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. After having friends back out of promised trips I realized in my late 20’s that if I ever wanted to see anything I’d just have to suck it up and go by myself. Number one on my list was the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. I couldn’t afford a hotel for a week so I used my air miles to get a tent, rented a car and drove from Edmonton, Alberta. I hadn’t camped since the 5th grade but I had taken a wilderness survival course in college so I figured I’d be fine. It was the first time I ever crossed the border and I dipped my foot into the Pacific Ocean for the first time on that trip too. It was 1999. Cell phones weren’t commonly owned so my mom told me to phone home collect every day from a payphone. It was an incredible trip. I hiked to Punchbowl Falls, went to Mt. St. Helens and even camped right next to the ocean for a couple of nights. The next year I took a 3 week solo camping trip to both rims of the Grand Canyon plus Mesa Verde with numerous side trips along the way. My mom told me I didn’t have to check in every day, every other day would be fine and it didn’t have to be with her as long as someone in our circle had heard from me. I still called her daily more often than not. The only part of solo traveling that I didn’t like was not being able to gush about what I had seen and done that day. These days with social media it’s not really an issue for me. For the most part I still travel alone.
    I prefer it. I do what I want when I want and how I want. Nothing frustrates me more than women (and some men) who refuse to try traveling solo. The more you get out and experience the world the more you realize that the world is not that scary as long as you do your research ahead of time.

      Good for you, Grace! And I think what you’ve learned is the conclusion many of us come to after traveling alone a few times!

    Hi Amanda,
    I’ve just come across your wonderful blog this morning and you and I seem like the same person, I’m just a few years behind! Cheers for your article on solo travelling – I’m heading to Europe in a couple of days for my first solo trip. I was so chuffed when I booked it (Busabout Flexitrip!) but in the lead up, lots of people have said how ‘brave’ I am for going alone as they share their pickpocket horror stories. Your reassurance was exactly what I needed to hear, so thanks a bunch.

      I mean, it does take some theoretical balls to decide to travel solo – but that’s only because so many other people think it’s scary and un-doable. In reality, I LOVE solo travel – and Busabout is SO FUN. You are going to have a great time!

    I am an ‘older’ traveler and the hardest part of solo travel, for me, is eating at a restaurant alone at night. There is something about sitting down at a table alone that I find intimidating. I suppose if I did it regularly, I would get used to it.

      That’s one thing that I don’t love about traveling solo, either! But it definitely does get easier the more you do it. I also usually take my Kindle with me if I’m going to a sit-down dinner alone, and that always helps make me feel more comfortable!

    A small question to Amanda: where did you make that picture (with your red t-shirt and the text: “5 reasons why I’m not afraid….”), please?

      That photo was taken in New Zealand, at the end of the Hooker Valley Track at Mount Cook.

    Campgrounds, that’s okay. But I think a campervan is way too big for me. A big car would be nice. Thanks for your information. (I ‘ll google ‘Jucy’)

    Can someone copy/paste Mary’s comment about…, please. The link in my mails doesn’t link tot the comment.

    So, ladies/collegue-adventurers, I would like to give you some information about a nice solotrip I’ve made a month ago. (Am I allowed? 😉
    When you come to Central Europe, make sure you visit the south of Poland (maybe in summer it’s a little bit crowded): the National Park (Tatra) nearby Zakopane is worth the trip. No cars, no dogs allowed. Great! Hiking trails are very well indicated (when you’re a solo traveller, this is highly recommended for your safety) Zakopane itself is a very nice town, with special architecture (wood, wood, wood…;-) and good restaurants. (for some dollars you have a main menu and drinks). Krakau is another very very nice town in Poland, with a lot of culture and history (world war II, architecture, an excellent atmosphere, beautiful horse drawn carriages,big jewish heritage…. ) and then… last but not least… every adult in the world should visit this: the concentration camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau. Or.. seeing where hate can lead people… I’ll never forget.
    Why I post this in this topic? Because it was a beautiful trip (14 days), because Poland may be a little bit unknown to forreigners, and…. because I never felt unsafe there, a lot of people were very friendly, and (enough 🙂 people (in their 30’s or 40’s) speak some English and were helpfull.

    Now I re-read my comment of august 2015, the one I posted some months before Charlie Hebdo in Paris, before later the Paris killings and… Brussels bombing on march 22th, 2016. “My capital”…:-/
    How I feel? Sad, because I know victims of this last attack.
    And I realised for a long time already and more now, that your own town, country, region you know best, is NOT safer than (travelling) to forreign countries.

    I would like to make a roadtrip to the Grand Canyon too, but I don’t find Mary’s comment anymore. ( I just could read a small part of her problems she had during that trip, (by mail) I would like to read more) Can someone copy paste it for me?
    Can someone give me some advice about renting a car (I can sleep in) to do this roadtrip? And what about Indian summer? What’s the best time to visit the way I want to do it?

      That’s definitely correct – bad things can (and do) happen everywhere, even right in our home towns.

      As for road tripping in the US, you could look into renting a campervan (I know Jucy has just started up rentals from Las Vegas), but be aware that you can’t “freedom camp” in most parts of the US – you’ll still have to pay to stay in campgrounds.

    Hi Amanda, I see you have traveled to Thailand. I am going to be traveling to Thailand for the first time February 2017. I am going the first 3 weeks by myself and my husband will join me the last 2 weeks. I have been contemplating on if I should do a 2 week guided tour or do it on my own. Do you have any suggestions for doing it solo? Are there groups of people you can meet prior to your trip that might be there the same time? Looking for any suggestions and recommendations.

    Thanks!
    Sue

      Hey Susan! As far as Southeast Asia goes, Thailand is probably the easiest to tackle on your own because the tourism infrastructure is pretty good. However, if you’re apprehensive about it, booking a tour (even if it’s just for your first week) would be a great way to ease yourself into Thailand. Intrepid Travel is one of my favorite small group tour companies.

    My dad taught me some street smarts when I was a little girl, and I don’t travel anywhere without my pepper spray on me anyway. I’m not very afraid of traveling alone. But I generally travel with friends, because I get quite lonely and I can be kind of shy.

      There’s nothing wrong with traveling with friends, either! Everyone has a travel style that’s right for them. 🙂

    […] though I wrote a post not long ago about Why I’m Not Afraid to Travel Alone, the questions still come pouring in. In fact, I got one on my Facebook page recently, asking why […]

    Very True… Now I also want to travel alone 🙂

      Go for it! It can be really fun!

    Amanda,

    I admire your blog, your interesting tips&tricks… I’m a solo female traveller too.
    Just 1 question. On your trips, are you sometimes camping in the wild, free, like we in Europe are allowed to do in Scandinavia and Iceland (tent, camper, small van). Or are you always sleeping in a hotel or a place where many other people are staying overnight (Backpackers etc).
    I ‘v only met 1 (yes, 1 !!!) other female solo traveller on THESE kind of roadtrips. The others are always “scared” and search a (official) camping place every night. I don’t like to have to look for camping places, often crowded,noisy and … often expensive (Norway : 32 euro for 1 night. Crazy) an because searching costs me a lot of planning and time I can spend on other interesting things ( with daylight 24/24 over there !!!)
    This, for me, is NOT freedom while traveling.
    Are there other women on this website traveling like me? You Amanda?
    Ow yes, and about safety: I know a lot of my collegues and friends think I ‘m reckless. I don’t care.My answer: ” I ‘m a lot more afraid when I have to drive or park in Brussels than sleeping all alone in my bus in a 300 km² forest in Norway. “:-)
    I’v never slept better than these 7 weeks in my bus into the wild! With very dangerous companions such as seagulls (in the fjords), reindeers, squirrels, sheep, horses, goats, and a single track of a wolf in the mud… 😉
    Of course I wouldn’t do this, let’s say “around Naples, Italy” :-b (btw it’s not allowed in Southern Europe.)

    I continue reading your blog, Amanda. Just can’t stop! It’s great!!!!!

      Good for you! To be honest, I’m not a camper. Like, at all. I’ve been to a couple countries where freedom camping is allowed (like New Zealand), but it’s not really something that appeals to me! I would probably do it if it was my only option (like it probably will be when I go to Africa next year), but it’s not my first choice.

      However, I think it’s awesome that that’s how you travel!

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