Travelling solo can always be a challenge and a daunting experience. The sense of nervousness can be heightened when you are a female travelling going solo. While the world is a beautiful place, it can also be scary and you shouldn’t take security lightly as a female traveller.
Nonetheless, when the travel bug bites you need to answer to its call and you don’t need to be too afraid of travelling around the world as a girl. Here are some of the destinations you should keep in mind when looking for places to go.
If you want to see gender equality in action, then you should consider flying out to Iceland. The country has had its fair share of kick-ass women and you can be expected to meet plenty of great people in the Land of Fire and Ice. The natural beauty of this country is just breath-taking, but there are plenty of other things going for the country too. Reykjavik has quite a good nightlife and the culture on display is vibrant and fun. We also like the Icelandic food – don’t worry, it isn’t all about fish either!
While Barcelona is a vibrant and big city, which means you need to be careful when travelling alone, it’s such a friendly and welcoming city as well. You simply can’t go through life without experiencing Barcelona. The city has plenty of shopping options from small boutiques to big brands on Las Ramblas. The architecture is stunning; thanks to Gaudi and the Spanish food is just a magnificent experience. The waterfront restaurants offer some fantastic paella, which you can enjoy while taking in the vibrancy of the city.
You should get in on the latest tourist trends and find yourself in the beautiful coastal city of Dubrovnik. Croatia is a country with a low crime rate and the tourism industry is continuously developing, adding more excitement and opportunities for you to enjoy. The medieval city has plenty of amazing artisan shops to explore, as well as activities to enjoy. For instance, snorkelling is just a fantastic way to take in the crystal clear sea.
Japan is one of those countries that you just have to experience at some point in your life. While there are cities and town to explore on these magical islands, Okinawa is among the best for a solo traveller. The hustle and bustle is less confusing and chaotic, with the city offering super accessible and safe public transport. The city itself has anything from sandy beach to a market with stunning solo dining opportunities.
Pike Place Market in Seattle via michaelrighi
Solo travel can sometimes seem extra costly, but Seattle is a town that has understood the value of solo travellers. Therefore, you can find plenty of places in the city that offer special deals and entertainment for solo backpackers. There are plenty of exciting things to see aside from the fine dining and going out. You have the Space Needle, the EMP Museum and the Pike Place Market with its fantastic offerings.
For technology-lovers Taiwan offers plenty to see. Taipei is a slightly less consuming and overwhelming city to some of its major Asian counterparts and therefore a great destination for a female solo traveller. The city even has a Safe Waiting Zone system on the metro platforms, making travel feel a bit less daunting. The city offers plenty of shopping opportunities, not to mention the amazing cuisine you can explore from street food to fine dining.
Another great solo destination for women is Washington D.C. The place of political power has the right amount of iconic and historic buildings and places to explore, as well as modern establishments to visit. The city has a funky atmosphere to it that on its own is worth checking out. The public transport works well and finding a safe cab is never an issue in this welcoming city.
London was one of the 14 most popular destinations in 2015
Finally, you could explore the charm of the British capital city. The age-old city should keep female travellers on their toes, but when you know where to be and when, you can explore some amazing things around the city. London offers culture and entertainment. If you utilize sites like Attractiontix.co.uk, you can get the best deals and options without breaking the bank. You must eat out at the 1,000 Borough Market and if you snack yourself through smartly, you won’t even spend a penny for the feast. You also must check out the pub life, which can guarantee you won’t need to sit in a corner all alone.
When you travel alone as a woman, you do need to be smart at where you stay and when you explore the venues around you. But if you keep a cold head and plan your actions in advance, you can explore the world and have fun while doing it. Hopefully, the above destinations will inspire you and help you get over the fear of travelling solo.
So you've decided to hit the road, by yourself – talk about being adventurous and brave!! Congrats! :) Whether this is something daunting or just a walk in the park for you, here are a few thoughts I'd like to share with you...
I prefer to think that I'm travelling solo.
But judging how the two Japanese ladies on the chair lift recoiled in horror when I told them I was solo, they obviously thought I was travelling alone.
The two ladies were part of a group of 30 who had come on a tour to ski in Hakuba from Yokohama, about 300km away. To them, coming all the way from Australia to ski here by yourself seemed incomprehensible.
Can travelling by yourself actually be enjoyable? Would someone actually choose to do that?
Absolutely! It's all about attitude.
Being solo doesn't mean you can't go anywhere
I love travelling solo. For starters there's the freedom and independence (some of the reasons we go travelling in the first place?) and of course the added bonus that when I'm ready, everyone's ready.
There are other benefits too. My solo traveller status has had me upgraded to the last remaining first class plane seat, scored me the best seats in restaurants, and allowed me to jump ahead of the lift queue when skiing (using the dedicated single lane).
Not to say that I haven't found travelling with friends, family and small groups great too. I've had wonderful European driving holidays with friends, ski trips with family, and made new friends on small group tours across Asia.
But I'm not as repulsed by the concept of solo travel as others seem to be. And quite frankly I'm mystified why more people don't do it!
I've had friends who've complained to me that they would love to go travelling, but don't have anyone to go with. A lack of money or time are valid reasons for not travelling. A lack of travelling companions? Nope. Sorry, you'll have to think of a better excuse than that. If you think travelling solo is sad, I think it's sadder to want to go travelling, but never actually doing it because you're single. Why does your happiness hinge so much on the whims of others?
Statistics say there is a growing number of single-person households; are they all planning on just sitting at home during their holidays?
Interestingly I think a growing number of hotels and other tourism operators are recognising this single market. In Japan, for instance, I've found I've been paying for a hotel room on a per person, rather than per room, basis.
No doubt it is a matter of preference and taste, but perhaps don't discount solo travel until you've tried it.
When in China on a small group tour of 12 people a few years ago, we came across a massive busload of Chinese tourists visiting Beijing. They felt sorry for us travelling in such a small group, much preferring the company of at least 50 others when touring their own country. However, for me, travelling with more than a dozen people would be a nightmare. Can you imagine how long it would take them to get ready in the morning, taking into account the usual stragglers? And just how authentic and impromptu would any local interaction be? Would there ever be any opportunity to pop into a local cafe or restaurant to sit and relax, or just go for a wander by yourself to explore the neighbourhood?
Travelling solo often means you interact with others, whether they be locals or other travellers, much more than you would if you were travelling in a group. And with email, Skype and Facebook, I seem to "talk" more with friends and family when I'm travelling than when I'm living in the same city as them - probably because I've actually got something to talk about.
"But what do you do about dinner?"
Hard to believe, but I actually eat dinner when I travel solo, just like I do at home. A fear of eating dinner by themselves seems to be one of the core reasons why people don't travel solo. They feel they can handle lunch, but dinner is a different story.
I can understand this to some extent. I used to feel a little weird asking for a table for one. But then I got over myself. Who cares what a room of strangers think? Is me walking into this restaurant solo rocking their world?
If anything, I've felt solo diners are given special treatment by waiters (probably out of pity) and often score the table with the nicest view. Just like at home, while waiting for my meal I read a magazine, catch up on some emails or plan the next day's adventures.
Dining by myself also means I've noticed a few things. Like the couples who can't think of a single word to say to each other across the table and just stare in opposite directions. And the parents of the screaming children who look like they wish they could sit by themselves for just one uninterrupted meal.
At the end of the day, just as travelling with others has perks, so too does travelling solo.
So don't pity us solo travellers; we're probably having a much better time than you.
Some Kind of Bliss Blog
It was a lazy afternoon in Barbados after a morning of filming kite-surfing at Brian Talma’s Surf Club in Silver Sands on the South Coast. A few rum punch at Miami Beach in Oistin’s seemed a fitting way to end the day. Foam and surf were licking the shore line with mellow reverence as I enjoyed the company of some friends from Europe who would be leaving the country soon. They were merely on a vacation unlike my stay-cation, and they were sad to go. The afternoon sky turned to amber and we said our goodbyes, echoed by the mournfulcoo of doves that skittered under our picnic table searching for scraps of fish cakes. Waving farewell and standing to stretch my legs I realized the rum truly did pack a punch!
Dusk settled over the park as feathery branches of the Cassarina trees seemed to whisper caution, but I was drunk and sweaty and wanted to freshen up before the walk home. As so easily happens when one is in a place of pleasure, time slips away on the waves, along with the exotic sounds, smells and common sense. By the time I realized how long I took to ‘freshen-up’, full fledged darkness had consumed the park, shadows were nil, the dark blacker than black and I still needed to walk home.
Miami Beach is a place one shouldn’t venture at night. People sleep in trees and military usually monitor the area packing some pretty heavy artillery. As I made my way from the beach, sitting directly in front of me were two men. One, I had met previous, I regarded him as harmless though I was still a little distressed by the situation and my imagination. The other man was brown skinned with blond dread-locks and bare, weathered feet; a spear fisherman. His blond locks tell-tale of the profession. Time spent underwater and the hair becomes laden with salt, easily bleached by the low lying sun. He was agitated, his eyes locked on mine and the other guy scurried away in a half-shuffle leaving me alone with a street person, vagrants the locals call his type, who exuded nothing but anger.
He started to ramble Bajan dialect thinking I didn’t understand. The Bajan tongue can enunciate words faster than a feral cat can lick up milk. It is sing-song and I love it. But I didn’t love what he was saying. He was complaining, well raging really, that earlier on in the day I had polluted his air-space with my cigarette smoke and I was some kind of bitch! Apparently, unbeknownst to myself, he had been napping under a table behind us. So he knew me, and he waited to see if this moment would arise.
By this time nerves were dancing like jitterbugs to Elvis. I was hyper sensitive and my brain kicked out of panic mode into survival mode. I took a step forward, leaned down to his eye level, pointed an accusing finger in his face and spat out, “Excuse me asshole! I’m pretty fuckin’ sure I breathed in your dope smoke so I think we’re even!” I suppose I figured if I adopted attitude it would (proverbially) either kill me or cure him. The words came forth without forethought and I was merely guessing he smoked pot. I held my breath, he made no move but his chin dropped a little in surprise. I grabbed his hand and gave it a firm shake, “Truce?” I say with a forced smile. “Walk with me.” The man rose, my same height and I thought that good at least. “Follow me,” I croak, and I start to walk. He is now a few steps behind, probably not good. But I’d confused him for the moment, seems I had temporarily rendered him harmless out of curiosity. My mind was reeling with scenarios on how this was going to end. I turned so abruptly he bumped into me and I asked if he would like to share a bottle of rum and some Marlin; I don’t know where that thought came from but I know it saved me grief.
With suspicion now in his eyes he agreed and we headed off to Oistin’s Fish Market, to civilization I was thinking. We pulled up a seat, with dirty hands he set down a tattered bag and a spear gun. I handed him thirty dollars, told him it is all I had and can he get us some rum, coke and some food with that amount? He scurried away like a ghost crab and I wondered for a split second if he had truly even been there. But the shiny tip of his spear reminded me he, and the situation were very real.
As is the norm, eyes are always on you in Barbados. I particularly stand out as I have some large and unique tattoos. As I waited I could hear a rumble of conversation behind me. Men were betting over something. I ignored them until I felt a hand on my shoulder and a voice whisper in my ear, “Baby girl, you know that man you carry here? He ain gine come back, hear?” ”He will,” I determined. And he did. Just as I began to think I was wrong he returned with everything I had asked for, and my change. We ate out of the same container, each drawing forkfuls from the single-serving portion of food that we had subconsciously divided by an invisible line. We polished off the rum and we talked. The food in his belly dispelled his anger and he became pleasant. He then leaned in to me and disclosed he had had intentions of mugging me earlier as he was hungry, and he apologized. He explained he sometimes gets tired of tourists on his island. Many flaunt their wealth while the locals work for a local dollar but have to pay out a tourist dollar to eat. How many won’t even say hello when they pass vagrants on the street but simply turn up their noses.
We gained respect for each other that night and any time I saw him after, I would ask him how he was and buy him a chocolate bar and a coke. At Christmas, while shopping at a local market I ran into him at the checkout and paid for his chicken dinner; which he accepted with tears in his eyes. If ever I needed anything he became my go-to man and my caretaker. It was no longer dangerous for me to be at Miami beach at night. We had both learned a hard fast lesson. A little food, a lot of love and even more respect shared among strangers, goes a long, long way; because things are never what they seem to be. Food for thought.
When I typed “solo travel” into Google today, it returned 60 million hits – yes, 60 million! As the world grows smaller through technological advances and travel becomes more accessible, solo travel has increased in popularity. The internet is full of information both from and for solo travellers, but what is it really like to travel on your own and is it for you?
I began my solo travel career a few years back through both necessity and desire. Initially I began to travel on my own in response to the life changes my friends were experiencing. People I had travelled with in the past were now getting married, starting families or, as is often the case when you live in London, returning to their Antipodean homes after working holiday visas expired. Other single friends were burnt out by demanding careers and wanted to spend the little time off they had relaxing on a beach, not backpacking through a developing country.
I was also reacting to a lesson many of us have learned the hard way – close friends do not always make great travel buddies. When your friend wants to lie by the pool each day on a trip to Sri Lanka and you want to join some locals on a day trip to a tea plantation and elephant orphanage, you realise being great drinking buddies in a London pub does not make you compatible travel partners.
Travelling solo is not for everyone and it helps to understand the travel personality of yourself in addition to those you are considering travelling with. You may be more suited to travelling in a group but that doesn’t guarantee a perfect travel experience if you are travelling with someone more suited to solo travel.
Are you a solo traveller? Maybe the points below will help you decide.
Going solo wasn’t just a reaction to my circumstances. I was a thirty-something single, independent female who was starting to realise you only get one shot at life. Put simply, I was growing selfish and didn’t want to compromise my travel experiences. Going solo allows you guilt-free selfish moments and also helps you stick to your own budget. Remember the Friends episode where half the group wanted to go to a rock concert but the others couldn’t afford it? Travel can cause the same tension if you have different budgets and you inevitably have to compromise. You may choose to take that balloon ride over the Serengeti without your travel partner because you can afford it and don’t want to miss out on a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But do you really want to stay in the 5* hotel you can afford on your own when you travel buddy is sharing a dorm at the hostel on the other side of town?
How do you see and do everything you want when you are travelling whilst staying within your budget? You travel solo!
Some people feel suffocated by a travel itinerary whilst others need a planned approach to a travel experience. I sit somewhere in the middle. Travelling solo not only allows me the luxury of setting my own itinerary, it lets me change it along the way. I am a very keen amateur photographer and I am not surprised to learn photographers usually prefer to travel on their own. There is nothing worse than missing an incredible sunset because your travel buddy wants to catch happy hour at the local bar. Or patiently waiting for someone to move out of the frame of your shot as your travel partner impatiently stands beside you ready to move on.
How do you get to the best places at the best times or return to a place a number of times to capture that magical shot? You travel solo!
Most solo travellers I’ve met agree that going solo is the best way to meet people. Not only are you more likely to approach other people when you are on your own looking for company, but you are more approachable yourself. It makes sense right? Who are you more likely to strike up a conversation with - the intimidating group of friends travelling together or the person sitting on their own?
How do you meet people when you travel? You travel solo!
An extension of the previous point, travelling solo makes it a lot easier to make local friends. What is a group of ‘travellers’ called? Tourists! Ok, I made that up and I am generalising, but I have often found locals more likely to treat me as a tourist when I am with other foreigners. I get a very different reaction when travelling on my own and have had some unforgettable conversations with locals who have approached me simply to have a chat.
How do you increase local interaction when travelling? You travel solo!
It’s often said that the best way to get to know someone is by travelling with them and there is no better journey of self-discovery than the one you take as a solo traveller. Not only do you have more time on your own to reflect and relax, you will also inevitably face situations that help you understand more about what makes you happy, what your strengths and weaknesses are and what (or who) irritates you. Travelling solo not only increases self-awareness but it also creates the opportunity to change. Having to face challenges on my own whilst travelling – the bag stolen in Bolivia, needing medication for infected insect bites in Uganda, missing my plane in Copenhagen – has helped me face challenges back home with more patience and less stress.
How do you create self discovery opportunities? You travel solo!
A phobia is an irrational fear. I have an irrational fear of mice. Many people have an irrational fear of eating alone. I don’t know if this particular fear has a name, but it should because it’s so common. There is something about asking for a table for one that sends a shiver of fear through most people. They are convinced the conversation around them stops as they are led through the crowded restaurant to their table, as couples and groups throw them sympathetic looks. The sound of the waiter clearing the extra place at the table seems to echo around them and many would prefer to grab a sandwich at the local supermarket to eat in their room, than repeat the experience the next night.
How to face this challenge? My kindle is my dinner companion – it doesn’t take up too much space, it doesn’t tell me long and boring stories, and it doesn’t reach over and steal my fries!
This is the hardest part about travelling solo for me. I have lost count of the breathtaking views, serene sunsets and comical encounters that I can’t re-create after the event. Whether it’s sharing a moment with someone special, laughing for days at a ‘had to be there’ moment with someone who was actually there, or having a healthy debate over the pros and cons of volunteerism after visiting a local project, having someone to share travel experiences with makes it just that bit more special.
How to face this challenge? The age of technology that we live in let’s me share experiences in my blog, by postings photos on Facebook and through emailing friends and family. It’s not as good as the real thing, but sharing and connecting with like-minded people who weren’t there is the second best option.
There’s no way around it – it is more expensive to travel on your own, especially with accommodation where you can’t split the cost with your travel partner.
How to face this challenge? The issue of increased expense is offset by the flexibility solo travel gives you. I may not be able to split the cost of a hotel room, but having the freedom to stick to my own budget helps me manage my finances a little better whilst on the road.
I have rarely felt unsafe when travelling on my own, but the fact remains that safety is a risk for solo travellers. Travelling on your own in some countries (parts of Africa for example) can feel like wearing a target on your forehead inviting trouble. Solo travellers in other countries (especially females) may find themselves the subject of unwanted attention. The most common issue for solo travellers is not having someone to watch their luggage whilst they run to the toilet or to buy some water. Falling asleep on a train makes them nervous when there is a stranger next to them who can reach over and grab their Ipod.
How to face this challenge? Sometimes you just have bad luck and are in the wrong place at the wrong time. But using common sense can help reduce the likelihood of these ‘bad luck’ moments. I always check out the ‘safety and security’ advice issued about the country I am heading to (both Australia and UK governments have excellent online safety advice) and am sensitive to the cultural differences I may face. I don’t take chances – life is too short.
I almost didn’t include this in this list, because I can honestly say I’ve felt lonelier at times back home than I have when I’ve been travelling on my own. But loneliness is a possible side-effect of solo travel and some feel it more than others. If you don’t enjoy spending time on your own at home, chances are you may struggle with travelling solo.
How to face this challenge? Overcoming this challenge will be easier for some people than others, because it often involves reaching outside your comfort zone – approaching strangers, enjoying your own company for example.