7 Tips for How to be a Fearless Solo Female Traveler

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not making eye contact, etc), but I think that this “feign that you have a big man protecting you” business is a bit outdated.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:

IMG_07481. Hang out with other women

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:

Please share your own fearless tips below!

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12 responses to “7 Tips for How to be a Fearless Solo Female Traveler

  1. Pingback: How To Stay Safe When You Travel: 11 Essential Tips·

  2. I always put things in the same place in my daypack so that I’m not fumbling. I can reach for something while still looking alert to my surroundings. I also always speak in a confident, strong voice. That is an immediate sign that I might be someone to contend with. Padlock all backpack zippers at all times.

  3. Pingback: The 5 Life Lessons that Berlin Kept Slapping Into My Face « 13/13/13 Sketchbook Project·

  4. Thank you, Catherine, for encouraging women to venture out on their own.

    Over the course of 30 years, I have traveled by train throughout Europe and visited about 14 countries. I then would go back to spend more time in the countries that most appealed to me. France has always been my favorite, In 2009, I found a chateau (via the internet) where I stayed for the same price per month, of a small apartment here in Raleigh. I lived there in a small section of the chateau, for three months and got a round in the landlord’s UK car which had a stick shift on my left… steering wheel on the right, on French streets where they drive on the same street side as we do in the states. (I had not driven a stick shift in 20 years) I’m laughing just thinking about my first two weeks…

    I went to paint and I did. I came back with over 50 painting (most rolled on canvas) and memories of one of the best times of my life. I met many people, and still shopped, ate, traveled and painted alone. The language barrier was the only problem for me, and when I go back, for hopefully longer, I will make sure I have conversational french, ‘down.’ (First grade level french and hand gestures can only get one so far)

    I’m so excited for you, Catherine, and I look forward following your journey. Oh, and your travel tips are perfect!

    • What a wonderful story about France! I’d love to see your paintings from there some time 🙂 Language barriers have been tough for me, too. I’ve found the most important things to say are “Please” “Thank you” and “Hello”. What do you think?

  5. Pingback: Ode to the lady traveller: Why we need the #WeGoSolo movement·

  6. Pingback: 7 Tips for How to be a Fearless Solo Female Traveler | Home Far Away From Home·

  7. I used to get harassed by men in SE Asia when I drove my motorcycle. I installed a water gun and would douse anyone catcalling. My friend’s husband was even more brutal. He told me to add chile sauce to the water and aim for their eyes. 🙂

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