“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” — Helen Keller
So I have to write this post. Seemed appropriate to time it around International Women’s Day, and National Women’s Month (in the US). Besides, it is my duty as a woman to reassure others that there is a possibility to travel the world. Even as a woman. Even alone.
Maybe in this modern world that seems a bit archaic; however, I’ve still had comments on this, so to me it still seems relevant to talk about.
See, multiple times while traveling in October and while talking to others I had people who said things like “Wow I could never do that as a girl. I always have to go with someone” or girls in my hostel who would say “yeah I wouldn’t have felt comfortable enough without my boyfriend.” Or even people who just were asking “how do you do it?” and were surprised when I said I loved it (more to come on solo travel later).
That’s not to say I’m exceptional. I met other young women who were traveling alone. Quite a few in fact. However, I still did want to make a post to talk about it. To let people know what I experienced, how I did it, and how they can possibly do it too. Because I admit I’m a person who can be scared to take risks, and having some guidance can be helpful sometimes.
The reality is that in October I couldn’t find anyone to do my trip with at the time. I hadn’t met enough people yet, and my roommates already had their own plans for what to do. So it was travel solo, or sit in my dorm room.
I’m already a fairly experienced traveler. I feel very vain putting that, but it is relatively true. I’d done a Eurail journey before, even if it was with someone else. I’ve now gone to twenty-five different countries, that list starting to really form from the time I was nine years old onwards after having lived in a foreign country. Not bad for someone my age.
That didn’t mean there weren’t times I was scared, or anxious, or wished I had someone along. Sometimes for companies sake if nothing else. Other times, because it is scary being alone, especially as a woman who’s been taught her whole life that danger can come from anywhere at anytime. I walked down a more secluded trail in Budapest in the dark, and I was clutching my umbrella so tightly and just hoping nothing would happen (nothing did thank heavens), but it just reminded me again that life can be scary.
I’d say for novice travelers, maybe it is better to have someone with you. I definitely was so glad to have my traveling companion with me my first time I did a Eurail journey, and I’ve been glad to do two trips since my October one with family and friends.
However, if you’ve had some traveling experience already, and/or you feel confident enough, I’d say go for it. Honestly, I never truly had a major problem traveling. But here’s my advice about it.
- Book good hostels– having a home base that you feel safe in is important. Knowing that a hostel is in a good neighborhood, or has good security features can be so crucial. One of my roommates had her wallet stolen in hers, and I cannot imagine having that happen while traveling alone. Spend a little more for security. It’s worth it for both peace of mind and not having to deal with more problems.
- Avoid certain areas at night– As a feminist I hate having to put things like this. Yes, it shouldn’t be my responsibility to keep other people in check, but you know what…safety is important, especially when you’re alone in a foreign country. I’ll encourage social change too, but for now here’s what I’d advise. Look for streets with people on them. Look for streets with other women on them. Yes, this might mean you can’t go out to the places you want at night. Avoid public transportation in the wee hours, and just keep your guard up if you’re in a secluded area.
- Send information to a friend or family member– tell them about where you’re going and check in from time to time with them to let them know you’re safe. If nothing else, it’s comforting knowing someone else knows where you are and cares about how you’re doing, possibly someone you can update when you’re getting a bit lonely too!
- Book female rooms– If you feel nervous, this is a good way to maybe put yourself at ease. I’ve stayed in mixed rooms as a woman, even by myself, and I’ve never had an issue. But I can understand that when you are alone it can be nice to not have a large strange man sleeping in the bunk below yours. Still though, I’ve met cool guys traveling too! So really, there’s nothing wrong with a mixed one. It’s all about you and your level of comfort.
- Do your research– knowing more about where you’re going beforehand can help, especially in reassuring you. Find good sights to visit, learn about cultural differences, write down some good words in the local language (hey even help and no can be good). It can be nice to be able to move with more confidence, less stopping and wondering where you are or what you should be heading towards next.
- Dress the part- No, this isn’t about dressing more modestly! Don’t worry! When I went to San Francisco by myself, I was really nervous. So one of the things I did to up my confidence was I dressed up a bit. I wore one of my favorite tops, nice looking black pants, and my combat boots. As I strode off the plane I felt confident and ready to take on the challenges of exploring a new city by myself. Must have looked pretty confident actually because I was asked directions! Find good ways to make yourself feel secure and confident. If clothes help, use them!
- Don’t be afraid to say no- I think this is advice women can take at other times in their lives too. And honestly, I know it’s not always that easy. But if you’re traveling alone by yourself, you should know you are well within your rights to ignore other people who might creep you out or bother you. Honestly, even walking around Lille by myself I tend to just ignore people if they try to talk to me. Your safety is first, not other people’s feelings.
- Have fun- just don’t let it hold you back. That’s my biggest wish for you. Have fun and enjoy, and realize you’re a young woman but that doesn’t mean you have to be afraid to see more of the world. Go and conquer! You’ll see amazing things and learn more about yourself in the process.
So there are my thoughts on traveling alone as a woman. Hope that makes some sense! If you have questions or suggestions of your own feel free to comment, but here were a few things I could think of off the top of my head. Hope this can help inspire some other women to go step outside of their comfort zones and try traveling solo. It’s an amazing experience if you get the chance!