In September 2012, I found myself shaking my shoes, with a backpack tied to me, with a one-way ticket in hand, ready to board a plane that would take me to Bangkok. It was stimulating and terrifying at the same time, and in the months and years that followed, these butterflies are still there when I get on a plane to a new place where I don’t know anyone and I have no idea what could happen.
Nearly ten years later, I still find empowerment in solo travel: I’ve traveled to over 60 countries, mostly on my own, and I never plan to stop.
Ready to do the same? I’ve put together a comprehensive guide to women’s solo travel to make it easy to navigate your fears, dreams, savings, plans, and everything in between:
Commit to your decision to travel alone
Why take a solo trip? For me, the decision was made after acknowledging a general dissatisfaction with life, despite having a high job, an apartment on the beach and a stable relationship. He had fears of failure and loneliness, but was determined to try it.
I had to find a way to commit to my decision, and for me, I was writing a blog post to let everyone know, including my family, friends, acquaintances, and old co-workers, that I left the my job and I sold my stuff and packed to leave. He was vulnerable and real and, a couple of weeks later, was on the plane.
It was ten years ago, when female solo travel was not as common as it is now; today, 84% of solo travelers are women. My blog, dedicated to women’s solo travel, receives 5 million visits a year. Take it from us: It’s one of the most powerful decisions you can make for yourself. It will be terrifying and, at some point, lonely, but it is also precisely the area where greatness passes and everyone deserves to feel that way.
Choose your travel destination
Do you know that fire that is lit in your chest and the influx of butterflies that you receive when inspiration comes to travel to a new place? Your imagination overflows with all sorts of possibilities, but honestly, how do you reduce the whole world to one place?
My most important tip for choosing your solo destination is to be honest and realistic. There are many things to think about: price, environment, activities, weather, security, etc., but here are some lists to help you:
How to prepare for a solo trip
Now that you’ve decided where to go, it’s time to start working. You can follow this deceptive step-by-step guide to planning a solo trip that I’ve used to plan over 100 trips around the world.
Are you planning a long-term solo trip? Here are my top tips that helped me prepare for a 6-month solo trip through Southeast Asia:
I also recommend getting my solo travel guide, Conquering Mountains, which has helped thousands of women realize their solo travel dreams.
What do you need to pack for your solo trip?
If there’s anything incredibly valuable I’ve done during 75% of my nomadic existence since 2012, I just take the package with me. Honestly, I’ve been doing it for years! It’s one of the best decisions I’ve made for never having to pay for any extra luggage, worrying that the airline has lost my bag, and waiting for them to put it on the carousel. It also gave me the freedom to do it when I had to, take cheaper motorcycle taxis and keep track of everything.
My secrets to this were to pack cubes (these have lasted almost nine years of constant use) to compress my week and a half’s clothes, and only buy cheap new stuff when I got tired of the biggest thing I had and give away The old. Sometimes he also traded with fellow travelers or won the laundry lottery when the hostel mistakenly returned the wrong clothes. In that sense, don’t bring anything that you can’t live with or that can’t ruin your adventure.
Here are some of my favorite packing lists for different climates and trips:
Meet other people as a solo traveler
My biggest fear of traveling alone was not whether I would be safe (although that mattered too!), It was actually that I would be alone. I had no idea how many girls, if any, were there traveling alone and how easy it would be to meet people. In fact, it was MUCH easier than I thought and as a result made me a more social and safe person.
I learned a lot about connecting with people, and this is how I now approach the social aspect of women’s solo travel:
- Join a group activity as a solo traveler. When I arrive in a new city, what I like most is joining one of these free walking tours (your hostel is likely to have recommendations) to get to know the area first hand and meet other travelers.
- Stay in places that have a high score for being social online, such as accommodations and backpackers. They also usually have private rooms if you are not interested in the bedrooms.
- Connect with other solo travelers on social apps and Facebook groups before your trip.
Even as an introvert, I find it easy to meet other people as a solo traveler. Somehow, being alone in a foreign country seems to give me the courage to approach others! That said, there are days I spend completely alone, which brings me to the next point:
How to enjoy being alone
Don’t worry too much about the times when you’re alone, because it will happen and it’s okay. It is a gift to get you all for yourself. We are influenced by those who know us, usually without realizing it: the sum of the five people we have around us the most. As social creatures, that’s what we do.
But what if you are alone? Then, there is no one who affects the way you act, feel and judge things. It’s all up to you to define what you like and what you want to do. These are some powerful things, and all women should have a chance to find their own identity, right?
Being safe is an important consideration, and probably one of the biggest, too the the main concerns of your loved ones regarding your solo journey. Staying safe when traveling alone is not a rocket science, but certain precautions can be taken to have a more relaxed and enjoyable experience. Focus on a few key factors:
- Decide without anyone coercing you when it comes to everything you’re doing or maybe you don’t want to do.
- If / when you feel bad, stop and leave. They are allowed to change their minds.
- Listen to your intuition.
- Get to know your surroundings: read the customs, the appropriate dress code and the dangers before leaving
- Do what you do at home to protect yourself from safety: don’t get drunk in one night, don’t walk the dark streets of the city alone at night, don’t be flashy.
Want more tips? I asked 31 other solo travelers how they stayed safe on the road and that’s what they said.
Embrace the opportunity to grow
I was very surprised that traveling on my own would be so beneficial not only for “finding myself,” but for getting to know myself. I realized that I was brave, that I could be fast, and that I wanted to be a writer and follow that dream.
Traveling alone has many advantages:
- It makes you confident in yourself and in your abilities. If you can travel the world alone, what can’t you do?
- You tend to improve problem solving because, when it makes no sense to get dirty and can’t be overlooked, it becomes very good at decision making.
- You will be more extroverted because travelers are friendly people and easy to talk to.
- You grow so much, learning about yourself and the world (here are some favorite spiritual readings to help you out).
The solo trip caused all kinds of growth for me, what could I do for you?
How to take your own photos as a solo traveler
During my first year of solo travel, I was too self-conscious to take selfies and didn’t have the courage to ask others for help. Then I went home and realized I had almost nothing to look back on and decided to change it. After years of practice, I now take 99% of my own travel photos, make money with travel photography, and even launched a travel photography masterclass. Traveling alone doesn’t mean you have to come back with a bunch of photos that don’t have you or that are super shitty because they were taken by someone who didn’t put in the effort. Here is a detailed blog post on how to take beautiful travel photos.
I hope this solo female travel guide has helped you get started on your journey, although I know there are still many details you might be wondering about things like your resume, how to manage work on the road, or a sabbatical . exactly to tell your worried friends and parents and about managing things like mail forwarding and vaccinations.
I’ve covered it all in Conquering Mountains, How to Solo Travel the World Fearlessly, plus case studies and tips from dozens of other solo travelers. It’s basically this steroid guide. If you found the information useful here, imagine 80 more pages of specific tips designed to move you from idea to action.
Happy journeys, ladies, our oyster of the world.