Three months ago, I took a 2.5 month trip through the Silk Road, a ancient network of trade routes, starting from China, I went through Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and finally Turkmenistan and it was honestly the most unforgettable trip I have ever had traveling. The rawness of the hospitality and kindness was beyond any words that I can describe. It was as if I was going into a time machine to see how people really lived millions of years ago.
SILK ROAD MISCONCEPTIONS
A trip such as this carries many misconceptions and the majority of travellers may select what is deemed to be a ‘safer’ destination. I wanted to share my experience travelling solo through the silk road to encourage others to consider traveling to this beautiful part of the world.
Before my trip, there were many challenges and worries because of the American stigma of danger for these areas since it is predominantly Muslim, with the Taliban and ISIS so close by. Even my most adventurous friends, whether male or female, did not want to come with me!
Once on the trip, even locals would even tell me I was crazy going to these areas, because of the Taliban, and that the men will treat women in a disrespectful way (by western standards) through touch and by words. On top of that, the visa process for all the countries was so time consuming, expensive, and difficult, that I almost gave up this trip altogether.
A LIFE CHANGING TRIP
Although stressful, I knew this trip would change my life, and it did forever. I was careful and mindful of the religious and sexist traditions: I wore a ring to show others I was “married” and was respectful when speaking with both men and women. During my trip, I only met one other solo traveler since most travelers shared the same fears as I had before arriving and felt that they needed a companion to keep safe. But even as a solo female traveler, I was treated with respect, I was kept safe, and was accepted into every locals family as their own.
I am incredibly grateful that all things worked out and I was able to experience, first hand, the most welcoming and hospitable people in the world! Where the people who have the least, give the most. I was constantly invited to stay in homes with home cooked meals for free, invited to a local wedding as a guest of honour, locals constantly wanted to help without anything in return, and I was always offered a ride or a bed for free!
It made me realize that no matter how different we may be, we are all the same; we are all human. No matter what race, religion, or color, we all want love, health, education, acceptance, family/community. There is still an overflow of kind and loving people, even in this part of the world that is seen as so dangerous. It was incredible to meet people who were so giving just from the goodness of their heart.
INSPIRATION TO VISIT THE SILK ROAD
I hope this post will inspire you travel women to not only go to the untouched, breathtaking UNESCO Silk Road, but to just have the strength to go to places society keeps telling you no, but where your heart keeps saying YES!
Don’t let others’ beliefs and stigmas get in the way of your dreams, especially as a female solo traveler. We can go anywhere any man or person can go, if our heart is determined. I hope that my story brings faith back into humanity, to show that there are still such amazingly warm hearted people out there, despite what the news or social media says. Don’t give up on people because sometimes they can surprise you!
We hope that this article has inspired you to visit the Silk Road. If you have any questions about the destination or have your own travel tips to share please leave these in the comments below.
Do you want to share your own travel tips by guest writing for We Are Travel Girls? Please visit our Contribute page for guidelines and to submit your article.
- A Guide To Solo Female Travel In Uzbekistan
- A Girl’s Guide To Solo Travel In Tajikistan
- Solo Travel In Pakistan
- Why Pakistan Should Be Your Next Travel Destination
We Are Travel Girls Contributor Sophia Kim of SophiaKimTravels.com
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It sounds like you had an amazing experience Sophie! I travelled the Silk Road last year but did it via an overland truck. We spent about a third of our time camping in the most beautifully remote locations and another third in home-stays with wonderfully hospitable people. I will never forget my time on this road – it had been a dream for many years before I finally went. It’s so nice to ‘meet’ someone else that didn’t let misconceptions prevent her from going!
Good luck with your future travels :)
Lisa Mitchell says
Did you go with Dragoman?
Hi – which group did you travel with?
Wow! What an amazing experience. Glad to hear that everything went well for you. :)
We Are Travel Girls says
Thanks for reading and commenting Jennifer!
Wow! This looks like it was a phenomenal trip! I have always wanted to travel the Silk Road. Your words and especially your photographs have reminded me why I want to go – it looks jaw droppingly beautiful, the history sounds wonderfully intricate, and it feels like it would be adventures galore. Thumbs up for going alone!!
We Are Travel Girls says
Thanks for taking the time to read and comment Kendra – glad you enjoyed this post!
Phenomenal photos! I’ve been wanting to travel the Silk Road for a long time now and hope I get to do so in the near future. Such an inspirational post!
We Are Travel Girls says
Thanks for reading Anna, glad you were inspired by this post! The Silk Road looks absolutely beautiful and so pleased that more female travellers are looking to explore it. Look forward to seeing your photos if you go and please share your story with us!
Beautiful, touching and inspiring, well done Sophia Kim!
Becky van Dijk says
Thanks for reading Fiona! Glad you enjoyed this post
Just wow, amazing! I would love to go!
We Are Travel Girls says
Thanks for reading Karine, glad you liked this post and hope you are inspired to visit!
Planning the same trip in the summer, do you have a rough itinerary ? Also you were able to get a visa to Afghanistan? Did you only go to the north? Do you think it makes a difference if I was a white American vs. Asian American? In terms of safety? I’d also be doing it alone.
Hi Caitlin, my name is Ava and I’m a young female from the US. I am really interested in visiting the ‘Silk Road’ countries, and while I found Sophia’s post to be inspiring and encouraging, I still think it would be great to have company on the road. Are you still planning on doing this trip? If you’d be interested in comparing notes, or even potentially buddying up for parts of the trip, let me know! My email is [email protected] :) Safe travels!
What a great trip and fabulous photos…would be great if you could make a note on them to say where each one was taken :)
We Are Travel Girls says
Hi Nancy, Thanks for reading and commenting – we will try and get that added!
Ravi Kumar Kotti & Kanchana Kotti says
Yes. Even I wanted to endorse what Nancy said. May be all the people are lucky(Affordability, time sparing, health etc) and adventurous like you. So at least those people can enjoy armchair by knowing the places. Please do indicate the place of the photograph if not with more details.
It looks so amazing!! I am going to Central Asia next year with two of my friends. As Nancy mentioned it would be nice with some notes on each photo – they seem as places we might need to see ;)
Came across your post doing research for this trip and you’re journey offers hope for my plans. Could you perhaps provide an itinerary of your route as I’ve been considering this for awhile but wonder how practical it is given the ever-changing politics in the region. As a white guy from London I’m wondering how high the risks are. I’ve travelled extensively throughout SE Asia and know how perceptions change when viewed on the ground to what we read in the media.
Imogen Rolfe says
What an inspiration you are! Thank you for the story!
Really enjoyed your post! Would you mind noting where each photo was taken? Particularly the gorgeous rainbow coloured hills?
Inspirational! I’ve long wanted to go, have an itinerary starting in Tashkent and ending in Almaty, and have looked at tours for next spring, which are unfortunately too expensive although safe. Like your reader above I wonder if, as a retired, white European lady I might receive different behaviour? But I’d love to do this with a companion and if you have suggestions would love to hear from you… [email protected]
Jeanette Anderson says
I’m a 60 year old woman looking at doing a small group tour of Iran next year. Thank you for your posts. They have been both inspiring and reassuring. I am researching as much as possible before committing to going. I would be interested to hear anyone else’s experiences in Iran.
Hi Janet, We are an Australian couple (mid sixties and healthy) looking to travelling the Silk Road at the end of this year, actually October perhaps. I have only twice been with a tour and both times were trekking in mountains .. Ladhak and Overland track in Tas. I am in two minds whether to just go on our own so we may determine the pace etc.Who are you looking to be travelling with and where re you from..
We did the China portion of the silk road last year, it was amazing! We only used a guide for the last portion from Kashgar to Tashkurgan, the rest of the time we just arranged our own cabs and trains and hotels. Everyone so sooo friendly. Dunhuang was the most memorable place we’ve ever been to.
I lived in Xian for a year and while there went on a trip through Gansu province, exploring the Chinese end of the silk road. Two years later I travelled through Turkey, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan. So you could say I’ve done both the beginning and the end of the silk road. Both trips I did alone as a woman( though I did have friends meet up with me for a few days) and like you said had no problems whatsoever. Next year I’m planing to finally do the stans, particularly Uzbekistan. I’m so excited to finally see all the marvellous architecture there! p.s. great photos!
I’m doing my research now for a solo trip later this year on the three Stans, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikstan.
Let me know if you want to compare notes or if we doing it at the same time maybe combine certain aspects etc.
You can PM me on [email protected]
I have travelled extensively on my own am 75 years old but now have a walking problem due to a rupturex tendon in my left foot that was operated on badly here in Australia. I would still love to do this route starting in china mainly by train. But would need time. Any suggestions for help on the way
Virginia Wilkens says
I’ve always wanted to go to the visit the countries of the Silk Road, but yes the Stigmas still continue to get in my way. I keep getting told I’m crazy that I want to go. My husband is willing to come with me, but this post really inspired me to actually take the plunge! Thank you so much for sharing. Would you mind if in the future I reach out to ask more logistical questions in regards to planning such a trip?
Kate Millican says
Great article! How did you plan your route, and what was it? Thanks,