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  1. 5 things a solo female traveller needs to do before leaving for round-the-world travel

    posted by Guest blogger - Becki Enright | 12 Comments

    5 things a solo female traveller needs to do before leaving for round-the-world travel

    Jun132012

    Our latest guest blogger is Becki Enright, founder of BackpackerBecki.com - 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. Setting off in July for a indefinite period of travel, she aims to encourage others to travel differently and with purpose. Follow her on twitter @backpackerbecki or join her nomadic followers on Facebook: www.facebook.com/backpackerbecki.

    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.

    To keep up to date with Becki check out our her blog, follow her on twitter and like her on facebook

    Do you have a tip for solo-female travel?

  2. 12 Comments so far.

    juls said on 18/06/2012 at 2:42pm

    My first backpacking trip overseas as a solo traveler was when I was 18 YEARS OLD!! It was the best trip of my life. After that I backpacked with my friends and relatives but it wasn't that fun as we had different plans and wanted to do different things! So my advice is, go and travel by yourself. There were some dangerous situations that i look back and say, wow, how could i do that (like hitchhiking or taking a taxi at night who then asked for a lot of money) but everything ended up fantastic and I have hundreds of great memories and met hundreds of great people. Just don't risk it like me maybe. Or do. My best stories are from taking a risk. Like meeting a barman in a local bar who then drove me around the island with his motorbike and I've seen the best beaches that I couldn't have seen on my own and many others stories.

    Paulette @ Marginal Boundaries said on 16/06/2012 at 6:23pm

    These are great! It is awesome you brought up the girly medical stuff...we do need to protect ourselves. And as for the dress codes, I can attest to that. I visited Dubai during Ramadan, and although the tourist resorts are a bit more lenient, I did have a dress code run in at one of the malls there, where a security guard was passing out leaflets about appropriate dress and behavior. Needless to say I purchased something there last minute in order to comply and not look like a stupid, inconsiderate tourist. Happens to the best of us. And in regards to embracing my "natural self," I have to say I am normally one to constantly try to look my best while traveling, but the truth is that a different country means a different climate and different weather, which all make for less than desirable hair and skin issues. I am sure I will be happier traveling next time if I rough it a bit more...Thanks Becki!

    Sian said on 16/06/2012 at 6:46am

    I'm 66 and travel a lot in hot countries, so (usually) prefer not to take a backpack. But wheelie cases are not the answer either - if something goes wrong with the wheels, you're stuffed! What I've done is to buy a strong but light bag of the right size (about 60 litres) and add two attachments. (1) a strong, reovable shoulder strap for lugging it up flights of stairs, and (2) a pared-down, separate luggage trolley (I took the top, folding part off to save weight and space). These have stronger wheels and can also be placed inside the bag when going by plane, bus or shared taxi. I also made a bag for this out of shower-curtaining, which is useful for putting the trolley in first if it's wet outside. Never take an expensive-looking bag. This just invites theft. The more battered and low-key the better. Also, for safety's sake keep passport, credit cards and all except daily money in a neck wallet - and never take it off, except in the showers.

    Billie Ribot said on 15/06/2012 at 12:56pm

    Loved, loved, loved the article! As a solo traveller myself, I found extra helpful tips and also felt understood and cared for. Thanks Becky! Greetings to you all from Argentina!

    di said on 13/06/2012 at 6:27pm

    Hook-ups aren't inevitable for everyone - definitely not for me - although I'm sure they are for most. I suspect you don't understand the meaning of 'inevitable' anyway, going from your clarification (just saying) :)

    Liz said on 13/06/2012 at 12:52pm

    I made the mistake (the very first time I travelled to Europe) of bringing a large rolling suitcase on a trip to Venice, Florence and Assisi, because I wanted to be able to pack all of the souvenirs I purchased. Definitely a huge mistake - the roads/sidewalks are uneven, there are no elevators in hostels/hotels, and lugging a 40-50lb bag upstairs will pretty much kill you. Since then, I've decided that a backpack can hold everything I need, I can buy a cheap tote if needed to carry excess purchases, and I will never again drag around a giant suitcase. I also love your 5th point about solo female travel. I've now travelled by myself overseas twice, and it really is amazing how much more immersed in a culture you become if you don't have the option to fall back into your default. My family may still worry, but I have more fun when I'm by myself because I can do exactly what I want.

    Backpacker Becki said on 13/06/2012 at 12:41pm

    Thanks everyone! As for hooks up being inevitable. They are. I am not saying they definately happen or that they SHOULD happen. I am just saying be prepared in case it does. Because you never know what can happen, even if you don't plan it, or want it, or look for it. Which, again is not what I am advocating. It's just common sense.

    Margie F said on 13/06/2012 at 12:33pm

    Fantastic Tips Becki!

    Heather said on 13/06/2012 at 12:14pm

    Great article - not what I expected at all:) Your "frankness" (no pun intended) is a fresh voice in our travel world... The part about cultural dress codes is particularly appreciated. I now live in a largely Muslim country and know how to not offend. But at times, still, I'm surprised - my sleeve is a bit too short, etc. We have to constantly be vigilant and respectful. As an older (40 ) solo female traveler, I prefer a small rolling bag. Yes, it's a nightmare at times, but most of the time I can just 4 wheel it wherever it needs to go. Never more than 13 or so kilos, though, so if I do have to pick it up, I can. Thanks for giving depth to a subject so many times just glossed over as "leave your straight iron at home." We know that already!!!

    jdinfo@gmail.com said on 13/06/2012 at 12:11pm

    Don't agree with the whole hook-up thing being inevitable but an interesting article nonetheless. I've travelled plenty and don't necessarily feel the need to be hooking up with people. There is far too much emphasis on this at the moment. I'm happy travelling, learning and experiencing.

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