This is a guest post by Laura of A Wandering Sole. Laura will be writing a column on female travel for this site every other week. As much as I love to write, this is one topic I’m clueless about. So take it away, Laura.
It’s dangerous. How will you get there? Where will you stay? By yourself? But, you’re a girl!
If you’re female and have an interest in travel, then you’ve probably heard these things before. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had someone criticize my travels—where I go, how I go, or the fact that I go myself. I’m currently on a round-the-world trip, and I can assure you that solo female travel is an incredible experience and one that you should not miss out on due to fears and hesitations. Here are five reasons it’s safe to travel alone:
The world is small.
Even strange, foreign lands usually have some connection to your home country. Whether a friend of a friend lives there or you have a shared interest with local people, you find connections wherever you go. If you’re planning your first trip, I don’t recommend heading to the middle of a war zone or to a remote island in the Pacific where you can’t speak the language. Look for a place you can relate to, whether it’s through people, activities, or culture. It can help ease you into this lifestyle.
The information is out there.
There are endless resources for planning a holiday or extended trip. These days you can get advice from guidebooks, travel forums, blogs, Twitter, and fellow travelers. If you do research ahead of time, you will feel more confident about the places you travel to. I always look up issues of safety, costs, and culture before I go. Researching your intended destination can answer all of the questions you may have about your chosen destination and will likely dispel any hesitations holding you back.
It’s not as dangerous as they say.
If I look back on the times when people have told me, “Don’t go there!” or “You might die!” it’s mostly advice from people who have never been to those places and have never done any research on them. The press is hugely influential. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read international press coverage that is flat-out wrong. You need to find trustworthy sources and advice from people who know what they’re talking about. I once mentioned to my parents that I had plans to go to Rwanda. My concerned father told me, “You’re not going.” He was obviously worried about the Rwanda’s tumultuous past. Had he done his research, he would have known that Rwanda is the safest country in East Africa. Once he researched it, I never heard another word about it. The crime rates in your backyard can be just as bad as the destination you’re headed to, if not worse.
You’re never really alone.
So you’ve decided to go on a trip solo, but you’re afraid of feeling lonely. I had my hesitations before setting out on this trip. I spent the first 150 days on the road by “myself,” but really, I only spent about three of those days completely alone. I just met so many people on the way. Even with just a little effort, you’ll meet people on your travels. Whether it’s through your guesthouse, sightseeing, or sitting at a cafe, you’ll be surprised at how striking up a bit of small talk will lead to new travel buddies and lasting friendships. If you’re worried about it, look up hostels or guesthouses in advance. Make plans to participate in day trips where you’ll meet other like-minded travelers.
Take standard precautions.
Maybe you know someone who was mugged in Brazil, pickpocketed in Italy, or robbed in South Africa. That can happen anywhere, and I just follow some common sense. I don’t go out at night alone in most cities, I take a reliable taxi service instead of the public bus on occasion, and I’ve been known to pay a bit more for accommodation that has a 24-hour security guard when necessary. Sometimes, people are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Often times, they were careless or should have been better prepared. I love a cheap hostel, I enjoy local bus rides, and who doesn’t love to go out at night for a good time? But when my safety is involved, I avoid all of these things. If you’ve done your research, then take precautions that reflect the overall safety of the place. I take precautions.
If you don’t go, you’ll be missing out on many amazing places and incredible experiences. Many of our fears about traveling as a female are unfounded once we get right down to it. With some planning and a taste for adventure, you can embark on your dream trip and leave those fears and hesitations behind, even if you are a girl!
Laura Walker runs the website A Wandering Sole. She’s been backpacking around the world for seven months by herself and isn’t afraid just because she’s a girl. You can get more travel tips from her website or check back here every other Thursday for more stories by her.