Last Updated on 23/12/2020
Solo travel is the most rewarding way to see the world, but if you’re just starting out, it can also be pretty daunting. Surprisingly, one of the biggest challenges is not the trip itself but the comments and concerns you come up against in the months leading up to your trip – particularly if you’re a woman.
Every solo traveller hears phrases like “isn’t it dangerous?”, “won’t you be lonely?” and “can a woman even travel alone?” at least once before their travels. It’s a rite of passage, and although well-meaning, it can easily put you off the idea altogether.
Whether you’re new or experienced, I thought I’d share some of the key lessons I’ve learned as a solo female traveller so you can overcome them like a pro.
1. “It’s scary doing it by yourself!”
Over the last couple of months, I have learned that it’s a common perception that solo travel is not something that can be easily done as it is too scary. As many people have informed me, I must be either very mad or very brave to tackle such a thing.
It’s a venture which people admire without ever considering it as something achievable for themselves, particularly among my female friends.
But I don’t believe that solo travel is a result of bravery. Instead, it’s an all-encompassing determination to see the world no matter what. The travel bug is personal; you either have it or you don’t.
2. Nothing can prepare you for the reality of being a solo female traveller
You can read all the tips and tricks in the world about solo travel, but nothing can prepare you for the reality of your own lived experience.
Copying a specific itinerary and expecting the same results as a travel blogger could potentially set you up for disappointment as it’s not your own trip you end up doing in the end.
The beauty of solo travel is that you don’t have to follow any itinerary other than your own.
If you don’t want to plan a visit to a major must-see tourist attraction, that’s fine! It’s your trip. It’s personal to you so you’re entitled to just go with the flow.
3. It will never be the perfect time to go travelling
I’ve learned that you could wait a very long time for someone to agree to travel with you. And if you let it, the wait could hold you back indefinitely.
To be honest, you can always find an excuse not to go travelling. Perhaps, you don’t want to go alone? Or maybe you got a job offer, or a partner doesn’t want you to go?
At every moment in your life, there will always be something that could potentially get in the way, whether it’s the job you have now or the expectation to settle down later. Everything is an obstacle, it’s how you work around it that gets you on the road.
4. You’re your own boss for better or worse
Travelling solo means that you’re your own boss and you make the plans as no one else will. It’s a bittersweet pill to swallow for beginners as you’re faced with not knowing where to start and knowing that your trip is reliant on you figuring it out.
It’s a challenge having to plan, not to mention sorting the insurance and the flights, and that’s before you’ve even left!
Luckily there are travel agencies out there to give pointers for every step, so it doesn’t feel completely like you’re the first person ever to go travelling.
Planning a trip can feel like a mountain of a task but it’s surprising how quickly it all comes together. Even so, the money that you think you’ll need never feels like it’ll be enough…
5. “Won’t you be lonely?”
I’m often asked if I think I’ll be lonely travelling solo. Honestly, I have no idea but I’m okay with it. I believe it’s healthy to spend time alone with yourself and understand how you adapt to different situations.
Travel offers the thrill of gaining new experiences and it depends on what you want to take away from it.
Solo travel is what you make it – that’s the beauty of it. Despite the name, it can be very social if you want it to be because the truth is, you meet a tonne of people while travelling. In particular, hostels are well-known for being global social hubs.
6. Having anxiety about your solo trip is normal, it’s how you deal with it that matters
The idea of going travelling alone is easy but thinking about the practicalities of organising the trip can be extremely nerve-wracking. For me, it only gets worse when I let a couple of weeks slide by and I haven’t researched a single thing.
If left unchecked, that anxiety can put you dangerously on the edge of giving up. Personally, the only way to deal with it is to plan.
Research the nitty-gritty boring details of the trip such as hostel bookings, transfers to and from the airport as these are the most likely troublemakers. Another tactic that helps me is reading other blog posts and advice by solo female travellers.
The anxiety soon dissolves into excitement as I look enviously at pictures of them trekking through tropical rainforests or relaxing on sun-drenched beaches.
7. Having nothing holding you back is a huge advantage
It’s easy to think that you can put off travelling until you’re retired but it’s not always that simple. A regret I’ve heard from older people is that they didn’t go when they were younger and when they weren’t tied up in the commitments of work and family that they have now.
While travelling in retirement or with a family is achievable, having nothing to hold you back as a solo female traveller is certainly a huge advantage. It provides a precious window in time when you have no one dependent on you.
Sure, you can wait until you retire but relying on certainty in the future is a risky business. Plans change and the window closes causing many people to miss their chance.
8. That essentials-only packing list that just keeps growing…
I’m guilty of being an over-packer. I always throw in a spare ‘just in case’ outfit or two (which never gets worn) and as a result, backpacking becomes a bit of a conundrum.
Backpacking, as many travel writers highlight, is the resistance to packing like you’re going to the ends of the earth while actually going to the ends of the earth.
The key is to pack only key essentials as there’s nothing worse than having to carry excess weight around whilst you’re trying to enjoy yourself.
It’s easier said than done. If you’re planning a trip to a destination where the advice is to ‘pack for all weather’, the possibility of packing lightly seems near impossible. The only way to get around it is to keep trying until you’ve nailed your quirks and travelling style
9. “Can you be in a relationship and be a solo traveller?”
The answer to that is yes you can. Having your own aspirations and independence is healthy in a relationship. I believe it’s totally normal if sometimes you need to do something personal for yourself, or if you have a difference in interests. Being in a relationship shouldn’t mean that you become chained to your partner.
Having said that, many people in relationships say that they could never go travelling without their partners and they find it odd that I go without mine. Needless to say, it’s a challenge, but one of the most important aspects of a successful relationship is the space you give each other to pursue your personal ambitions.
If you see a future together, not holding each other back will only make the relationship stronger.
10. “Can women travel alone, or is it dangerous?”
As a female traveller, there is the added assumption that travelling solo will be inherently dangerous. Of course, news outlets are guilty of fanning the flame by broadcasting stories of disaster befalling young female travellers in faraway exotic places… But what is often overlooked is that such stories are reported because they are not all that common.
A very easy way to never leave the house again would be to remind yourself that the same disasters could just as easily happen on your own turf. The fact is home is a lot less scary than travelling because there is no mystery attached to it.
I’ve learned that the best way to challenge this assumption is to choose a destination you feel you can manage. As great as the road less travelled sounds, if you’re a beginner and don’t have the confidence to unravel the mysteries of language and navigation, go somewhere similar to home first. It’s a great way to eliminate some barriers.
In the face of uncertainty, danger always seems the most probable outcome, especially if you’re a woman. It doesn’t have to be if you tackle what may seem easy at first so that you can develop the confidence to explore further. That’s how to travel solo.
Are you planning a solo trip? Is it your first one or are you a seasoned solo traveller? Share your thoughts in the comments!
Oh, and for more tips and tricks, check out this awesome article by Forbes about solo travel!
Photos sourced from Pexels