Recently, a woman who was traveling alone was killed in Turkey. Yes, she was a 33-year-old mother. Yes, she was traveling in Turkey. And yes, it is still absolutely safe for women to travel alone.
Female solo travelers, like myself, are rallying to discuss the positives of traveling alone. After all, there are some serious perks to traveling alone. You don’t have to compromise what you would like to see with someone else’s itinerary. If you wanna sit on that bench for three hours, you can. If you want to race from site to site, you can go as hard and as fast as you want. And you can eat that might-not-go-down-easy curry and not have to share the bathroom with anyone.
Similarly, traveling as a woman is such a uniquely wonderful experience. It has been my experience, time and time again, that women will take another younger woman under their wings very quickly and without hesitation. They will invite you to family functions and hand a baby to you while food is being prepared.
Other female travelers have shared safety tips (such as wearing a wedding ring, barricading your door, not making eye contact, etc), but I think that this “feign that you have a big man protecting you” business is a bit outdated. These techniques are based in fear and assume that women are weaker than men. [I could go on a tirade about both those topics, but another time.]
Ballin’ fearless solo female travelers know they are not weak. They just have to get their swag on.
Here’s how you can be fearless:
Be a part of the lady herd. Yes, other ladies actually know how to navigate the area where you are! Watch how the local women walk, how they greet each other, how they greet men. Sit with them on the bus. Strike up a conversation. Be sensitive to how they react. If they avoid a street or a person, you probably should too.
2. Walk with confidence
Girl, we all know you got a swagger. Use it. In most situations, walk with your head high and look in front of you. Walk quickly and with purpose. You’ve got somewhere to be. The caveat here is that you should defer to #1 above. If the other ladies are not doing this, mimic the walk of the strongest, most amazing woman you see, i.e. the woman that nobody would f**k with.
3. Make friends
Talk to people! Go out! Have an open heart. Converse with people on the bus. Whenever you make eye contact and engage with someone, they are much more likely to watch out for you. Ask for their advice. Let relationships develop organically. And honestly, why are you even traveling if you aren’t open to meeting new people?
4. Be aware
These should all be “duh” items and are true for anyone anywhere (not just women traveling alone to faraway lands). Don’t walk around with headphones in. Don’t walk on dark streets by yourself. Make sure other people can see you at all times. Use your outdoor voice if you start to get nervous. Know you alcohol/drug limits, and always stay within the range of “I can easily get home in the dark.”
5. Trust your instincts
If that dude is sketchy, just stay away. Your brain picks up on thousands of tiny signals unconsciously. That gut feeling is very legitimate. Just trust it, okay?
[Update per the suggestion of Niall over at Disrupting the Rabblement: “Every woman (whether you travel or not) should read Gavin De Becker’s The Gift of Fear. Good stuff in there about learning to trust your instincts.” I certainly must agree. Great recommendation!]
6. Ask for advice
Always ask if you aren’t sure how to behave or where to go. Most people are happy to inform you of the appropriate decorum and appreciate your honest recognition that you just don’t know.
7. Learn to box
Or any other physical activity that makes you feel powerful and strong. In the morning, before I leave my all-to-myself room, I mentally wrap my hands, roll my shoulders, and throw a few shadow punches. #2 above is much easier when you know that you can deck somebody if they cross you.
And here are a few more (of the maaanny) great articles about women traveling solo from the #WeGoSolo campaign on Twitter:
- “Ode to the Lady Traveller: Why we need the #WeGoSolo movement” at BreatheDreamGo
- “Female Solo Travel is NOT the Problem” at Twenty-Something Travel
- “Should Women Travel Solo?” at Runaway Jane
- “The Woman Traveling Solo Question” at Almost Fearless
- “The Solo Female Travel Experience” at Legal Nomads
Please share your own fearless tips below!