Why I’m Not Afraid to Travel Alone

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In the past couple of weeks, I've received a handful of emails from women asking me all sorts of questions about traveling solo. I've also been interviewed for a couple articles about the “dangers” of traveling alone as a woman. I'm not sure why there's a sudden uptick in interest (or fear) surrounding solo female travel, but I figured that now would be as good a time as any to address the topic again on my blog. (Plus, International Women's Day is coming up on March 8!)

I've already written about the realities of solo female travel, and have made suggestions for places to go on your first solo trip.

But, when “danger” is involved, I realize some people want even more reassurance.

I've been traveling solo for a few years now — not because I dislike people or anything like that, but usually because I don't want to wait around for someone to travel with me and because I kind of LIKE to be on my own and have the freedom to do what I want when I want.

It's a common misconception — latched onto by the media — that it's inherently dangerous to travel solo if you are a woman.

Solo travel in Thailand

Traveling solo as a woman IS a different experience than traveling solo as a man — I won't deny that fact. As a woman, you DO have to be more careful and more vigilant in some cases. You have to be more aware of how you're dressed, who you trust, and how decisions you make could affect your safety.

However, this doesn't just apply to traveling. In a world where violence against women is a growing problem, being careful and vigilant is something women just DO. It's certainly not confined to traveling.

Which brings me to my point: Traveling solo as a woman is not automatically dangerous. It's no more or less dangerous than doing things alone as a woman in your home country or town.

People ask me (quite frequently these days) if I'm ever afraid to travel solo. And my answer is always no.

And here's why:

5 reasons why I'm not afraid to travel alone

Not afraid to travel solo

1. The world is not as dangerous as the media makes it seem

One of the articles I was quoted in recently was a post about the “most dangerous” places for women to travel. But the article quoted crime/violence statistics for countries like India, Turkey, South Africa, and Mexico, and then tried to suggest that these same DOMESTIC violence numbers automatically made those destinations dangerous for women to travel to.

Which is just silly.

The United States has some of the highest violence rates in the world, and yet I wouldn't consider it a dangerous place in which to be a tourist.

We see so many movies and read so many sensationalized headlines that we've become conditioned to assume that the world “out there” is a scary, dangerous place. But guess what? It's really not.

2. I trust my instincts

As I mentioned earlier, you DO have to travel differently when you're a woman. But my rule of thumb is this: don't do anything abroad that you wouldn't do at home. Simple.

This means that I'm not going to go wandering in an unfamiliar place on my own at night, or take rides with complete strangers, or go off without telling someone where I went, or get drunk or do drugs or do anything else that would put me in danger no matter where I am.

I also have learned to be aware of my surroundings and to trust my gut. If I find myself in a situation where I feel uncomfortable, I do what I can to remove myself from it. When you travel solo, you are your own best defense.

Solo travel in New Zealand

3. I do my homework

You should do this no matter how you're traveling, but doing your homework about a new destination is especially useful when you're traveling solo. Before every trip, I do a little Googling and read up on things like cultural norms, common scams, and how I should dress as a tourist.

When traveling to more conservative countries, I make sure to pack more modest clothing. Not only does this make me feel more comfortable since I know I won't be offending anyone with what I'm wearing, but it also tends to cut down on the catcalls and other unwanted attention.

Reading up on common scams is also a must for me — it helps me pinpoint potential scammers before they have a chance to fool me, and it also makes me more confident when going somewhere new. For example, I read about the “bracelet scammers” that hang out near Sacre Coeur in Paris, and therefore knew to keep my wrists and arms out of reach whenever I walked by them.

Doing my homework helps me fit in to new cultures better, and also makes it easier to be vigilant without being paranoid.

RELATED: 11 Tips to Help Make Your First Solo Trip Great

4. Strangers are more likely to be helpful than threatening

Even though I wouldn't advise you to wander off alone with a complete stranger, people you meet on your travels ARE, for the most part, going to be helpful rather than threatening. As a solo female traveler, I've had countless experiences where I've actually had complete strangers looking out for me on trains and subways, helping me stow my bag or making sure I knew which stop I needed to get off at.

Just as the world isn't an inherently dangerous place, people are not inherently evil. I spent a lot of time being very suspicious of anyone who would strike up a conversation with me for about the first year I was traveling alone. Until I realized that those people were just trying to be friendly.

Yes, it's important to be careful and to always trust your gut. But there's no need to immediately look at every unknown face as a threat. Your travels will be enriched when you open yourself up to new conversations and meeting new people.

And, when you do, you'll learn that, at the end of the day, people are more similar than different, no matter where they live, what they look like, or what they believe in.

Me at Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai

5. I know I can surround myself with people

Lastly, if I ever DO find myself in a destination where I don't feel completely comfortable on my own, I know that there are always ways to ensure that I'm NOT alone.

I often book small group tours in places that I don't feel confident about visiting solo. I go on day trips with other tourists. I stay in hostels or guest houses where it's easy to meet other travelers and join in on group activities.

There's no need for me to be afraid, because I've learned that traveling solo doesn't necessarily have to mean being alone all the time.

I realize that solo travel will always be one of those things with a mysterious, often-misrepresented air about it. But hopefully this has helped reassure you at least a little bit!

READ NEXT: Top 9 Questions About Solo Travel Answered

What's your take on solo female travel? What steps do you take to make yourself feel safe?

 

 

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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114 Comments on “Why I’m Not Afraid to Travel Alone

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  1. You are really inspiring other people. I’ve been travelling alone since last 5 year. Love your post. Keep up the great work. All the best.

    Everything you mentioned is on point! I started traveling solo about 3 years ago and it changed the way how I travel. When I think about a place, I know try to look at places and activities where I can also meet other people. Many of those I’ve met have been long time friends even online.

    It mustn’t go unmentioned, the last time through customs, the authorities confiscated, three AK 47s, four swords. a long-knife, and sixteen hand-grenades – just saying

    Yesss!! I completely agree – I’ve been traveling the world solo for 10 years now and I’ve met so many friendly people in every country. The worst thing that happened to me actually happened in the safest country in the world!

    Top tip from another solo female traveller…. Seek the company of local women. They know the best and safest places to go. I have had some wonderful experiences with local women, learnt a lot, made some great friends and had a good laugh.

    Once when travelling in a tourist hot spot in the middle east some local men were hassling me, and not getting the message that I was not interested, so I went into a stall with run by women. They immediately saw that I was getting stressed by the unwelcome attention and preceded to loudly and expressively tell the men off in Arabic. I don’t know exactly what they said but the men slunk off like little boys being severely scalded by their mothers. I then spent a pleasant few hours with these wonderful women learning about their lives, families and playing peek-a-boo with their young kids.

    I also like to support small businesses run by women, as the money they make directly supports their families, (especially if they don’t have husbands) .

      Yes, this is another excellent tip! Women all around the world tend to understand the struggle, no matter the culture or language.

    Who is taking all those pictures of you when you are a solo traveler? And how they turn out so well?? Loving your posts!

      It depends! Sometimes I get another person to take them (even when traveling solo, I often meet up with people on my travels). Other times I set up my camera on a tripod or rock and use a timer (or my phone) to snap the photos myself.

    A great post Amanda.

    Well, doing homework is what make things easy. I still remember the time when I went to Barcelona without knowing much about the place.

    I ended up roaming here and there for many times and it killed a lot of time.

    Lesson learnt !! haha

    Thanks Again

      You can definitely make the most of the time you have in a place if you do a little research beforehand and know what you want to see/do!

    Hi, Thanks for sharing this. I normally go away with my other half, but this year he can’t get time off work so I’m travelling solo! I’m super excited, but also a bit apprehensive!

    I think I’m most worried about eating alone in restaurants, as quite a shy person it always makes me feel quite self conscious, which I realise is weird as many people eat alone in restaurants! I normally just find one place I like and make friends with the staff. Or I’ve also found that for some reason I feel less self conscious eating alone in Asian restaurants!

    If anyone’s got any other tips for eating alone in restaurants it’d be great to hear them!

      Eating alone has been a challenge for me on my solo travels, too! I think we tend to think everybody is looking at us and judging us, when really it’s no big deal! I usually bring my Kindle or a book along with me so I can just read while I’m waiting for my food. 🙂

    Great post! I also love doing solo travelling and all of those reasons you wrote are absolutely true!

    I love the feeling when I first traveled alone,it is very adventures and super exciting. I am feel more stronger and I don’t feel scared to be alone anymore.

    Hi,

    Thank You for this post. It true that still there are lots of problems and troubles that a women has to face in her day to day life.But still there is no one can take an action against it.

    Every day we come across lots of cases of violence against women.I don’t understand why a girl has to face such problems. We all say its modern days going, we are advanced, there is no difference between a men and women but this are all just things to say. Our thinking is the same.

    A women is always a women for a men. She can never be equal to home.But its high time women’s have to take a stand for themselves.

    Hello Amanda, Thank your for your post and very good article you have shared something important for solo travelling. until now I am still scary to get solo traveling, I can do solo traveling just in Indonesia around not in foreign country.

      You can absolutely travel solo in your own country – you should do whatever is comfortable for you!

    I solo camp in my small camper all the time now, still can’t get over the crazy looks I get from people when I tell them it’s what I do. I love to boondock in Walmart or Cracker Barrel parking lots, and I actually feel very safe there considering the lighting and knowing there are security cameras. I love the seclusion camping at state parks, but I do realize I sometimes feel vulnerable if I’m too secluded, but I just take extra precautions with my lights and extra pepper spray!. But, you’re right, when “neighbors” at campgrounds realize I’m alone they always look out for me!

      Good for you! It sounds like you’ve definitely figured out a good system. And isn’t it funny how so many people assume you’d be so much more vulnerable on your own, but then you find out that the opposite is almost always actually true!

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