Solo traveling comes with some pretty sweet perks.
Going abroad alone means you can be self-centered without facing backlash. Solo travelers plan trips according to their own schedules, and do the things they want do when they want to do them without having to think about other people along for the ride. Solo travel means no compromising on where to go and what to eat. And it means you can budget according to your own needs and not worry about other’s expensive or frugal tastes.
But if we’re completely honest, solo travel also brings out some fears and makes people a bit uneasy.
Before my first solo trip, loads of questions kept me up at night: Should I really be going at this alone? Will I get stopped at the airport if I try to bring pepper spray into London or Morocco? Will I stick out, and therefore be a target? Is this whole trip even a good idea?
Many people, especially women, have concerns about safety, unwanted attention from men, and loneliness. However, there are several things solo woman travelers can do to bring peace of mind before they set off on their adventures. Try out these five:
1. Start with a local trip
If you aren’t quite ready to make a giant leap across the globe on your own yet, try somewhere close to home. Take a train to a neighboring city so you can get used to commuting alone. Try an overnight trip in a nearby state or province to get comfortable with staying in a hotel or hostel on your own.
Starting small is like dipping your toes into the water before diving in headfirst. It will give you the feel of traveling solo without pushing yourself completely out of your comfort zone on the first try. Then you can travel farther and farther on your own until you’re halfway across the world speaking a few words in another language and tasting an unfamiliar delicacy.
2. Seek out activities where you’ll meet other travelers and locals
Loneliness is a real concern with traveling solo. But you don’t have to be alone the entire time.
Try staying in a hostel or Airbnb where you’re bound to meet other travelers. When you stay in communal or semi-communal lodging, you’ll run into other travelers who might want to join you for lunch or on an excursion.
If you’re not comfortable meeting strangers on the fly, try booking yourself on a group excursion or activity. Additionally, try taking a class in the local arts. I recommend cooking and dance classes. That way, you get to experience the local culture with other travelers that share your interests.
3. Learn some basic self-defense moves
I took a few Krav Maga classes before my first trip. Learning the basics helped me feel confident that I could protect myself.
One thing my instructors teach is that most attackers are opportunists looking for easy targets. All you have to do is show that you have basic training, and most assailants will back off. So many of us won’t have to do any real fighting. But just in case, I also learned a few groin kicks, throat strikes, and how to get out of a choke hold. The training was empowering. I often left class feeling like I could neutralize any threat and take down any opponent. This kind of confidence helps when traveling solo.
However, Krav Maga is quite expensive, so I had to quit after my discount expired. If you’re interested, look into Krav Maga and cheaper alternative self-defense classes on discount sites like Groupon and Travelzoo.
Now, self-defense classes aren’t absolutely necessary for traveling solo. They’re helpful if you’re really nervous, like I was before my first trip. But I’ve never actually had to use the moves on anyone.
Most solo woman travelers get by trusting their instincts, being cognizant of their surroundings, and using street smarts. Doing those three things typically suffice. Learning how to kick someone’s butt simply gives you some additional peace of mind and confidence. And it never hurts to learn how to get out of less-than-ideal situations.
4. Choose your destination based on your strengths
Every destination is not a match for every person.
You can find several blogs with lists of travel destinations that are solo-woman friendly. Those are good places to look when deciding where to go, however, it’s best to match your destination with your strengths.
I’m a reserved introvert with no sense of direction, so the bustling maze of a city that is Marrakech, Morocco wasn’t the best choice for my first solo travel adventure. Other destinations with laid-back vibes are more my speed when I’m flying solo.
When picking your solo destinations, you have to think about places that will push you out of your comfort zone a bit, but don’t stick you so far out that you don’t enjoy your time.
If you’re fit for an invigorating 30km bike ride around beautiful lakes surrounded by mountains, you might enjoy riding along the Cirquito Chico in Bariloche, Argentina. However, if you’re like me, and prefer to move at a slower pace, then you’ll definitely enjoy Caye Caulker, an island off the coast of Belize where the slogan is “Go Slow.”
5. Pack Your Journal for Company
Sitting at a restaurant alone might be one of the times when you wish you’d brought a travel buddy.
When you’re feeling lonely at dinner time, pull out your journal.
At a table for one, your journal is your companion (especially in times when you’re without wifi or cellular data). Record your thoughts and experiences from the trip. It’ll not only keep you company and help you record your travel experiences, but you may also be able to get a writing gig based off of your journal entries. Keeping a journal is a smart idea for anyone who wants to start travel writing.
If journaling isn’t your thing, bring a good book with you. Just make sure you are aware of your surroundings and your belongings while you’re reading.
Don’t let fear keep you from your solo adventures. If you’ve been thinking about going abroad alone, take that leap. It’s nice to try it at least once. You may even find that you love traveling solo.