Globetrotting solo is something I would implore every woman (and man) to embark on at least once, if not repeatedly throughout their life. This can be an intimidating, daunting venture for many, conjuring thoughts of danger or loneliness. It is for these reasons though, that us women must embrace the adventure. We need to challenge the notion that our world isn’t “safe” anymore and that we are in fact equipped to solve obstacles of on our own accord.
Before I embarked on my first solo flight, en route to New York, I was petrified. How was I suppose to get to the hostel? Am I suppose to go out to dinner alone? Within a few hours of arriving at my hostel in the Upper West Side, I found myself standing in the heart of times square with my new friend, my bunk mate and a fellow solo traveller, standing in awe and laughing at how quickly one can change their reality. Isn’t it ironic how only 24 hours before, I was clutching to my mother as she helped me pack my suitcase?
My first night in New York saw me wander the streets of times square, noticing lights and laughter from up above and stumbling into a rooftop terrace bar, where I ordered a mescal (smoked whiskey). The next time I would have a mescal was in a library-converted bar in Guatemala in the midst of falling in love with a Canadian winemaker. We met two locals who, upon hearing our Swiss and Australian accents, took us on an adventure. We snuck into an exclusive 360-degree glass rotating restaurant using the janitors staircase entrance to marvel at the city and how wonderful life can be. This very first night, became the symbol of what was to become some of the best months of my life… so far.
Now, down to the important stuff. Travelling solo as a female can sometimes have its challenges, so here are some handy tips I collected along the way to make your adventure a little easier (and safer!).
Stashing Valuables - Only keep what’s absolutely necessary on you. Don’t go taking your passport or all of your money out to lunch. I was unknowingly robbed whilst drunkenly tearing up a dance floor in New Orleans. But all they got was my travel card, $20 and some precious polaroids. Thankfully my back up travel card, and important documents and money stash was safely tucked away back in my room. Inconvenient? Yes. Trip ending? No way.Most hostels have lockers, put your bag away and invest in two combination locks. One for your possessions back in your lodging, and one for your everyday backpack.
Topdeck and Contiki – If you’re nervous you won’t make friends or know what to do in a place, group travel tours such as these are a great way to make friends and see loads of places. But be warned, they are party heavy and you don’t get much time in one place.
Be Aware of your Surroundings – Cliché, but an important one. If it doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t, so get out of there. If you ever feel unsafe or threatened in any kind of situation, get out of there. Sometimes it might be an overreaction, or you may think you’re just being silly, but for that one time that turns sinister, you’ve protected your safety.
Periods – I’d advise stocking up on your sanitary items prior to departure, especially if venturing to a developing country. Trying to find pads or tampons or asking for them in a foreign language can prove tricky and hilarious. The quality can be frighteningly poor. Or, if you’re game, a diva cup takes up far less space in a full backpack, and is far more environmentally friendly.
Respect the Culture – Depending where you are in the world, this can become very important. If cultural practises require it, cover up and respect the norm. This will stop you drawing unwanted attention to yourself. Also, don’t be flashy, leave the jewellery at home.
Invest in Your Safety – Sometimes the cheapest or easiest route may not be the safest. When I arrived in Guatemala, a notoriously dangerous city on a midnight flight, I made sure to pre-book a hostel to avoid roaming the streets at night, and took a pricier group shuttle bus over a taxi. Small preparations such as these are invaluable to your safety.
Hostels – Oh hostels! Hostels are simply brilliant for the budget traveller. Hostel culture is rapidly expanding; you can find one in almost any corner of the globe. Many are boutique and beautiful; think free breakfasts, themed event nights and plenty of people to meet. Many have decent Wi-Fi and promise plentiful friendships.
Check in! – Always, ALWAYS, let someone know where you are. I sent my mum my itinerary every few days of where I would be. It takes a minute to forward accommodation details or WhatsApp where you’re at. It’s a simple safety precaution.
Document, document, document – Whether it be writing, drawing, photographing, or recording, I implore you to document your trip. Not for that colourful and envious Instagram shot, but to immortalise the many memories you’ll be making. Capture the feelings, people, smells and colours; This will be invaluable when you’re back to reality and writing a much delayed blog piece about your adventure. And then promptly book your next plane ticket.