Love to travel but don’t have a companion? No worries. More and more, traveling alone is an active choice, with women leading the way, according to Mary Bond of The Gutsy Traveler. (In fact, when it comes to travel, women are leading the way, period. Bond notes that 75 percent of those taking cultural, adventure, or nature trips are women, while women-only travel companies have increased by 230 percent.)
Not only are women traveling more by themselves, but it’s not a big deal to do so. “Solo female travelers” don’t think of themselves as such and they find it odd when asked if they feel safe and told how brave they are for traveling unaccompanied.
“It’s a fallacy that, if you’re a woman alone, it’s dangerous,” says Oaxaca-based Jodi Ettenberg of Legal Nomads. “As if everywhere isn’t dangerous including your own hometown. I feel more comfortable in Saigon than some places in North America.”
(Image credit: Kiersten Rich)
Why You Should Travel by Yourself
So, what’s so great about traveling by yourself? For one thing, flexibility to go wherever and whenever you please. Another plus: Solo travel builds confidence.
“Solo travel teaches you that you don’t need anyone else,” says Ashley Fleckenstein of Ashley Abroad, located in Uganda. “I’m a lot more confident as a person because I’ve been around the world by myself.”
Like any other form of travel, going it alone in a foreign place — even if it’s not all that foreign — is a way of expanding your world view. “Travel doesn’t really need to take you too far from home to have a different experience,” says Sabina Trojanova of Girl vs. Globe. “When you’re traveling alone for the first time, the benefit is just in broadening your horizons and trying something new.”
There are, of course, some negatives. Kiersten Rich of The Blonde Abroad says the downside of solo travel is the cost. When you’re on your own, there’s no one to split expenses. And, she quipps, “It’s awkward to ask a stranger to help you apply sunscreen to your back. But I still ask!”
Ready to go it alone? We asked bloggers for their best tips for solo travel. Here’s what they had to say.
(Image credit: Kiersten Rich)
5 Blogger Tips for Solo Travel
1. Do your research.
This applies to all travel, but it’s especially true if you’re going it alone. Make sure you have all your proper paperwork — visas, up-to-date passport, and a copy of your passport should you lose it — and consider your surroundings. If you’re traveling in Muslim countries, for example, bring a head scarf.
2. Let loved ones know where you’ll be.
Send your itinerary to friends and family. Let them know where you’ll be and the best way to get in touch with you.
3. Use common sense.
Don’t wear flashy jewelry, otherwise you’re a target for theft. Also, don’t take risks: If an area feels unsafe, grab an Uber instead of walking.
4. Be prepared.
It doesn’t hurt to carry pepper spray or a safety whistle. Sometimes, just having it in your knapsack gives you peace of mind. If you’re staying in a sketchy area, bring a rubber doorstop with you — shoving it under the door means no one can break in while you’re asleep. Another smart trick? If you’re taking an overnight train, you can use your belt to keep the door secure.
Oh, and chopsticks: You never know when you’ll need something to pick up food — or anything else for that matter — for sanitary reasons.
5. Sign up for a cooking class or book a home stay with a family.
If you’re traveling solo, a cooking class or homestay is a great way to really pick up the local culture and cuisine, as well as to make connections in a strange place.
All this preparation doesn’t mean your trip will be foolproof. “Things don’t always go according to plan. Being able to see opportunity in situations where things go wrong is a huge benefit,” says Tracey Nesbitt of Solo Traveler. “Adapting to changing circumstances, letting go of some plans, and opening yourself up to unexpected options can yield wonderful experiences.”
Words to travel by.
Have you taken a solo trip? What are your smartest tips?