something is wrong during your travels.”
- “Why don’t you go to Europe or Australia or New Zealand? That’s a safer travel destination [for a woman].”
Well, I’ve been to Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. I would like to see more of the world…
I understand that all of these comments were delivered out of sincere concern and care for my wellbeing. Every traveler, regardless of gender, age, or background should be aware of one’s surroundings when entering any new environment. And although I wish it weren’t the case, there are certain aspects of being a woman traveling alone that one must definitely pay attention to, but it shouldn’t stop any woman from seeing the world.
If I bought into the idea of not being able to travel because I’m a woman, I would never have been able to live in China for 3 years (one of them in rural Hunan province), go to India, Thailand, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, Holland, Italy, Malaysia, sail in Mexico and numerous other places. Also, as most backpackers know, traveling solo does not always mean you’re alone. Most often, you meet marvelous people along the way and make connections that last a lifetime (or at least become Facebook friends).
A few tips for happily & safely traveling solo (applicable to men as well):
- Hostels are a goldmine. Not only are they cheap, but you almost always meet fellow backpackers and new friends. Do some research prior to your trip from some well-known travel sites, blogs, or books on high-rated places to stay. Barrel Hopping, Lonely Planet, Nomadic Matt, Worldette, & Nomadic Chick are all great resources.
- Network ahead of time. The world is a much smaller place, so if you’re semi-online savvy, there are loads of opportunities at your fingertips. I always post something on my personal Facebook page and send an email about my next destination to my friends and ask for advice. Often times, people have been or connect you with someone who has and in some cases, you’re able to meet up or stay with someone locally.
- Be Kind & Respectful. This is good advice for life in general but is especially important when traveling. Remember that you’re a guest in another country and culture. Whether you want to or not, you are representing your own culture as well. In other words, have a good time, but please don’t be that girl (or guy) who gets completely wasted and acts like a jerk.
- Be Prepared. Depending on where you’re going in the world, you might need vaccinations, a certain type of gear, or a visa. Take the time to learn more about where you’re traveling ahead of time. Find local expat bloggers or expat community sites who know about the area and are usually more than happy to share their knowledge and experience with you via forum or email.
- Pay Attention. It is important to be aware of one’s surroundings, especially when first settling in. Know things like the address of where you’re staying and how to get back to your hostel. Let other people back home know where you are as you travel. Keep your cash and credit cards in separate places, so if something gets stolen, you have a backup. Above all, listen to your gut. If a street looks weird or something feels “off,” find a way out of that situation pronto.
- Be open to adventures! Don’t have your schedule so tightly organized that it doesn’t allow room for last-minute adventures. One of my best solo travel experiences happened because I met a fantastic travel writer at one of the hostels in New Zealand. She invited me on a one-day road trip, and we had tons of fun!
So ladies (and gents) I urge you to get out there and experience the world! Feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions. Either I or some other wonderful travelers I know, can point you in the right direction. The more women who travel the world show others that it’s possible to have all sorts of incredible safe adventures while abroad!