Our latest guest blogger is Becki Enright, founder of Borders of Adventure – a solo female travel blog, driving travellers to new destinations and to visit the well-known, but with a focus on alternative sights and off the beaten track adventures. Follow her on twitter @bordersofadventure or join her nomadic followers on Facebook.
1. Get a backpack fit for a female
When it comes to lugging the world on your back, one size doesn’t fit all. Generally speaking, us ladies are shorter, curvier and more narrow in the shoulder than our male counterparts. We also need to give our hips and shoulders a bit of special attention when it comes to the perfect fit of the backpack as this is where most of the ‘load’ will be concentrated.
There are lots of backpacks out there designed specifically for women, but I have found that many standard designs can be adapted for a personal fit and the key is shopping around and trying a few on for size. Don’t just buy one because someone else has the same and it’s right for them!
After trying on a variety of sizes and picking my backpack, the shop assistant still had to change both the straps and the positioning of them so that the waste belt rested perfectly on my hips. Make the most of their expertise. Also consider the weight of the backpack. For example, at 5”4, a 65 or 70 litre would simply tip me over once full, whereas a 50 – 55 litre was in proportion to my height and body size.
Failing that, you may prefer a suitcase. It’s all about personal preference and what you can easily carry after all.
2. Contraception and, erm, other girly medical stuff…
This nails down to two things: Get yourself checked out and be prepared.
Make an appointment well in advance of leaving with the nurse for all those slightly uncomfortable but girly must-dos: a smear, STD testing… everything else in between if you need. It’s better to be on the road knowing you have both peace of mind and no issues to contend with when in a country whose medical services are less advanced, inaccessible or difficult to discuss.
When it comes to contraception, this is a no-brainer and you would be silly not to have this in place. Whether you are with a partner or flying the single flag, hooks-ups are inevitable. Go and discuss your options as there are contraceptive choices that last months and years if you don’t want to have to deal will daily pill taking. And it’s not just about condoms, pack a supply of the morning after pill too. Accidents happen – so be prepared.
3. Be informed about cultural dress codes
I’ve lost count of the number of times where a person’s vanity has overshadowed cultural and religious dress codes, not to mention personal dignity. Research the dress codes in each country before you leave as this will also help you decide what you need to pack. It could be something as simple as packing a cardi, a long-sleeved shirt or longer shorts/trousers, but it saves being turned away from a sight you really want to see or have to pay to hire decent attire.
More importantly, it means you don’t offend local custom. If this isn’t a priority to you, you shouldn’t be travelling. It might be scorching hot and uncomfortable, you may want to soak up the rays or you simply like to (how to put this?) dress light, but one thing’s for sure, it’s noticed. If you can’t adhere to covering up, don’t go there at all.
4. Learn to embrace your natural self
Travelling is not the time to be precious about how you look – there’s far more exciting things going on! But you know what? Some days you will probably look like an absolute, utter mess: lack of shower facilities, long train and bus journeys, humidity, rain, physical activity…the list goes on. But do you need the hairdryer and the straighteners and a ridiculous amount of makeup and accessories? No. Will you learn eventually not to care? Probably.
Pack light, embrace the real you and ditch the precision and perfection applied to getting ready at home. It wasn’t until I started travelling that I learnt to love my curly hair and not have to carry lots of makeup. My staple must haves include hair curling cream/serum, tinted moisturiser, mascara, concealer and lip balm/gloss. Job done.
5. Realise that solo female travel is safe and enjoyable!
Of course you need to be sensible, prepared and to always keep your wits about you, but don’t believe the hype that being a solo, female traveller is going to be dangerous and scary. It’s actually very liberating! All you need to pack is some common sense.
Approaching others will become second nature. It is a matter of confidence and that will grow in time, the more you try it. But the true reality? You are hardly alone, especially in hostels, and when you are you will no doubt embrace that time to yourself! Some hostels provide excursions and activities, evening dinners and events and if you want to see more of a destination in depth. And if you don’t feel comfortable going completely solo in certain places, book yourself on a tour where you will get to travel alongside others in the same boat as you.
Networking online is invaluable. From travel forums and blogs to the traditions of Facebook and Twitter, there are travellers everywhere who you will not only learn from but who will potentially become your friends. I’ve already planned to meet people from all corners of the globe and, in some cases, in areas I never even planned to visit initially.
If you’re thinking about travelling alone, we’re there for you – check our our hostels’ user ratings and reviews from real travellers to suss out the best accommodation for your trip. Our guests score every hostel for security, atmosphere and location, and let you know what they really thought in the reviews section. There are also many female-only hostels, if you’re looking for even more peace of mind.
Do you have a tip for solo female travel? Tell us in the comments…