An increasing number of people are traveling solo, and women are leading the trend. I’m not talking about the food-tripping, barhopping kind of travels; it’s the type that involve lots of climbing, walking, and trekking. Just type in “solo female travel” on Google Trends, and you’ll see that the trend really is becoming even more popular. In the beginning of 2017, the numbers hit 100 million searches.
In another study, a research group found that one in five women have traveled solo, with millennials taking the biggest slice of the pie. There’s a significant increase in women pinning solo travel ideas on Pinterest as well. Businesses are riding the wave, too; women-only travel companies are appearing here and there. Obviously, this trend is no lie.
ADVENTUROUS WOMEN – SOCIAL MEDIA AS THE FUEL
So why are women suddenly interested to travel alone? For one, modern women are more adventurous and independent than ever before; they have higher positions at work and earn more money than they used too. Many are also forgoing spa holidays and staycations in exchange of a real, meaningful adventure.
Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest particularly fueled this trend. Open Instagram and you’ll see thousands of #solotravel posts. Check out Pinterest and you’ll see countless female solo travel boards.
THE PROS FAR OUTWEIGH THE CONS
All my life I’ve spent my travels with someone close to my heart—friends, a significant other, or family. And after going through a bad breakup in 2016, I decided I wanted to go on a solo trip somewhere in Asia or Europe. So I did. I was very used to having people with me on all my trips, and I was pretty scared of the thought of flying out to a different continent all by myself. I was scared of eating alone and not having anyone to talk to. Plus, I wasn’t sure about the dangers out there. There is strength in numbers, after all, and being alone means I’m more vulnerable and a probable target of persons with ill intent.
But when I went on a solo trip in Italy, I realized that solo travelling allows you to truly take in a different culture. You get to go out of your comfort zone, you improve your focus, and your discovery of things leaves you so much more fulfilled. More importantly, you can truly relax.
THE RISKS AND CHALLENGES OF SOLO FEMALE TRAVEL
Safety, however, is one of the biggest concerns for female solo travelers. In a recent survey, the results showed that 60% of all solo travelers have safety concerns. In another survey, 60% of women said they desire to travel on their own, but fears of personal safety and vulnerability are holding them back.
So when I first posted about my plans to go on a trip alone on Facebook, friends and family bombarded me with comments about my safety and how dangerous the world is for a lone woman. They thought I was insane. And they told me stories about kidnap, rape, and human trafficking—but my burning love for travel was stronger.
But of course, I know that it’s still important for me to be aware and to know to protect myself. I make sure not to stroll alone in the more dangerous part of town. I take off my noise-cancelling earphones when I walk on unlit streets, and I don’t tell random strangers the specific hotel where I’m staying.
I know, it’s normal to associate solo travel with the dangers that might be lurking around the corner. But you can keep those dangers away with these safety tips – they worked for me, and I’m hoping that that they would work for you, too.
1) REGISTER WITH THE EMBASSY OR CONSULATE
Do this especially if you’re going out of the country for a week or so. The embassy will help you when an emergency or a natural disaster strikes. Other than that, the embassy may also allow you to access a number of services (depending on the country you’re from), such as information like travel alerts and warnings and faster passport issuance.
2) KNOW THE CUSTOMS AND TRADITIONS
In some countries, being a woman means you are subjected to certain rules. In some, for instance, you cannot sit beside monks. In Hindu countries, you cannot go inside a temple if you have your menstrual period; according to traditions, a woman is ritually unclean during this time. In Muslim countries, your entire body should be covered in clothes, or at least cover your shoulders and knees.
3) CHECK INTO A WOMEN-ONLY ACCOMMODATION
With the rise of female solo travel come women-only hotels, hostels, and capsule rooms. I personally think this is a brilliant idea, because it provides a safe environment for those of us traveling solo, whether it’s for business or pleasure. These places often have women-only staff and extra security. Other than that, you get to enjoy yoga mats, satin-padded hangers, curling irons, glossy magazines, and fresh flowers in some places; in others, you get a quiet corner table in your room, perfect for dining in when you don’t want to eat out alone.
4) DRESS MODESTLY — OR LIKE THE LOCALS
I don’t want to get into the, “Teach men how to control themselves; don’t teach women how to dress” debate, because the truth is, when you’re travelling alone out of your home turf, you’re always more vulnerable. This is especially challenging when you’re somewhere hot and humid but it’s still necessary. Plus, wearing revealing or tight-fitting clothes is a no-no and can be seen as rude in some cultures. And that’s not the first impression you want to give if you want to connect with the locals.
5) CHOOSE YOUR BAG CAREFULLY
Sure, a shoulder bag designed with security features may look cute, but if you want safety and convenience, rolled into one, choose a bag that you can wear across your shoulders. When I went to Italy, I was the victim of bandits on a scooter. The two men charged through a cross walk against the light and tried to grab my purse, but all they got was the strap.
6) CARRY A “WEAPON”
Sometimes bad things can happen to us, and when they do, it’s best to have something to protect yourself. Carry a pepper spray with you if you can. Remember, however, that some countries outlaw pepper spray products and chances are, you won’t even be able to go past airport security without taking it out of your bag. So always check the regulations on traveling with pepper spray.
7) ALWAYS LEAVE A MESSAGE
Always keep your friends or family back home, or the hotel front desk, informed with your plan for the day. Let them know when you’re back so they know you’re safe. In my case, my mom and my best friend appreciated my messages along with some photos of my travels.
8) PRETEND YOU KNOW WHERE YOU ARE & WHAT YOU’RE DOING
It’s great to do extensive research on a place before visiting, but I really love figuring things out as I go. So what do I do when I arrive and I don’t know the place in any way? I act like a live there. As a solo female traveler, the worst thing that you can do when you’re lost, alone, and scared, is to act like you’re lost, alone, and scared.
9. KNOW YOUR ALCOHOL LIMITS
Make sure you’re always on your toes, and be aware of your surroundings. That means you have to avoid getting drunk or testing your alcohol threshold, especially when you’re out alone somewhere unfamiliar. Drinking wisely means you can keep your wits when walking back to your hotel or taking a cab by yourself. Don’t accept drinks from strangers, too, or leave your glass unattended. I don’t mean to burst your bubble, but it’s important to know that the number one used substance in drug-assisted rape is alcohol. Phone the local police, hospital, or the nearest embassy when you start to feel drunk, strange, or nauseated after only a couple of drinks.
NO ‘ONE SIZE FITS ALL’ RULE FOR SOLO FEMALE TRAVELERS
Not all of these tips would apply to you, I know. Just remember that traveling smart is all about making smart observations and decisions. What I wrote here is based on my experience and it will vary from person to person. The trick here is to use your common sense.
Don’t let the “You can’t go travelling solo. It’s not safe for women,” mentality deter you from doing what you want, because you can. The world is an amazing place, and I promise, once you take that leap, you won’t regret it. The rewards of being a solo traveler far outweigh the bad things that come with the idea of solo female travel. Good luck!
Have you ever traveled solo? Please share your own tips in the comments below. Read Next > Taking the Leap to Travel Solo
By We Are Travel Girls Contributor Pamela Sanchez