Why Traveling as a Female Rocks (and Why it Sucks)

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Today, March 8, is International Women's Day. It is, quite literally, a day to celebrate being a women. I've already received a few Facebook messages congratulating me. As if I had something to do with determining my sex.

Even though I have some mixed feelings on a day celebrating women (I mean, shouldn't we be singing ourselves praises and celebrating our awesomeness EVERY day?), I cannot deny the fact that being a female impacts my life — especially as a traveler.

If the recent #WeGoSolo movement is any indication, female travel is definitely popular and definitely a hot topic right now. Women are traveling solo, with significant others, and in groups all across the world.

Balmy Alley, San Francisco

So, in honor of the “holiday” today, I thought I would look at some of the reasons why traveling as a female rocks — and also why it kind of sucks sometimes (and yes, some of these ARE tongue-in-cheek, so please don't take me TOO seriously…)

Gender Stereotypes

Yes, they exist, and will likely continue to exist no matter how large of strides women make. Women are supposed to take on certain roles, have certain types of personalities, and be capable (or incapable) of certain things. I'm not saying I agree with these stereotypes, of course, but there's no denying that they are there.

Pro: The positive to these stereotypes? Well, as a solo female traveler, you are much more likely to find a nice person (male OR female) willing to help stow a bag on the train, give you directions, or simply sit and chat for a while. Traveling as a women (and especially solo) often means that people are looking out for you, no matter where you are in the world, and that is encouraging.

Con: The downside, of course, is the reason behind people looking out for you — the fact that women are very often viewed as being weak and incapable and in NEED of looking after. These gender stereotypes can also lead to some uncomfortable situations on the road, such as in cultures where women traveling solo is frowned upon, or in cultures where women are supposed to be wives and not much more. In some extreme cases, women can also be the target of unwanted attention, advances, and even violence simply because of our gender. The fact that women have to be more vigilant than men while traveling kind of sucks.

NZ

Body Image/Beauty

This applies to men somewhat, too, but especially to women. Mostly in Western cultures, there is a very clear image of what women should “ideally” look like.

Pro: In countries other than America, body image isn't such an issue. Yes, women are still concerned with diets and their figures, but they are much more comfortable with showing off what they've got (I mean, have you BEEN to a spa in Europe, ladies??). While traveling, therefore, I've found it much easier to embrace the body I have instead of obsessing over the one that I'd like to have. As far as body image goes, travel has given me more confidence — I don't feel pressured to fix my hair or wear tons of makeup or dress up when I'm on the road, which has led to me becoming much more comfortable in my own skin.

Con: Once you start caring less about your appearance and loving your body, you may decide you want to show it off more. This is definitely frowned upon in certain cultures, however, and it can be tricky sometimes to balance your confidence with what is culturally acceptable. Plus, heading back home to where things like wearing makeup, pants, and real shoes are expected could end up being a bit of a culture shock!

Belize

Re-Invention of Self

In America especially, there is a clearly defined path that we are supposed to follow (and supposed to WANT to follow) as women. We're supposed to go to school, get married, and then pop out babies.

Pro: When you travel and have your eyes opened to the world, you may realize that the clearly defined path from back home is bullshit. You CAN break away from the pack, and traveling can help you re-invent yourself. Especially if you're moving around frequently and meeting new people all the time, traveling offers up the perfect opportunity to let your guard down and let your true personality shine through. There's nothing stopping you from being the type of woman that YOU want to be on the road, instead of the one that society says you should be.

Con: Is there really a downside to discovering yourself? Well, perhaps. If you change a lot on your travels, there's always the danger that people won't recognize you when you come home. You may have to use your new personality to make new friends when your travels are over, because you very well might have outgrown your old ones.

Skydeck, Chicago

Sex

Yup, I'm going to talk about it, because it's a part of life and it's often also a part of traveling. (I mean, come on ladies, we all have a fantasy that includes a tryst with a dark and mysterious foreign man, right?)

Pro: I feel like when you're traveling, the people you meet judge you less. You all share a similar outlook on life and sense of adventure — and that adventure often spills over into the bedroom. Go ahead, be a little adventurous when you're traveling (while still being safe, of course!). Kiss that stranger in a bar. Dance with that cute guy whose name you can't pronounce. Perhaps even have that fling with that dark and mysterious foreign man.

Con: We women unfortunately get a raw deal when it comes to sex and traveling. It IS slightly more dangerous for women to sleep around on the road. Along with the possibility of contracting STDs and other nasty things, there's always the big P word. You do NOT want to come home with a baby bump as a souvenir… We women also have to worry about things like birth control and menstrual cycles and other annoying details that can often detract from the overall experience. Which SUCKS.

And of course there's also the possibility of actually falling for that boy at the bar or that mysterious foreign man, which can make goodbyes incredibly painful (because, let's face it, we females ARE usually the ones more at risk for this happening…).

Chicago

Confidence-building

At the end of the day, I think most of the above things listed lead to one thing: confidence. Which is always sexy on a women if you ask me.

Pro: Travel (and especially solo travel) is great for building confidence in yourself and your ability to survive on your own. You'll become more confident, more self-sufficient, and basically just more badass. You'll challenge yourself, overcome fears, and become a better you. It's one of the BEST things about traveling, in my opinion.

Con: Not gonna lie, though… thanks to those gender stereotypes I mentioned before, it IS sometimes more difficult to find a significant other when you're a confident, empowered women who has seen the world. Which is lame. A lot of men definitely get intimidated by women they see as being more successful than they are, and I speak from experience when I say that being worldly and confident CAN make it tougher to find a mate. (Though, in reality, would awesome women like us really WANT to be with guys who are intimidated by the fact that we've traveled the world and rocked it? Probably not.)

Keystone, Colorado

Yes, there are pros AND cons to traveling as a female. But it wouldn't be as exciting or challenging otherwise. And, in my opinion, the pros far outweigh the cons.

So happy International Women's Day, ladies. Keep traveling the world and being awesome.

Can you think of any other reasons why traveling as a female rocks (or sucks)?

Pros and Cons of Solo Female Travel

And, here are some great products for every female traveler:

"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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68 Comments on “Why Traveling as a Female Rocks (and Why it Sucks)

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  1. Thank you very much for this article!!! I’m been seriously considering to travel by myself but I’m so afraid since I don’t even go to the movies alone, but I’m really encourage by this and similar articles about it. So once again thank you for this final push that I need it to take the first step.

    Oh this is so true! I even have experienced this while just living in Iowa. I love your honesty on this subject and it made me laugh a few times too! I can appreciate the mentality of how traveling solo and help you find yourself. Keep going Amanda!

      I try to keep it real, Chris!

    I just found this as I was going for my solo adventure! As I sit alone in Santorini about to head to Barcelona, I have definitely been thinking about traveling alone recently! I think that one of the other issues that you could bring up is the unwanted attention (it can be a pro and a con). While I am traveling alone, I do have a fiancé who just isn’t with me right now. I get kind of annoyed sometimes that I have to specify either I am engaged or I just want to be friends when I am talking to new people (specifically guys). I am sure this applies in general life but especially when traveling alone. It is nice sometimes because you get extra attention, but frustrating that you can’t just be nice and friendly as a solo female without “wanting more”. This is kind of the flip side of your sex section! I really appreciated your article and wanted to throw in my two sense!

      That’s definitely a good point, too, Suzanne!

    The big negative for me is that you always have to be thinking about safety, at least in the back of your mind in a way that guys never have to. Am I too drunk to make it back to the hotel safely? Is my door locked? Etc.

      Yes, this is true – but it’s true even when we women *aren’t* traveling, too. We always have to approach life a little more cautiously.

    Came across this (and your other travel blogs!) while searching for new ideas for my next big solo adventure! Love love love everything about everything you’ve put out there regarding traveling solo as a female. All so true and so close to home for me as I prepare for my next big trip! I think you’ve officially swayed me to head to Iceland & possibly Scotland too! Cheers 🙂

      Awesome to hear, Stacy! And both Iceland and Scotland are fantastic solo travel destinations!

    Greetings from Brazil

    I came across your website a few hours ago and I just can stop reading. It has many of the things I have always dreamt about…. Traveling and photograph. Fantastic. I absolutely love photography and it’s been a pleasure to read your adventures.

    Best wishes
    Bruno

      Aww thanks! Glad you found my site! 🙂

    Awesome article! I know I’m over a year late to the party on this one… but it’s always great to see people talking about this topic. I think it’s important to acknowledge that there are differences in the experience of male and female travellers just because of gender stereotypes that exist in every society, and that means sometimes we might have to be more careful, or more understanding, or even get to experience something more that others wouldn’t!
    Have you ever had a particular experience that stands out where you thought wow, this is definitely a solo-female-traveller experience that others just wouldn’t get? I’ve found that travelling by myself, people – especially guys who are maybe actually hitting on me (let’s face it) – are often more likely to take me to interesting places and show me interesting things that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. One particular amazing moment was going up onto a temple in Bagan, Myanmar in the middle of the night, because the local guy I was hanging out with had the key. Pretty sure he wouldn’t have taken me if I was a guy, or with a group – it was pretty special.

      A few times I’ve definitely had the sense that people are more willing to help me out or “look after” me when I’m traveling solo. Little things sometimes – like someone helping me get my backpack up into a luggage rack, or a man in Athens walking with me off the metro to point me in the direction of my hotel. There are definitely positives right along with the negatives.

        Yeah you’re right, those are really nice things. And they’re the sort of things that can really make your day – for example, I bet without that guy in Athens, you’d have been lost for at least a little while. A lovely girl in St Petersburg helped me in the same way, though I was with my sister rather than alone at the time. Actually, she took it a step further, and walked the whole way there with us – completely went out of her way! It was really lovely. 🙂 It’s funny how seeing foreigners travelling around can sometimes bring out the “mothering” or “fathering” instincts in a person – they really do try to look after you.

    Loved the article – some very interesting points. You’ve proven to me that I’m still 15 years old though – I definitely did not think “the big P word” referred to pregnancy there hahaha!

      Haha! Glad you liked the post, Sabina!

    Karina, maybe all that French wine and cheese? =)
    There’s definitely something sexy about a woman with confidence. Met my now-wife while traveling, actually – it was funny that an American and a Canadian had to end up in South Korea to find each other…

      I wouldn’t give up the confidence I’ve gained while traveling for anything!

    Love this post! Lots of awesome points! As someone who recently returned from the Middle East on business (UAE, Qatar, Oman), I really thought a lot about women, our place in society and the cultural differences as it pertains to women around the world. It makes me angry that I even have to think of safety etc, but at the same time, traveling makes me feel empowered, and educated. Instead of listening to what the media tells me about a place, I have experienced it myself, and gotten to know it my own way. I like what you said about body image too. I live in Paris part of the time and in the US the rest. I don’t care much how I look in Paris, I mean, I try to look stylish, but I find when I’m in the US I’m more obsessed with my body and how I look. It’s refreshing to live in another culture where body image doesn’t seem to be as big a deal. I did gain 20 pounds (how did that happen?!) since being in France, so I guess I wasn’t paying enough attention to my body image! But at the same time it was refreshing.

    Thanks for the awesome post!

      Thanks so much, Karina! Glad that this post struck a chord with you.

      (And yeah, what is up with gaining weight in Europe?? I put on nearly 10 pounds traveling there this past summer/autumn…)

        I eat too much bread. I live across from an amazing bakery, so I was tempted one too many times. Even when I overcame my addiction, I was still heavy and couldnt lose it, despite the fact I never take the escalator and climb all the metro stairs AND run nearly every day for an hour. Ugh! So frustrating!

    […] Travelling solo means that I usually have plenty of time to reflect – and plenty of time to perfect my listening skills. But listening doesn’t always apply to other people. I have learned to “listen” to the places I visit, too – because there often is more to a destination than initially meets the eye. This has led to me falling in love with some pretty unexpected places. […]

    Travelling as a female, I think, brings more advantages 🙂 For one,using our charisma when in places of strict traffic rules, as smile at the police officer usually works, hehehe 🙂 Another could be, as a female, I have experienced being prioritized in queues at train or bus stations 🙂 So far, I have never had any “sucking” experience as a woman traveler 😉 Lucky me, I guess.

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