What springs to mind when you hear the words ‘solo traveling’? Adventures, mountain climbing, hiking, pitching your tent in the middle of nowhere, danger, excitement, different cultures, delicious foods and new friends from all over the world…
We conducted a research project, ‘Survival tips for the solo female traveler’, which promises to shed some light on the “me, myself and I adventure”.
The following questions were posed to some professional female solo travelers:
- Why have you decided to travel solo and what are the benefits?
- What GPS app/device do you use? Does it lack any features?
- What are the five backpack must-haves for the female solo traveler?
- What is the best survival tip you could share with the solo female traveler?
1. Solo traveling strengthens your personality
Would I be able to travel solo? Is it safe? Just some of the questions that come to mind when I read incredible stories of female solo travel bloggers. I admire these women: they are self-confident, adventurous and always ready to explore. The reasons for solo travel are endless and personal: thirst for adventure, a life change, escape from monotony, escape from reality and even the odd mid-life crisis. We asked some solo female travelers what spurred them on and what they gained from their adventures. Here’s what they said -
“My life quietened. It became simpler, clearer. I felt like my soul was shedding dust specks, being cleansed. I could hear my thoughts loud and clear and uninterrupted. I faced my fears and did it anyway. We should not stop ourselves from exploring the unknown because of race, gender, religion or social norms. Charge forward (in life) with few expectations and you’ll be surprised at how much you can gain from your courage.”- Isabel from Bel Around the World blog. Isabel draws energy from being outdoors. Twenty-four and from Singapore, Isabel believes there is nothing more fulfilling than being unplugged. An explorer at heart, the world is her playground.
“I never wanted to hold off on a big dream simply because I hadn't found someone to share it with. Moreover, I actually craved the solo travel experience as a way to further connect with myself and the places I was visiting.”- Shannon from A Little Adrift blog. Shannon is a long-term traveler, on the road since 2008. She shares both stories of responsible travel and practical planning advice for world travel.
“I decided to travel solo after realizing that if I were to wait any longer for the travel partner of my dreams I might not actually achieve my own dreams. Ever since this light bulb moment I have travelled the world by myself.”- Bilyana from Owl Over the World. Bilyana is a travel blogger, mountain lover and a full-time dream chaser, traveling solo around the world to places such as the Philippines, Israel, Cambodia and Morocco to name a few.
“I decided to travel solo because I realized I didn't need anyone else to hold my hand, that I was brave enough and smart enough to do it all by myself, and more than that, I wanted to do it by myself. Traveling solo is such a HUGE accomplishment and any solo traveler should be proud because not everyone has the guts to do it. The benefits of solo travel are endless – you will learn more about yourself and the world from one solo trip than a dozen group/family holidays. It's a learning curve and a way to get to know yourself and to grow as a person, without any distractions or pressure, you're finally free to be entirely yourself.”- Lucy from Absolutely Lucy Blog. Absolutely Lucy is a solo female adventure travel & lifestyle blogger from the UK who now has four years of solo travel under her belt who doesn't plan on stopping anytime soon.
"Traveling solo gives me more freedom. I can make my own plans and focus on what I want to do out there! Also, I think it's easier to meet other people this way!"- Mel from A Broken Backpack blog.
“In my case, traveling solo was a necessity: I had to choose times, length of trips and destinations that my mates couldn’t meet. As traveling was a life necessity I didn’t feel like waiting for someone else to come along. In this way I was able to explore my limits, face some old fears and build a vision of the world that was not the one I was taught as a young girl (you know, all the stories about how dangerous the world is for a young lady blah blah blah).”- Sabrina from Sabrina Barbante Blog.
“I started travelling solo in 2005 when I went to India for six months. I was recovering from a series of personal losses, and decided I needed a life-changing trip. For me, India was the only choice. I felt compelled to go there and knew it would be a transformative experience- and it was. There are so many benefits to solo travel that it's hard to know where to begin. You learn so much about yourself, and your confidence increases more than you can imagine. But you also learn so much about the culture you're travelling in because you are forced to engage with the local people to get your social and other needs met. It's a great way to really immerse in a culture.”- Mariellen from Breathe Dream Go, - “I'm a Canadian travel writer, digital storyteller, and blogger and I publish an award-winning blog called Breathedreamgo. I started travelling solo and travel blogging back in 2005 on my first trip to India, which took me across the country on a life-changing, six-month journey. India bewitched me right from the first day, and now I spend at least half the year there. Since I launched Breathedreamgo in 2009, it has become one of the leading travel blogs about India. As a professional writer, I also publish in leading media outlets around the world.”
“I was very young when I traveled solo by necessity, so it wasn't much of a stretch to go abroad on my own when I was older. The #1 benefit of traveling by yourself is freedom. I can go wherever I like, whenever I like. I don't have to wait for anybody or consult anyone. That's what I love best about it.”- Aleah from Solitary Wanderer Blog.
“For me, it was a way to find me again, when I booked my very first – solo travel, I was trying to run away from everyone and everything. All I wanted was to have some peace and some me time. Then I realized solo traveling was fun. It was so much more than just having “ME” time.”- Yogita from Traveling with Me Myself and I Blog.
“I started travelling solo because I wanted to go places and see things and I didn't want to hang around waiting to find someone who could afford and/or wanted to go with me. I mean, it's pretty hard to find someone who wants to go to the same places at the same time as you and who can afford to do it. And honestly, it never occurred to me that I needed anyone with me. Once I started solo travelling I realized that you meet a lot more people when you travel by yourself. Travelling alone forces you out of your comfort zone and puts you together with people who you would never encounter in your everyday life. It's incredible and life altering. Solo travel will change the way you look at people, it will change your life. Also, there's an intense freedom with solo travelling. You go wherever you want, whenever you want and don't have to compromise or run any of your plans by anyone else. It's very liberating. Another benefit is that you learn a lot about yourself and your limits when you solo travel. For instance, I've learnt that I'm a suitcase and air-conditioning kind of girl, not a backpack and fan-room person. I've learnt that I can pretty much survive any journey and come out the other side stronger. I've learnt that I love my own company but am also completely fascinated by people. I've fallen in love while and with solo travelling. Honestly, I cannot recommend it enough.”- Tara from Where is Tara Blog, - “I was born in New Zealand and raised in Ireland which I like to think makes me a hobbit raised by leprechauns. I've been travelling ever since I was a child, but I started travelling solo about 10 years ago. I've been to various parts of South America, Asia, Australia/New Zealand, America, Europe and Africa by myself. I've had some incredible experiences as well as some not so great ones. But I'll always love solo travel. I started my travel blog just over 3 years ago and I've been travelling FAIRLY constantly ever since. I love facing my fears and always try to push myself when travelling. I've abseiled down a waterfall in Sri Lanka, been ice climbing in Finland, done ninja training in Japan and a bunch of other mental things that were terrifying and thrilling all at once. Ok, that's enough about me, I think.”
2. This GPS app is always handy, but…
According to our previous research, Google maps is the most popular app among pro travel bloggers, so it came as no surprise when it also proved helpful to the solo traveler. We conducted a survey, the results of which are shown below.
Most of the solo travelers we surveyed used Maps.me in conjunction with Google maps. Other GPS apps mentioned in the survey were Moovit, Waze, My Location, Citymapper and Uber.
3. The 5 backpack must haves
There is an old adage – “He who would travel happily must travel light”.
This is so true but even more so for the solo traveler. So, we asked - what would you take? And as you can imagine every answer differed, no two travelers gave the same response. Wallet, passport and essential documents excluded the five most common answers were –
- Reusable water bottle
- Phone and charger – to also serve as camera, computer, book and diary
- Wet wipes
- Flip flops
- Medical kit
Below is a list we previously compiled of the most common items professional travelers take on their trips:
4. Survival tips or just some good old advice
Before any journey it is always a good idea to explore as many eventualities as possible. For the solo traveler this is an imperative. In the words of Jawaharlal Nehru, “We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open”.
Take a minute and read the tips below gathered from solo travelers, simple tips to help keep you safe as you explore your destiny or chase your dreams.
“Pay that extra bit for your safety, always. That may mean taking a taxi at night or spending a few dollars more to stay in the city-center of a new place.”- Shannon from A Little Adrift.
“I would tell any girl that plans to travel alone to be firm, learn to say no and have fun!”- Bilyana from Owl Over the World.
“Always, always, always take the business card of your hotel with you when you leave. That way if you ever get lost or need to get in an emergency taxi you'll know exactly where you need to go. Better yet, take a pic of the card with your phone's camera ;)”- Crystal from Castaway With Crystal blog.
“Research done before-hand! I always read a lot about a destination before I go so that I'm aware of the localities to avoid and a safe time to stay out. I also keep in touch with friends/family and share important information with them (details of stay) so that they know my whereabouts. Carrying medication with you at all times also helps!”- Lavina from Continent Hop.
“Follow your gut. If you have a bad feeling that a situation is unsafe go with your gut and avoid it or remove yourself from it.”- Patti from the Savvy Globerotter.
“My best tip is to always trust your gut, follow your instinct and if a situation doesn't feel right, get out of it as quickly and calmly as possible. On the other side of this, don't mistrust everyone, be prepared to rely on the kindness and friendliness of strangers when you travel solo and don't fear that everyone is out to rob/rip you off. There are good people in this world and the more you appreciate that, the more profound travel experiences you will have.”- Lucy from Absolutely Lucy Blog.
“Practice common sense and always make sure that someone close to you is aware of your location.”- Nellie from Wild Junket Blog.
“As I often write on my blog, I think people around us are the best protection. If you ever feel in trouble, for any reason, remember you are surrounded by people with a soul. The majority of people around you will be ready to help, so don’t be ashamed or afraid to ask for help/advice.”- Sabrina from Sabrina Barbante Blog.
“Carry some form of protective/security device just in case!”-Becky from Global Grasshopper Blog.
“Learn self defense! It's a vital skill that you need in your travel toolkit. I'm forever grateful that I took the time to learn how to defend myself: it gives me confidence, reassurance and an upper-hand on the road.”- Alice from Teacake Travels Blog.
“Travelling solo is an ideal way to gain self-confidence -- and self-confidence is probably the single most important thing to have as a solo traveller. So starting small, and building confidence is my best tip. But I would also add that doing research about your destination is also very important so that you know what the cultural norms are and how to relate to people in a way that protects your safety. Practising safe travel strategies is my third tip. This means carrying a phone with a local SIM card (or one that works), not arriving late at night unless you have someone trustworthy waiting for you, knowing which areas are safe (and unsafe) in the places that you visit as most cities have rough neighbourhoods. Things like that.”- Mariellen from Breathe Dream Go.
“Bring a mix of cash, credit cards, debit cards, and prepaid cards when you travel. Don't just rely on one because you never know when ATMs don't work, or if an establishment doesn't accept credit cards. All my debit cards were once refused in a small border town in Bolivia. If I didn't have emergency cash with me, I would have been in trouble!”- Aleah from Solitary Wanderer.
“Always trust your gut and act as you would at home. I don't normally walk around the quiet streets of Melbourne at night by myself, so I don't do that when travelling solo either.”- Hayley from Hayley on Holiday Blog.
“Just trust your instincts. Research your destination. Stay at safe places.”- Renuka from Renuka Voyage for Life Blog.
“Plan, plan, plan! Know where you are going, get their at a reasonable time with a buffer included and make sure you have a safe hotel”- Amanda from the Boutique Adventurer.
“Solo traveling is like learning how to drive. You first have to learn the road rules, then sit a test to get your learner permit, then you practice driving under adult supervision, then you sit another test to get your license. I tell all my customers and readers to start with learning, researching, planning and confidence. Take small trips in your own country first, as you gain experience then head overseas. If you do this right, you will fall in love with solo traveling. Most people jump in the deep end, hate the experience and never do it again. I love Solo traveling, and I love teaching people how to enjoy the experience.”- Yogita from Travelling with Me Myself and I.
“Book yourself the occasional guided tour. It's the best way to meet other people when you are lonely; and to visit places that may be hard to reach on your own.”- Claudia from My Adventures Across the World.
“I know the world can be big and scary, but don't worry, you are never alone. And although we tend to believe that the world is not a safe place, I just want to assure you that there are more good people out there than bad ones, the issue is that the bad people have a bigger audience, unfortunately!”-Isadora from World By Isa Blog.
“I find the phrase 'survival tips' a bit offensive unless you are traveling in a hostile climate for which I don't have any tips. Most women I know are anything but dainty little girls who can't fend for themselves. When it comes to travel in general, common sense and common courtesy - whether you are a woman or a man - will get you far and trusting your gut, usually keeps you safe. For everything else - have a good doctor, a good lawyer and good insurance.”-Annika from Midnight Blue Elephant.
“Share your itinerary with friends and family and if you change anything last-minute make sure you update them. Leave photos/copies of your passport in pockets in your suitcase or backpack and with someone at home in case your passport gets stolen/lost while on the road and you need to apply for an emergency one at the embassy. Trust your instincts. If a situation feels unusual or odd, leave. And I know this sucks and I shouldn't have to say this, but just be careful who you drink with and how much you drink. When you're travelling solo it's safer to not get hammered.”- Tara from Where is Tara Blog.
“Whether you're travelling solo for the first time or the 100th, I recommend to ALWAYS be aware of your surroundings. Who's around you, are there businesses open to duck in, always pay attention to what is going on around you.”- Stephanie from The World As I See It.
“Never question your instincts”- Amrita from Travelling Ides of March Blog.
“Carry your money and cards in more than one place - some small change close to hand, in a pocket or your bag, and larger notes separate, along with a credit or debit card, in a different purse or in a body wallet or belt bag/bumbag (or consider buying a shirt or jacket with concealed zip pockets - there are some very stylish and practical ones around that don't make you look like a tourist!). If you do lose the smaller amounts of money, become a pickpocket's target, or leave your purse somewhere accidentally, you haven't lost everything and you have a way to access more cash whenever you need it.”- Polly from the Travelling Calavera.
“Research your destination and make an accurate travel plan before going. Assess what you can do alone and what you can't do by yourself. For the ""no-go"" find a good alternative or take it off your list. Make sure someone knows of your itinerary and movements (family or friends) and if you travel to remote areas (cut-off from internet) let the nearest tourist officers know of your trip and bring with you all necessary tools/devices to guarantee sufficient connection. Be ever vigilant of your surroundings, but at the same time be open to adventure and expanding your comfort zone. That's what solo travel is all about.”- Michela from Rocky Travel.
“Trust your gut and don't let someone rush you into decisions. I've gotten into trouble (a scam taxi driver at the Budapest airport for example) been steamrolled into action but if I'd stepped back I'd have done better and not been at risk of theft, bad-driving and being over charged.”- Elaine from Trip Well Gal Blog.
"My best tip would be to simply keep your wits about you (don't wander through any empty unlit areas after dark, don't draw attention to yourself, walk with a purpose even if you don't know where you're going, and don't take any unnecessary risks)," -says Kiara from Gallop Around the Globe blog.- "I like the freedom of travelling solo, as well as the challenges it presents, the lessons it teaches me, and how much more rewarding and fulfilling it is in comparison to travelling with someone else. You also only have yourself to blame if something doesn't work out the way you planned it to!"
Mark Twain said it best – “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So, throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover”.