Solo female travel is not only a great way to learn about the world we live in, and our place in it, but it’s also a tool for women to learn more about themselves. About what we’re capable of and to what end we can push ourselves to follow the path we want, not the path we’re most comfortable in.
Until last year I had always gone on holiday with friends, whether they be travelling holidays or a return flight to Kavos for the ultimate summer party! It wasn’t until I graduated University and knew I didn’t want to go straight in to a 9-5 like a lot of my friends that I realised if I wanted to see the world, I’d have to go it alone. So I began to prepare for solo female travel…!
It was the best thing I’ve done so far! Fair enough, my solo female travels have so far been brief. A couple of weeks in Portugal, then flying out alone to Budapest only to find a boyfriend and a hostel family that I fell straight in to step with. Then leaving my Budapest hostel family behind to return to England and follow more dreams. But the single act of getting on a plane alone, with no assurances that I’d make friends or find a purpose is the ultimate thrill!
The first time I took a trip alone the excitement of it all kept the butterflies away until I was on the train from the airport to my final destination. Two hours to sit and wonder who I might meet, whether they’d like me, what I might do to occupy myself filled me a mix of adventure and trepidation. A few hours later, at the hostel I’d come to call home for a week, I realised there was nothing to be nervous about!
That being said, the leap in to female solo travel itself is a daunting prospect for many. So I’ve listed my top seven tips for helping you book that ticket and jump on that plane… alone!
1. It’s not pathetic to travel alone!
Firstly, you are not a loser! Not being used to travelling alone, I had wondered if people I met would think I had no friends and if so, what was wrong with me? The truth is simple, as you and your friends grow so do your interests and your dreams.
Last year I wanted to learn to surf, something none of my girlfriends ever wanted. If I had stayed at home to hang out with them, I would have missed out on one of the best trips of my life! I made new friends who loved surfing, ticked a big dream off my bucket list, and learnt a new sport in the process!
(Read about my experience learning to surf on Travel Dudes!)
2. Pack appropriately
Consider the culture before packing your backpack! This is both a tip for safety and to up your confidence. Some countries have very strict cultural norms relating to dress code, although it can differ in extremity from town to town within that country.
In Morocco for example, you can get away with shorts in Essaouira which is popular for waters sports, but spend a few days in Fez to the north and I would have felt very uncomfortable in anything less than a maxi skirt & long sleeved cardigan. Once you’re feeling comfortable in your clothing, your much more likely to exude confidence walking around town.
(Read more of my travels in Morocco!)
3. Be Yourself!
My biggest pet peeve whilst working in a hostel was meeting guests trying to be someone they just obviously were not. It’s easy to tell these people apart from the rest – they will talk about themselves instead of getting to know others; their stories always have to be one better than anyone else’s; they act as if they don’t give a shit about anything which makes them less carefree and more stuck up.
I believe people use travel as a way to reinvent themselves. Each new hostel offers the opportunity to be the coolest one there, but really this is a waste of precious energy.
You don’t have to be the loudest, funniest, or smartest to make friends when travelling solo. Just be yourself and if someone doesn’t like you, it’s not likely you’ll bump in to each other again once you both leave! Psychology Today has a similar point in a great post on the 7 Common Mistakes That Can Ruin New Friendships.
4. Don’t be afraid to spend time alone
So you’ve made it to Prague, you’ve got your room key, you’ve had a shower and now you’re hungry but every other guest is out and you don’t want to eat alone. I would see plenty of guests in this situation, or ones who have come back from eating alone feeling bummed out that they haven’t met anyone yet.
Just remember if you arrive midday it’s likely that most guests will be out exploring the city. If you’re in a hostel with a great communal atmosphere however, especially one with drinking games and night time activities, then you’re going to spend plenty of time surrounded by other people!
So enjoy the down time and use it to see those sites that are top of your list!
5. Join a free tour
Almost every busy city holds free walking tours these days and you can bet they’ll be full to the brim with solo travellers. If you’re shy then you don’t have to worry too much about talking to everyone – as that’s the guide’s job!
Just relax in to tourist mode and sure enough you’ll end up bonding with others who are just as enthralled by the sites of the city as you are! And if worst comes to worst, cuddle up to a few of the statues for photo opportunities and you’ll always have a friend in the city to return to!
(A company I really enjoy taking walking tours with is Sandemans, who offer free city tours in over 18 countries!)
6. Avoid the comfort zone
Probably the entire reason you’re on a solo female travel trip is because you want to experience things others don’t – so keep yourself open to new experiences!! The greatest thing about being alone is that you have no ties meaning you can go wherever and do whatever in hell you fancy and there’s no one there to complain or put doubts in to your mind.
I used to get nervous when meeting a whole lot of new people for the first time but one week in Gozo changed all that for me. I made a friend from the village and locals are always the first ones who want to introduce you to everyone and show you a good time – they love their home so they want you to as well!
That week I said YES to everything and ended up on a four hour jet-ski trip around the island, going for ice cream trips into other villages, and attending a local Maltese wedding!
7. Put the phone away!
How many times have you been in a cafe or restaurant and seen people sat alone hunched over their phones? Solo travellers are the worst for this – the excitement that comes from an establishment offering free wifi is almost higher than the excitement of seeing that church you’ve dreamed of since you were a little kid (my dream was the Notre Dame de Paris – done!).
So please, put it away! People-watch out the window, or have a giggle at the Italian toddler trying to climb up on granddad whilst he’s trying not to spill a hot coffee. Drink. It. In.
You’ve gone away alone to witness the world first hand so uploading that wicked selfie of you at the top of the Eiffel Tower can wait. Public places are a great way for travellers to meet locals and make friends but by looking down at your phone you’re basically wearing a huge sign that says “Do Not Disturb!” in the local language of whatever country you’re in.
So those are my 7 key tips for solo female travel!
Do you have any tips you’d like to share from your own attempts at wandering abroad alone?
Lots of love,