6 Things Every Woman Should Know Before Traveling Alone
Cheryl Strayed went Wild. Elizabeth Gilbert ate, prayed, and loved. Countless other women have conquered their own brand of travel adventure, too, as female solo travel continues to spike.
Sure, solo travel is on the rise across the board. But women tend to travel alone more than than men. Searches for solo female travel have increased 131 percent in the last two years, according to Google Trends. If you’re one of those googlers, or you’ve just started thinking about your first trip on your own, this story’s for you: These are the 6 things every woman should know before joining the #LadiesGoneGlobal club.
Don't fear loneliness
Although the solo female traveler—or sola, for sticklers—conjures up a very specific look, here's the truth behind all those girl-alone-in-the-world scenes: Even the most introverted traveler will find herself surrounded by other people. It can’t quite be explained, but a magnetic aura draws solo travelers together. Maybe it’s necessity that makes us more willing to chat. Or maybe new situations make us more likely to let our guards down. Whatever the reason, actual time on your own while you're traveling alone is, ironically, hard to come by.
One of the best things about traveling by yourself: You can wear the same outfit every single day and no one will be the wiser. Of course, you'll want to include cover-up options for countries where your bare arms and shoulders would flout norms, but even then a good lightweight shawl goes a long way. And if you're among those who can't shake the belief that you need to bring an Imelda-grade assortment of shoes to meet any and every eventuality , consider this: Packing lighter won’t ease just your burden, but also the planet's. According to the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, "If all passengers packed one less pair of shoes, or roughly 2 lbs/1kg, the aircraft’s fuel savings would be the same as taking 10,500 cars off the road for an entire year."
Stash feminine products—any time of month
This is the one area where you may not want to skimp when packing. In foreign countries, the go-to feminine products may not be what you’re used to. And traveling can do funny things to your cycle (especially at high altitudes—say, the Inca Trail—where a rogue period is one of the last surprises you want). So pack a just-in-case supply. Same goes for medication: The only thing worse than having to deal with out-of-nowhere cramps is having to search for pain relief in a foreign language.
Join an online sola travel group
They may be a contradiction in terms, but these groups are as much about gathering intel as anything else. Check out Go Wonder, Solo Travel Society, The Travel Women and the Solo Female Traveler Network to start to get a sense of what's out there. You'll find endless resources, from female-friendly city guides to information on meet-ups around the world.
Though the vast majority of women experience no harm on the road, The New York Times has just turned a much-discussed spotlight on some of the most tragic exceptions. Some of the best safety takeaways come from Cassie DePecol, who recently claimed the Guinness World Record as the first woman known to have traveled to every country on earth: She's mastered some essential self-defense moves, carries a GPS tracker, and makes sure someone always knows where she is. Jessica Nabongo, poised to become the first black woman to visit every country in the world, notes that hotels with 24-hour security—and Airbnbs with "superhosts" and consistently rave reviews—are a must for her, as is dressing conservatively until she gets the sartorial lay of the land. (See cover-up notes above.)
To those tips, we'd add saving your Insta-posts for #Latergrams so you avoid revealing your real-time location to the cyberverse. This goes double for your Instagram Stories, which will take your geotags and bundle them with others who’ve tagged the location. Bottom line: Relish the present; internet fame can wait.
Also, at the risk of stating the obvious: Navigating a city is just easier and safer in broad daylight. Not that you should lock yourself up in a room at night, of course. Just make sure you know your exit plan, whether it involves an Uber, public transportation, or a walk—and oh, yeah: Know the route home—so you’re not stuck fumbling for directions on a dark street corner.
If Uber is in your plans—or Google Maps for that matter—make sure you have an analog backup. Traveling abroad can suck smartphone power faster than usual, mostly because of those power-hungry navigation apps. Setting the phone to airplane mode (in which, yes, geotracking still works—crazy, but true) and lowering the brightness of your screen can help save juice, but you should always prepare to go cell-less: Pick up a business card from your hotel or have the address of your Airbnb on a piece of paper, in case you need to show it to a cab driver, especially in country where you don’t speak the language. And bulky and annoying though it may be, one of those local tourist maps is never a bad thing to have in a pinch.
Seems simple, right? Don’t forget to have a good time. Yes, you might have taken the trip on as a challenge; and yes, there may be moments of self-consciousness. Let them go. Just because you’re on your own doesn’t mean can you can’t laugh, smile, or celebrate. It might actually be more reason to do so.