More and more people are choosing to travel alone—with fearless women leading the trend. And I’m not talking about soul-searching vacations; I’m talking about the “blood, sweat, and tears” types that involve lots of walking, mountaineering, and hiking.
A simple Google Trends search for the keyword “female solo travel” will tell you that there’s a significant increase in women’s interest going out alone over the last five years. At the beginning of 2017, the numbers peaked at over 100,000,000 searches. A separate study by Visa showed that one in five women has traveled solo for work or play; millennials make up most of the group.
According to data by Pinterest, there’s also a significant increase in women pinning solo travel ideas.
Businesses are getting on board, too, with a recent boom in women-only travel companies.
This trend is obviously no lie.
The Rise of Solo Female Travel
So what’s behind the trend? Women are becoming more adventurous and independent and have more money than they used to. Many are also searching for meaningful adventure, forgoing stuff like staycations and spa holidays.
Social media particularly fueled this fair. Open Pinterest on your browser or phone, and you’ll see thousands of solo travel women boards. Check out the thousands of great solo travel posts on Instagram.
The Beauty of Solo Female Travel
2017 was the year I went on my first solo trip. I’ve spent all my life traveling with a significant other, friends, or family, and I can say that I was pretty scared of the thought of going on an adventure all by myself. I mean, who would I talk to? Will I be eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner alone? Who would take my photos?
But then, when I stepped on the soils of Cebu City in the Philippines, I realized that going solo allows you to truly experience a different culture. I was apprehensive at first, but then I realized that going out of your comfort zone makes you more focused, making discovering a unique language and local dishes of a different country so much more fulfilling.
And without other familiar people, you get to enjoy the freedom to explore, relax, and experience.
The Risks and Challenges of Solo Female Travel
When I first announced my plan to travel solo, my safety concerns plagued the people who love and care about me. They thought I was out of my mind and that I’m a tragedy waiting to happen. And all I heard were horror stories about the rate, kidnap, slave traffic, and the world just being a very dangerous place.
Fortunately, my desire to travel was stronger.
All I can say is it’s still important for women to be aware and to know how to protect themselves. Don’t be the naïve solo female traveler, the one who drunkenly prances around in the more dangerous part of town, telling her room number to random strangers, or wearing her noise-canceling earphones on dark streets.
Here are some safety tips for solo female travelers like you:
- Bring a pepper spray or safety whistle everywhere you go. In many countries, pepper spray is considered a concealed weapon. I suggest using mosquito spray instead, or your perfume. All of those hurt when they get into someone’s eyes.
- Check into a women-only floor in a hotel, hostel, or guesthouse. Yes, there is such a thing. These places often have extra security and women-only staff.
- Watch your drink, and stay sober. Staying sober is my personal choice, and it works for me. I love a good cocktail, and while enjoying drinks in bars is a rite of passage for travelers, I make sure I don’t ever get too intoxicated when I’m solo.
- Dress conservatively. I don’t want to get into the whole “Don’t tell women how to dress, tell men to control themselves” debate. Because the truth is, when you’re traveling, that doesn’t matter anymore. I wish this wasn’t something we had to worry about, but it’s the reality, so you just do what you can to protect yourself.
- Read up on countries and their cultures. In some, being a woman means there are certain rules and regulations you have to follow. In Bali, for instance, you can’t go inside a temple if you’re having your period. In Thailand, you cannot sit beside the monks. In Muslim countries, you have to cover your knees and shoulders, sometimes your entire body.
- Register with your local embassy. This is especially true if you’re traveling out of the country for more than a few days. It will help you when an emergency or a natural disaster strikes.
There really is no “one size fit all” rule. In general, traveling—and life—is about assessing a situation, making smart observations, and acting based on your observations. You’ll create a book of knowledge from which you can pull whenever you encounter something new and when someone tells you, “You can’t go traveling solo. You’re a woman.”
Because really, you can.
All these are based on my experience and will vary from person to person, but every woman has common sense. None of the challenges should stop you from traveling. You might have to watch out for certain things, but the rewards of being a solo female traveler far outweigh the truths.