I shouldn’t have taken that long to finally pack my bag & get on that flight… all alone. After all, it is to one of the safest countries in the world, New Zealand. Yet, the wary, paranoid mind of mine does not stop weighing the pros and cons every single time.
I have traveled solo before this & in fact even as young & naive as I can be – when I was 19. Even though it was just to Singapore, another safest country in the world, the fact remains that I had no ‘one’ to turn to, right or left. I was alone. All alone. Years later I again traveled alone to Jakarta but it was strictly official, short and seriously insignificant. Yet, the fact remained that I went alone. I boarded the flight alone.
So, then, what was it that made me do all these mental lists of all the things that can go wrong if I do take that step to travel by myself? To backpack & walk those unfamiliar terrains all alone? You really can’t blame someone for having that fear of traveling solo, especially so if you are a female!
Almost all of us are aware of the ‘Whys’ but let me just state it here for the benefits of all female travelers & those still battling on ‘to do or not to do’ out there.
From all the days of fearing to do it, these are, in my opinion, some of the factors that can force your solo traveling plans to take a backseat:
i) Is it Safe??? [The Definite ‘Why’ that takes the big chunk]
This applies to all travelers, not just female travelers but the reality remains that female travelers are easier targets. Safety will always remain the one most important factor for any traveler but come on, one can never travel if one fear of safety all the time. No one can ever assure another about safety! Think about it, you can even trip and fall walking down your own living hall! Why not take that stumble somewhere awesome? Simply put, you are not entirely safe within your own four familiar walls, so why not step out? See the world. Do the things that you have always wanted to do. Why restrain all your wants just because you are a lady, fearing for your safety? I’ve met a lot of solo female travelers, some personally & some online, and the one thing that makes me respect and admires them is that they are ACTUALLY out there and doing it! Making it happen. End of the day, that is what counts! Overcome your fears and just do it. There will never be a perfect day for you to do it if you keep waiting for it.
- Having said that, of course, there are some basic safety rules and tips that one should always stick to. We all know these rules well but just that at times, when you are not really you in the midst of all the excitement or rush, you tend to overlook or give these rules its own ‘vacation’. These are some basic rules that I have come to learn & religiously follow whenever I travel:
- Make note of your country’s embassy details & keep it with you in your travel note/book as well as your phone/tab/laptop;
- Make copies of your travel documents (passport, visas, tickets, even itineraries). Keep it with you all the time. *Also make a soft copy of these and email it (as your travel folder) to yourself & your best friend who can keep tab with it;
- Don’t keep all your cash in one place. Stash some at a secret place that will always be within reach and with you all the time;
- Never flash your cash, gadgets, jewelries, or any valuable items unnecessarily. It will attract unwanted attention. Remember always that you are traveling alone & can be an easy target;
- Never share details of your travel plans to strangers especially the fact that you are traveling alone. Don’t trust anyone quickly. Of course, you make your own judgment on this – you wouldn’t want to end up with the worst travel experience ever because you were busy being paranoid & tensed all the time. Use your judgement skills wisely & don’t forget to have fun!;
- while traveling in countries where you know snatch cases, mugging, etc is rampant even at broad daylight, always walk against the traffic flow & never venture out alone to isolated & quiet places;
- Always do at least some initial research on the place that you plan to visit so that you can time it properly & arrange for the transportation well. Never venture out alone to any place isolated or quiet without doing this or having any company with you;
- Get familiar with the culture of the place & know what to do & wear and what not to do & not to wear;
- If you must travel some where late night & you know that it is not safe, ask for the hotel or the place you are staying at to arrange for someone to drive you there. Its always safer to get someone; tour guide or driver, that is arranged by the hotel rather than you getting someone by yourself outside in the streets. Unless you have pre-booked after doing proper research online;
- make note of all emergency contacts of the place or area that you are staying & if possible try to know where it is located (if you are at any particular place for long period of time, mostly);
- make friends with the staff or management of the hotel/ the place where you are staying (of course, those who you think you can trust) to let them know when they can expect you back for the day and where you plan to go for the day;
- you can always partner or join other fellow travelers (this is common – for sharing transportation, splitting gas money, etc) to go to a certain place but of course exercise your judgment skills on whether that person/group can be trusted, etc
ii) Disapproval from Family & Friends!
This is a common reason for many female travelers to keep saying no to traveling solo. Especially so if you are from an Asian family where such solo female travelers concept is an alien culture. It is still very much a new concept & something they can’t easily understand. Family & friends only mean well, that’s for sure, SO it is our duty to make them understand how it is actually common for female travelers to travel solo nowadays. Make them understand how much it means to you. What I know for a fact from my own experience is the moment my parents and friends saw how passionate I was planning, researching & preparing for my solo trip; how it make me come alive & happy, they started to slowly realize how much it means to me & how well prepared I was to taking the step & eventually gave in to my plan which was once too absurd to even talk about with them.
iii) Being ALONE!
That is one constant negative statement that will always hound you. I do admit it does feel overwhelming every time you think about it: I will be all alone. What can I do alone? Who goes traveling alone? This is especially a serious question by those who has never done much activities alone or by those whose idea of fun are things done with someone or in a group. If you don’t shake off this idea or come out of the comfort zone of having to learn & doing things by yourself, the whole concept of solo traveling will just fall apart. Once you have decided to go solo, get used to it, be prepared & just do it! You might feel lonely or feel homesick at times (depends entirely on each individual – I only missed the warm weather, that too occasionally :P) but you will definitely have an awesome time that will all be worth it at the end. While some might argue, “yeah right, whatever you say its just not fun to travel alone”, then you are right, its just not your cup of tea! But for those who can relate to being at peace & having fun doing things solo or those who feel liberated doing it, this is that one journey in your life to soul-search – Where you can quietly look deep within yourself and see what is it that you want in life & how your journey has been so far. If being so philosophical & deep is not for you, then forget about it and just have fun. Do whatever it is that you dig and makes you happy while traveling solo!
iv) How if I get bored?
You will never feel bored!!! Trust me! You are in a whole new exciting beautiful place. There are just too many new things to do and new places to see. All those new cultures to learn, all those new faces to see, all those travelers to become friends with & passionately share your travel stories. Tell me, how will you be bored? Ever?!
v) Wouldn’t it be costlier?
No, definitely not, IF you know how to plan well & keep your expenses within your budget! In fact, contrary to that belief, I think traveling alone can save you money. Imagine all those money that you can save from not having to say no to. All those unwanted activities, unwanted trips, foods, or even souvenirs. You know how sometimes we only do certain things or buy certain things because we had too, because we were compelled to by your travel partners or group? You can avoid all those unwanted cost & and even dramas.
So are you a solo female traveler? No worries, travel away!
Stop thinking that you are JUST a woman who can’t do what a man can do. Stop stopping yourself from making it happen. If traveling makes you alive & keeps you going, why stop yourself? Almost every now and then we hear bad news about a friend/relative or someone you know and immediately you sigh, ‘Ah, I just met him the other day. This is terrible, life is so fragile, so unpredictable.’ That is life. You only have this one shot at it, so why stop yourself from doing what you love, what you want & what makes you happy. Be selfish for yourself. Go on that trip & make it happen.
Traveling alone has been the most liberating and precious experience in my whole existence. Traveling alone made me love myself and gave me a new pair of eyes & heart! It opened a whole new treasure chest that has made me rich & content that I’ve learned
that you don’t need more and more of everything to keep you satisfied. All you need is inner peace and happiness. Traveling has taught me that. Seeing the world in its whole glory makes me happy. That is my enough!
When you travel alone, at that moment, surrounded by whoever and whatever that is there at that time, makes you who you are and how you see the world. You are what you are, right there & then. That one moment of seeing everything with this new you is priceless & can never be replaced by anything or anyone!
Just do it. Travel. Live life.