25 Aug A Solo Female Traveller’s Thoughts on Solo Female Travel
People are always asking me what it’s like to travel as a solo female.
I’m often taken aback by this question because I always forget that not only am I a girl but I’m travelling by myself, it doesn’t really cross my mind. I’ve never really written about this topic before because, well, I don’t see myself as any different to any other traveller, whether they’re male or female, travelling alone or in groups. But I suppose as one of these creatures I should maybe take the time to impart some advice…
I started travelling by myself back in July 2008 and since then I’ve not really stopped moving around. Sometimes I’ve been joined by boyfriends or friends, but right now it’s just me and my backpack drifting around the world, sometimes living and working and sometimes moving around. One thing I can say is I’ve met some really cool independent minded girls travelling by themselves.
When I decided to finally talk about this topic, I thought I’d do a bit of internet research about ‘solo female travel’, which, as a phrase, I’m not too keen on. The advice I found included “book hostels in advance”, “warn the front desk of where you are going” and “dress conservatively”. I don’t think I follow any of these rules. If I want to rock up in a country at a moment’s notice I will and if I want to wear itsy bitsy shorts I’ll do it (as long as I’m dressed appropriately for the country’s customs of course).
The truth is we’re in the 21st century. Travelling to other countries is often no more dangerous than being in your home town. Obviously if you travel to a war-torn country things might be a little more hairy. But most of the time I feel far safer on the road than I did back home in England. I’m not saying the world is all roses and that you don’t need to be careful but I think it’s important for all travellers to travel responsibly no matter who you are or who you’re travelling with.
Why Travel as a Solo Female?
I personally love travelling by myself. I love the feeling of being able to pick and choose where I want to go, what I want to do and who I want to hang out with. Travelling alone means you are much more open to meeting new people and less blinkered into hanging out with your friends from home. There haven’t been too many times where I’ve felt alone when travelling because there are always people to meet and hang out with. I’m quite comfortable with sitting in a café or restaurant by myself, I know that most strangers won’t even notice me and if they do they probably won’t really give it a second thought. If it makes you feel a little nervous sitting there by yourself, take a newspaper, a book, a laptop or a pen and paper with you.
The only time I ever felt quite alone was when I had my scooter accident in October last year. With no-one to really look after you, you have to suck it up and take care of yourself. Sometimes you want to sit there and feel sorry for yourself, but there’s nothing better than feeling you got through something on your own.
What about packing?
Boys travel with tiny backpacks filled with a couple of t-shirts and clean underwear at a push. For girls it’s a little more complicated. We’ve got jewellery, belts, make-up, dressy shoes, not-so-dressy shoes, tampons and everything in between. I have a reasonably big bag and my thoughts are that as long as you carry it and it’s not over the weight limit for airlines, it doesn’t matter how big it is and how much stuff you’ve got. That doesn’t mean to say I travel with lots of clothes and accessories, most of my stuff is actually cameras, laptops, equipment and medicines.
Backpacking and lipstick
One thing I’d like to remind girls is that no-one really cares what people look like on the road. Obviously everyone likes to look nice, but there’s no need for hair straighteners and looking like you’ve applied your make-up with a trowel. There’s no need for a million outfit changes and high-heels.
I get ready for a night out in about fifteen minutes and when I leave my hair to dry naturally because I don’t carry a hairdryer, people ask me if I’ve just been for a swim at the beach. I don’t own a pair of hair straighteners or carry a pair of heels and whilst I’m still a girly girl with dresses and make-up, I like to get stuck in with any activity going.
Remember it’s not about what you look like but whether you look like you’re having fun! Everyone likes a girl who’ll take part and have fun.
I don’t walk around carrying pepper spray or notify everyone of where I’m going every minute of every day.
The rules for saying safe should apply to everyone whether you’re travelling or not. When it comes to my valuable belongings I don’t leave them lying around everywhere in hostels, I make sure they’re tucked in a safe place. I always carry a handbag that goes across my body so that it’s less easy to take, and I make sure I’m always aware, even when drunk. If men shout things in the street I don’t respond or engage in conversation, I just simply keep on walking. If I spot a fight in the street or someone dodgy, I cross over and walk a little faster.
Generally though when travelling I always feel pretty safe, and the most ironic thing is, the countries that people have warned me against or have had government warnings, have had the friendliest people and have felt the safest.
A little piece of advice if you’re going to become a “Solo Female Traveller”
It’s not scary I promise. Admittedly I was a little nervous the first time I went away by myself, but in two minutes I was playing drinking games in a hostel with a box of wine. People won’t pelt you with tomatoes and wonder where your friends are. You won’t be sat in a corner eating a pot-noodle alone or spend hours traipsing around European cities by yourself. You really will wonder what all the fuss was about.
Breaking news: Being a girl and travelling on your own is all the rage. Everyone’s doing it.
P.S Stick- “Here I go Again” by Whitesnake on your ipod.