Assumptions vs. Realities of Solo Female Travel

Assumptions vs. Realities of Solo Female Travel

A year or so ago, I (Amy Baker) decided to travel South America solo. Family, colleagues, friends, and strangers all rushed at me flushed face the minute they heard the news, deploring my decision, pleading with me to reconsider to a ‘safer location’. They seemed to have a lot of assumptions about why solo travel doesn’t suit women. Here I provide the actual realities, so you’ll have something to base your decision on other than the panicked shrieks of your nearest and dearest…

 

ASSUMPTION: That you’ll be lonely

REALITY: No, you wont. You’ll be fine. Alone time is healthy, and women are more than capable of being solo without having to retreat to the corner of a room to curl up in a panic ball. You’re going to meet potential new homies all over the place – some of them you’ll want to get to know, others you might think ‘nah, you know what – I’m cool on my own today”. No one is forcing you to be by yourself – there are new friends waiting at bus stops, in restaurants, in dorm rooms, everywhere. What solo travel teaches you, aside from how much fun lone exploration can be, is who you actually want to share a beer, or an afternoon with. It shows you that being alone is a damn sight better than hanging out with someone you don’t care for purely for the sake of having a companion. Plus, when cravings for human company start arising, just head back to your digs, grab yourself a beer, and such is the magic of hostels, you’ll have four or five mates by the time you’ve found a seat.

ASSUMPTION: That we don’t know where we’re going

REALITY: But, do we ever really know where we’re going? Okay, I didn’t mean to take it deep just yet. Yes, basic map reading skills are a key skill you’ll require when navigating yourself around the new town/city/village you’ve just rolled into. And, yes it pays to know your north from your south. But – will it kill you to get it wrong? Absolutely not. Firstly, many women boast Jedi-like abilities when it comes to map reading, the assumption we’re rubbish at it is not backed by science. Many also possess that innate ability called ‘bearings’, which has allowed them to navigate the streets of their life so far without ending up wandering into quick sand…you will not suddenly be rendered incapable of navigating your way around just because you’re abroad. However, if you, like me, are one of those people who tend to give a map a cursory glance and then walk in whichever direction looks the most interesting – embrace that. Sure, you need to get clued up on the corners of town to swerve, but outside of that, you’re here to explore, and to see new places – getting lost can be more beneficial than following the tried and tested walking tour anyway. That’s how I discovered Lima’s largely unexplored Stationery District – Peruvian post-it notes for days!

ASSUMPTION: That we’re in mortal danger at all times

REALITY: Spoiler! The world is actually a wonderful place if you choose to go out and see it rather than be a scaredy cat about all possible outcomes. Yes you’ll need to keep your wits about you and not wander the streets of a place you don’t know in the death of night –but would you do that back home? Not likely. Just because you are a woman on your own, doesn’t mean that everyone is out to get you. In fact, I found it made people want to help me – I had my hair stroked by an old lady all the way from the Chilean border to the first stop in Peru, purely because I told her I was on my own, and she thought I might need some motherly love. She was right. Another time, a lady clutched my hand and called me ‘strong’ for travelling on my own every five minutes on another bus in Ecuador. The kindness I felt radiating off strangers as they shared their blankets with me on icy-Bolivian buses, or laughed in wonder at how white and hairy my arms were, far outweighed any negativity I felt. Of course you can’t float around thinking everyone wants to buy you dinner, bung you a fiver, and give you a hug – we’re not living in Disney World, but keep your suspicion at a healthy level, most people are good humans.

ASSUMPTION: That women are incapable of slumming it

REALITY: There is a certain type of satisfaction that comes from finding a place to rest your head that costs the same as a sausage roll, and it is not exclusive to men. I love a bargain, so as long as the door and windows lock, and there’s some kind of air moving system – be that a fan, air con, or a gentle evening breeze – I’m down. Women don’t need fancy hotels, with complimentary blow dryers, and suit presses when they’re backpacking. Denim shorts do not need pressing, and hair dryers are almost completely redundant in most (sea level) locations in South America. Wanna dry your hair? Step outside for 12 seconds – job done.

 

Our awesome solo female traveler author, Amy Baker, can be found on: Facebook, Twitter, Web & Instagram.

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26 Responses to “Assumptions vs. Realities of Solo Female Travel”

  1. I’ll be travelling solo to Spain and Greece before summer. I’m excited as this is the first time I’m going solo. Thanks for this article. Really helped a lot.

  2. From my very first trip as an adult, the majority of my travel has been solo or a few times with a small group of other women. I love this. I’m so very tired of hearing “Aren’t you scared?” and “Wow! Your’re so brave!” So thank you for taking the time to dispel some of the common myths!

  3. I did Barcelona SOLO this april, was nervous especially with some family mumbling in my ear but absolutely don’t regret it. I met great people, had soo much fun and everything you have said is spot.

  4. I was scared the first trip I took alone but quickly learned it is an amazing experience to be alone. I am planning solo trip number two! East Europe for a month!

  5. I guess it depends how much money you have/ what sort of protection you have access to, because I, a young woman, have travelled alone and with friends through all of the U.S. and Europe and the stigma attached to women traveling alone is 100% warranted.

    It’s actually *incredibly* dangerous. I became much more of a target for sexual assault than I could’ve ever anticipated. I was on red alert nonstop, I had to skeptical of almost everyone I met and I didn’t realize I would become so vulnerable as an outsider/ traveller. I’ve dodged potential attacks by a hair that in hindsight & I’m amazed I came out relatively unscathed.

    I wouldn’t want anyone who wants to travel alone to hold back because of this, but it’s INCREDIBLY IRRESPONSIBLE to spread misinformation like this. It was a really valuable experience for me, but next time I’ll definitely take the danger into consideration. I also found that it wasn’t very fun to have to be so alert and careful all the time, and it was really alienating (so, yes, it can be lonely).

  6. My mother travelled solo up until she was 75, and she would continue to this day if she were still alive. She taughte bravery, self reliance, and curiousity …. All of these skills are mandatory to live a brave life , and are strengthened when travelling alone.

  7. So perfect! I did Spain, England and Ireland solo last year and I came back more confident and independent for it! Loved traveling solo.

  8. So true. I like it that I can go crazy as balls and dont have to worry about anything because these people don’t know me at all.

  9. Thank you for this. Going solo backpacking across Europe this summer; my family’s freaking out… Panicked shrieks of your nearest and dearest, indeed.

  10. Michelle S Reply

    Women can travel solo at any age. I started my solo around-the-world trip last August and celebrated my 60th birthday on Saõ Miguel island in the Açores. So far I’ve been traveling solo for 9 months and along the way I’ve had many amazing adventures on my own and with friends I’ve met along the way. So go for it now matter what your age!

  11. I love traveling solo. I don’t have to worry about offending anyone if I change my mind about plans at the last minute. I don’t have to worry about a travel companion feeling ignored because I’ve met new people. I rarely felt lonely and loved the freedom to go where I pleased. It is a good way to decompress and then come back to my family and job a nicer, more patient and cooler person.

  12. I just travelled around Thailand, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand. No worries at all.
    Solo women travelers should not be afraid but just embrace adventure 🙂
    Well written 🙂

  13. You meet more people when you travel solo. And it’s true that people are generally helpful. You can go where you want, at the pace you want and do nothing or change plans without worrying about anyone else.

  14. This post is amazing and you totally nailed it! I am also planning to travel to South America, solo of course. Do you mind if I ask you for your travel itinerary? Thanks in advance!

  15. I’ve travelled around Ireland on my own when I lived there for a while and loved it. Right now I’m in Indonesia and although lots of people thought otherwise I really love it. I can do whatever I want to do and if I want company I can have it right away. Thanks for sharing!

  16. I am 72yrs and have done some travel alone but now I get a bit hesitant to go again. You have given me the courage to just get up and go again……I plan well with plan B and C but very flexible……. When on my own I can explore and take on new challenges……..love the adventure…..Thanks

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