Every day more and more people are venturing out to explore the world. The days where women were restricted from being able to travel alone is long gone but being a solo female traveller is still a bit of a different experience. If that weren't the case then the term ‘solo female traveller' wouldn't be so widely used. While it may be a different experience it is definitely not as scary as most people make it out be. I started travelling alone when I was 16 years old. Granted it was just a 2-hour flight to visit my mother in Hong Kong. But being able to fly and explore on my own at an early age taught me a lot about being independent. It taught me to be more confident in my own abilities. The most important thing I've learned is to be strategic, always aware of my surroundings, and know how to make the most out of my solo trips!
1 – Check in with Someone Back Home
I think this is a habit you should practice when travelling alone, especially when you're young. Some people may think it's overly cautious but I would rather be safe than sorry. I'm not the type of person to update others 24/7 during my travels. I think it's much better to live in the moment. That being said, I make it a point to send someone back home important updates. The two most important updates are: letting them know that you've arrived at your destination safely and when you might be out of coverage. Most international airports have free wifi so when I'm waiting at immigration or for my luggage I'll let them know that I landed safely. The next important update is when there's a chance that I may be out of coverage for a few days. Last year when I visited an Aunt in France, I unexpectedly lost my internet connection for a week. She lived in the countryside and didn't see the internet disconnection as alarming. Eventually, my mom found a way to contact her. She had been worried that I was unreachable for so long. So whenever I'm about to go on a long train ride or maybe a sailing trip, I let my parents know. I know it may seem a little annoying to send people updates but I promise it only takes a few minutes to send a quick text. It will save you a lot of long worried phone calls from your parents. Knowing that someone back home knows where you are will make it a lot easier for you to relax and be leisurely.
2 – Do Your Research & Have a Contingency Plan
A lot of things can happen when you're in a foreign country so it's important to be ready for any situation. The best way to avoid trouble is to do your research and prepare. A key part of having a contingency plan is making sure you have extra cash specifically for emergencies. Make it a point not to max out any of your credit cards and always activate your ATM cards for international withdrawals. Last year, I got myself into a sticky situation when I did not keep these things in mind. On the final leg of my Europe trip, I was supposed to take the bus from Madrid to Barcelona to catch my flight home. I ended up missing the bus from Madrid. I didn't have enough cash on me and all my credit cards were declined. Because of that, I couldn't purchase a bus ticket to catch my flight. There weren't any trains that could get me there on time either. To make matters worse, it was the middle of the night back home in the Philippines. When I was finally able to reach my Mom it was 2 am their time. Because of these small mistakes that could've been avoided, I had to forfeit my flight home and purchase a new ticket. Had I done my research and taken an earlier bus this whole situation could've been avoided.
3 – Memorize Your Address
As a traveller, I tend to rely heavily on my phone. Both for contacting people and for navigating my way around. Here in Manila I am used to just booking an Uber or Grab since it isn't a walking city. But when I go to Europe or other Asian countries I either walk or use their public transportation. I try to always learn my way back to my accommodations without using my phone. Anything can happen, your battery could die or you may not always have access to wifi. If you're staying in an Airbnb or a hostel that isn't too known take note of landmarks or the street name. A lot of hotels have cards with their address on them in their native language. It's nice to pick up one of these in case you need to cab home or ask for directions.
4 – Make Friends
Traveling solo is a great time to learn how to be independent. It's also a great time to meet new people. While you may like doing things on your own sometimes it's nice to have someone else with you. I went to Munich by myself for a concert last year. Luckily, a lot of people had also flown in for the concert. When I arrived it was cold and raining. I had absolutely no idea how to get to the concert venue which was a little far off. I started up a conversation with some girls in my hostel room who were about my age. After chatting for a bit we found out that we were all going to the same concert. They invited me to go with them, which was great since they were german and would have an easier time finding their way there. Some people might think that traveling solo is really lonely. I've found the opposite to be true. In every place, I've ever travelled to people have always been willing to lend a helping hand. Whether it's loaning me an umbrella or walking me to my destination, there's always a new friend waiting to help out.
5 – Be Confident
There are certain cities that can be a little unnerving for a solo female traveller. On my first night in Paris, I wanted to see the Moulin Rouge so I walked there. I hadn't researched beforehand so I didn't know that it was in the red light district. There were men outside almost every establishment making unpleasant comments. I didn't let it phase me too much because it wasn't dark yet and we were in a public space. Recently, I talked to another lady about her travels to Turkey. She said she experienced the same thing but a lot of the times the men are just trying to get a reaction out of you. The best way to deal with it is to stand your ground. People can smell fear. As long as you are aware of your surroundings, be confident and show them that you can't be messed with.
I didn't write this article to scare any girls who are thinking about embarking on a solo adventure. In fact, I wanted to show you that there are tons of mishaps you could get yourself into but with a little bit of planning and confidence, these things can easily be avoided. At the end of the day, you have to enjoy your travels and live life to the fullest. It's unfortunate that we live in a world that is sometimes a little less safe for women but I assure you that no place is as scary as they seem. Go forth and explore the world as you please!