I am a female and a passionate world traveler. And, much to my parent’s dismay, I travel solo a lot. In fact, I often prefer to travel alone. There is something magical about setting off on a grand adventure with no one but yourself to look after. There is no one else to please, no other agendas to fulfill, and nothing to worry about except your own wants and needs. Admittedly, it can sometimes be lonely to travel by yourself. It can sometimes be intimidating, and it can sometimes be frightening. But it can also be elating, liberating, and extremely empowering. If you are a female nervous about traveling on your own, I highly encourage you to pick a destination, pack a bag, and embark on a beautiful soul-searching journey with no company other than yourself. You will learn so much and you will grow in unbelievable ways. But if you are still feeling a bit anxious, I invite you to keep in mind these basic tips for safety and sanity during your travels:
10 Accept Help
People often think that I am crazy for traveling the world solo as a female. People often think that it is dangerous and foolish and simply unwise. Of course, just as any other traveler, solo female travelers should always be careful. But one thing that I find more often than not is the abundance of help and concern I receive when traveling alone. The most common question I am asked is: “are you only one?” When I respond yes, people often become extremely concerned for my well-being. When I was traveling alone in Myanmar, every single person that I met (man or woman) refused to leave me alone without his or her care. People would assist me to cross the street. People would assist me to carry my bags onto a bus. People would assist me to go grocery shopping. Everyone was concerned about me being alone. And that is the irony of it all: I was never alone because of it. I have found that traveling on my own typically brings out the very best in the people I encounter. So, with caution, accept help from others. Let that nice man help you cross the street. Allow that sweet couple to act as your translators. Let your waitress help you find a safe hotel. Allow your driver to lift your heavy bag. And, just as much as you receive help, give it back to those you encounter that are in need to keep the cycle circling right back to you.
9 Have A Backup Plan
Things don't always work out the way you planned. A hotel you might be staying at can look like the most beautiful place in the world from its pictures, but once you actually get there it is completely different. Don't be afraid to set out other options, even if it means losing a few bucks. It is better to feel safe and comfortable when traveling alone, so if your instincts tell you this isn't where you should be spending the night, then look for other options around you, or let the staff know that you would feel safer somewhere else. It is probably your best bet!
8 Travel Light And By Light
Even though you may encounter a hundred people who help you along the way, when you are traveling alone, always expect to be alone. That means do not take more than you can handle. And that applies to absolutely everything. Do not pack more than you can carry. Do not accept unwanted attention. However you find that you need to stand up for yourself, do it. If a person is harassing you, either find a way to leave the situation, or find a way to make it clear to them that this behavior is unacceptable. Do not stand for anything that makes you uncomfortable because the more that you allow, the more that will occur. With that being said, do not be foolish. If someone threatens you for your wallet, just give it to him or her. They typically want your belongings more than you and no one needs to be a hero for $60 in cash. Travel by light as often as possible, particularly when arriving to new places that you do not yet know. As much as you may hate to be missing out on the sunny day that you could be spending at the beach, take the midday train instead of the last one of the night that gets in after dark. It is always best to absorb your surroundings first in daylight. Travel light and by light, and become your own shining light to ward off any darkness that you may encounter on your journey.
7 Do Your Research
It goes without saying that you should always prepare especially when traveling alone. Research the location, the culture, the language, the traditions, the dress, and the etiquette of any place you plan to visit. Being well prepared will help to ease your mind of any doubts and allow you to move and interact with confidence and ease. Plan to stay in the safest neighborhoods, know the places you should avoid, and learn key phrases of the native language that you may need in crisis. As a solo female traveler, you should always prepare for the worst but expect the best.
6 You'll Get Lonely...It Happens
It's almost hard to avoid. When traveling alone, getting lonely is very common. You miss you friends, your family, your coworkers, your pet, almost anyone you can think of crosses your mind. Although the first few times the loneliness hits, it becomes difficult to deal with, just know that it will get better! You eventually become used to the feeling and learn how to deal with your emotions.
5 Blend In
When you’ve sufficiently researched, you will learn enough about a culture to be able to blend in. Of course, there are certain places in the world where you will simply stick out like a sore thumb just because of the way you look. But, even still, do your best to mold with the culture. Try to think, act, and dress like the locals. If you’re in a conservative country, you’ll definitely want to dress conservatively. Nothing will make you stand out more and make you more vulnerable than looking like a lost tourist. Ward off unwanted attention by blending. Even if it’s hot, don’t expose your legs if the locals don’t. Even if your feet smell, take off your shoes at the mosque. Even if you’re tired, don’t sit on the religious monument. Whatever the local culture demands, adapt to it not only to respect the place that you’re visiting but to also keep yourself blending so as not to be singled out as a potential target.
4 Be Vigilant And Aware
As a traveler (and as a person in general), you should always, always, always be vigilant and aware of your surroundings. That does not mean glancing over your shoulder every second and assuming that each person that looks your way wants to steal your bag. It simply means tuning in with what’s around you and observing anything noteworthy. Of course, being a traveler forces you into new scenarios and new spaces that are unfamiliar. And being a solo female traveler may potentially put you at greatest risk than when traveling with others. But, if you are constantly aware and observant, then you will always know when the appropriate time to leave is. If something feels off to you, then it is. Listen to that gut feeling. If things feel comfortable, then they likely are. That doesn’t mean let down your guard and forget about everything; it simply means stay connected and in tune and notice if anything shifts. You know more than you think you do and you should always stay in alignment with your own feelings. If something tells you it’s time to go, then it is definitely time to go. If something tells you to stay away from that person, then by all means, stay away from that person.
3 Don’t Be Afraid To Talk To Strangers
The one thing that I find so interesting about traveling alone is that I am hardly ever alone when I do. I often set out on a solo journey hoping to delve deep into my own psyche and explore things during all my alone time. The universe often has other plans for me as I find that I’m typically in more company when I’m traveling solo than when I’m traveling with friends. The more I travel alone, the more I realize that you should not be afraid to talk to strangers. Meet your roommates at your hostel. Strike up a conversation with the person sitting at the table next to you at the coffee shop. Ask a fellow tourist to take your photo. Talk to your neighbor on the bus. Befriend your tour guide. While still remaining vigilant, speak to the people you encounter on your path. I have made some of the longest lasting friendships from speaking to strangers on my travels. I have also had some of the deepest and soul-shaking conversations with strangers I met along the way who I never spoke to again. Both have been equally important and beneficial to my life journey. And meeting strangers (who may or may not become friends) along the way has all been a key element to the adventure.
2 Confidence Is Everything
Just as in life, when traveling (especially as a solo female), confidence is everything. If you appear meek and timid, people will take advantage and you will attract the wrong kind of attention. Conversely, if you appear assured and poised, people will take notice and not stand in your way. If you’re feeling intimidated or scared, just fake it until it becomes real. Traveling solo can be an exciting but scary adventure, and it just takes time to learn how to move confidently. Never show your vulnerabilities or your uncertainties. Be confident and sure of every move you make (whether you feel that way or not). This doesn’t mean that you can’t ask someone for directions or advise. This simply means that whatever you do, do it with assurance. However, never confuse confidence with carelessness. If something feels off, seek the appropriate help.
1 Never Let Your Fears Hold You Back
Fear can be crippling. But fears are always aggrandized in our own heads. I remember the first time I found myself in Cambodia (I country I never even imagined I would visit – never mind later live in). Cambodia was the epitome of scary to me: a country that I knew little about other than a very dark past and an eerie history. I was terrified when I arrived on a night bus in the ever-busy capital city of Phnom Penh. Walking off the bus, I found myself in a foreign land where I did not speak the language, nor was I able to shake the impoverished beggars who were following me pleading for any amount of money. I was scared and overwhelmed to say the least. I was ready to jump on the next flight out of the country because I was so afraid. The next morning (things always look better in daylight) I woke up and I decided that I would not let my fears hold me back from exploring this new culture and country that I wanted to see. That was the single most influential decision of my life. I threw on my cloak of confidence, blended in with the locals as much as I could, and I never looked back. I found that I felt so connected to the kingdom, that a few months after I left, I actually returned and moved to Cambodia to live and work in that magnificent country. To this day, it still holds a very dear place in my heart. Where there once was fear, there now is love. And I try to remind myself of this every time I feel scared to travel: to always conquer my fears with love. Move boldly and let your doubts cower at the sight of your own assurance and certainty. Travel the world safely and smartly never letting fear hold you back. Allow your fears to be dissipated by the power of your own confidence, excitement and infinite love.