Is Solo Female Travel So Scary and How To Overcome Its Challenges?
SOLO FEMALE TRAVEL BLOGGERS SHARE THEIR PERSONAL EXPERIENCES
Solo female travel is not new; women have been travelling alone for centuries even if this was not usual and acceptable for the society. There always have been brave and curious women who just couldn’t live the ‘normal’, settled live and had a strong need to go out and discover the world.
Today, more than ever, women have the possibilities to travel but one thing never changed in some societies – women are not equally seen as “entitled” to travel ALONE as the men.
As you will see below, the biggest challenge (to my complete surprise) that solo women face while travelling the world, is not the physical possibility of harm or other safety issues but their own feelings and fears, and the perceptions that others have of their solo adventures.
As I am not experienced solo traveller, although I had some solo trips in the past and hope to have much more in the future, I asked other travel bloggers to share with me their biggest challenge as a solo female traveller and how they overcame it. Here are their answers.
Amy from Globetrotter Guru
I hate to admit it, but the biggest challenge I have had to overcome as a solo female traveller is loneliness. People think of the freedom associated with solo travel. They focus on how liberating and refreshing it must be, without realising how lonely it can get on the road, especially in non-English speaking countries. I have an amazing boyfriend (we recently got engaged!) and I miss him greatly when I travel. I also miss my sister and my immediate family quite a lot when I get past the first few weeks of solo travel. I really felt this in Bulgaria last summer.
How do I overcome loneliness on the road? There’s an App for that! 😉 Seriously though, I use Skype and What’s App to keep in regular contact with my support network back home. I also tend to stay in Youth Hostels as a solo female traveller, because I often me other travellers in the same situation as me. This happened last summer when I met some amazing people at Sultan Hostel in Istanbul.
So, although you may sometimes feel lonely, you are never really alone! Embrace the joy of solo travel and push yourself out of your comfort zone.
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Janice from Solo Traveler Blog
The greatest challenge I faced was keeping track of everything – attending to all the details. For example, before travelling solo I would relinquish my passport, etc., to whomever I was travelling with as I was inclined to put it down and leave it behind in places like airport security. I don’t do that anymore.
Having to rely on myself has made me more capable, more aware and a better traveller overall.
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Kristin from Camels & Chocolate
I’ve been travelling solo since I was 20 years old, and even at 33, people still give me the craziest looks when I tell them I’m going to Rwanda or Hong Kong or even somewhere mainstream like Paris alone.
I think the biggest challenge I’ve had to overcome is convincing others that travelling alone is not something that should intimidate or scare them—it’s the most rewarding way to travel, in my opinion, and it’s very rare I’m actually alone for long as I always meet people anywhere I go! I try to be an advocate for getting out of one’s comfort zone and hope that my own adventures and confidence infect others who may not have considered a solo jaunt before.
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Aleah from Solitary Wanderer
As a solo traveller, a major challenge is a loneliness. It doesn’t always happen, but to address it, I stay in hostels where I could meet other travellers who could become my travel buddy in that particular city. I also join free walking tours.
Prior to my trip, I go to Couchsurfing to arrange meet-ups with locals so I can get to know their city and their culture from their own perspective.
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Sabrina from Sabrina Barbante
The most challenging situation was my Sandy Night. I was in NYC, solo travelling. My first time in NYC, one of those travels that you do (well, that I do) when something must be left behind (love, fear or just some self-destructive attitudes). I was enjoying my autumn in NYC, blogging my trip, relaxing, and thinking much, and… Sandy the Hurricane was coming closer. I’m from Italy, I hardly had an idea of what a Hurricane is.
Well, Manhattan was safe and kept me safe, but my ‘hurricane’ implied me staying closed in a room alone with no lights for over 24 hours, with no internet and just with my thoughts and an incredible wind and rain storm on my windows. You know what?
When nature obliges you to do anything but waiting, you change your perspective.
I gained sleep back after over 6 months sleepless and in some way, that unexpected un-connection with the world re-connected me with myself. I don’t bother you telling all the things I changed in a few weeks as I came back. But since then, every October, 25, I stay home alone, shut all pc and mobiles down and celebrate my Sandy Night.
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Heather from She Goes Global
My biggest challenge has been myself. Through the process of travelling solo, I have learned so much about myself that I was not fully conscious of before.
Patience was a virtue I did not have – until travelling alone where I have been forced to put that side of myself in the backseat. Whether it’s missing a train, being stuck with a flight delay or driving through insane traffic in a cab with a driver that doesn’t speak English – the biggest challenge of all is conquering my own quirks and mastering the art of going with the flow.
Traveling has helped me challenge myself – resulting in the most amazing growth as a woman and strengthening me as an individual.
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Rachel from Hippie in Heels
The biggest challenge I’ve faced is making sure my family isn’t worried about me and therefore making sure I can enjoy my travels and not feel guilty.
For example, I head to Istanbul just a couple weeks after a terrorist attack in the tourist area and that worries my parents. I think overcoming it is just communicating and forwarding emails of hotel and flight bookings so they can feel included and up to date on your activities.
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Candice from Free Candie
Although I’m not a total introvert, I am very shy when it comes to asking people for help, directions, etc. Especially when there’s a language barrier. And since I come from a really small town, big cities are intimidating.
I haven’t exactly gotten over this barrier but it has gotten easier with time, and especially experience. I’m currently living in Berlin, and living in a huge capital has really forced me out of my shell. I just need to balance the chaos with lots of downtime.
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Monica from The Travel Hack
I’m very lucky to say that I haven’t faced many challenges as a solo female traveller. I am partly very lucky but also cautious and I plan well so that I’m never in any vulnerable situations. The most challenging thing for me is dining alone.
This is the only time I feel lonely and I feel like everyone is looking at me and wondering why I’m alone. I often end up skipping the fancy restaurants and opting for budget cafes where it’s more ‘normal’ to dine alone.
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Annelise from A Week at the Beach
Truthfully, I think the biggest challenged I faced as a solo female traveler was actually getting comfortable with being alone; to have the confidence in myself that was needed to both enjoy (and to feel safe) going places alone, but also to put myself out there often enough to make friends when I could use company.
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Leyla from Women on the Road
My biggest challenge as a solo traveller was not having any kind of home base for years. Everything I owned was in my backpack, and once in a while, I did wish I could store a few things rather than sending them to friends here and there. I would have loved to go home for a month or two and then leave again.
As it was, I was on the road constantly for nearly four years. That was in the days before the Internet, which made it difficult to deal with things at home whenever they occurred. These days it’s a lot easier!
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Marysia from My Travel Affairs
To be honest I must admit that travelling solo comes quite easy to me. I have never got myself into troubles because I was a solo travelling girl. I did get myself into troubles because I’m plain crazy and love adventure but that is a completely different story and those troubles were never really serious, after all, I’m the Luckiest Girl in the World.
What I have overcome on my travels is my OCD (*OCD – obsessive-compulsive disorder). When I’m at home I like order, in a bit obsessive way. My books are kept by authors and regions, clothes by colours and seasons, everything has its exact place in my house, you would have to see million of folders, subfolders and colours in my email box, bed have to be always made before I leave the house and many many more.
But when you travel for 6 months with one backpack and change places every few days, sometimes there is no time to make a bed because you will miss the only bus going to your destination this week.
So I have learned to let go, not to stress about those little things and I have realized that world won’t come to the end if I won’t pack my hairdryer with me or my clothes won’t be packed by colours. And all that change my relationship with people around me, I do not patronize my sisters about putting a book back at the wrong place on the shelf etc.
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Barbara from Hole in the Donut
My biggest challenge is luggage. Since I have no home base, I must carry enough clothing for all climates, as well as a lot of heavy equipment (camera, lenses, laptop). Additionally, I often go to third-world countries where transportation is rough.
Even in Europe, where I use public transportation to get from the airports or train stations to my lodgings, most Metro stations do not have escalators or elevators. As a result, I’ve had to perfect the art of frugal packing so that I am not lugging tons of weight around!
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Claudia from My Adventures Across the World
The biggest challenge I faced the first time I travelled solo was the fear of feeling lonely. I was waiting for loneliness to down on me any time as I travelled across South America and… it never happened.
In fact, I soon realized that not only I didn’t feel lonely, but I actually enjoyed being on my own, as it meant lots of me-time and it implied I was more open to meeting other travellers. I loved every minute of it.
Alyssa from My Life’s a Movie
The biggest challenge I’ve faced as a solo female traveller was constantly getting starred at and whispered about by people making assumptions as to why I was travelling alone.
I’ve had people assume I’m a prostitute or escort looking for a deal, and would constantly have people question me on social media about “who’s taking the picture if I’m supposedly alone”. It was irritating and even a bit hurtful!
But now I’ve learned to ignore everyone (I hardly even make eye contact), walk with confidence, and act like I know what I’m doing, even in a place I’ve never been. I also try to be as polite and well-spoken as possible, and always dress appropriately and with class!
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Liz from Moxie & Epoxy
The biggest challenge that I have faced as a solo female traveller is convincing the world that I’m not crazy!
The truth is I feel very safe in my travels, I don’t worry about any terrorism, sex slavery, drug traffickers or any of the problems that seem to plague the minds of loved ones. When I’m on the road I feel totally in control.
I do not worry about safety because I have found in all of my experiences that people are generally good. They are not out to scam you, hurt you and kill you which people tend to think is the default when they think of “other.” Of course, there are bad areas in every city and every country, but as long as you have some common sense, the world is much more friendly and inviting than people think.
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Debby from Barefoot Blogger
I hate to eat dinner alone at a restaurant when I travel. Sitting by myself at lunchtime is no problem. I chat away with the waiter, with people at the next table, or with someone across the room. But in a restaurant in the evening by myself? I avoid it.
Instead, I have my dinner meal at lunchtime … which is better for the budget. On the rare occasion, there’s a “dinner only” menu I want to try, I take my iPhone along; I chat with the waiter; then, I discreetly use my phone to take photos for my blog. I take pictures of table settings, wine bottles — even the wine and food servers. No photos of other guests, of course. In other words, I entertain myself. Inevitably a person sitting nearby will comment on my behaviour and I’ll admit, “I write a blog.” That opens up whole line questions and answers.
Before I know it, I’ve finished a lovely meal; I’ve found new followers for my blog; I’ve made a new friend or two; and, I’ve actually enjoyed myself.
Avoiding problems isn’t always the best way to solve them. In this case, I think of it as “turning a negative into a positive.” To me, that’s a “win-win.”
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Do you recognize some of your fears that stop you from making the first step to solo female travel? I surely do. I am introvert like Candice (never thought before why I’m so unwilling to ask for help) and I surely feel guilty the same way Rachel does. And I agree with Monica, it is not pleasant to dine alone under the people’s attention.
I have learned A LOT from these courageous and adventurous women and I hope you did too. I hope to see more of you fearlessly travelling the world, solo or not!