It just seems the world isn’t quite built for the solo female traveler. First off, there’s just not a lot of us to begin with. I mean, real solo female travelers. (Sorry ladies, traveling alone but in a group as in a guided tour somewhere really isn’t solo in my book). For me, solo female traveling means you are alone pretty much the whole time, from start to finish, point A to point B. Now while none of us are ever really alone being that there are billions of people in the world, the point is, is that you didn’t come with a companion(s), don’t plan on finding any along the way (at least not long term), and likely won’t be traveling back home or to your next destination with one in tow.
Here’s what I’ve found that most induces the blues, frustration and downright depression of being a solo female traveler.
- There’s never really a convenient time or place to get your period. It puts a damper on things when you have to find a bathroom every 4-8 hours or so. And if you don’t have enough supplies with you, that can be a daunting task trying to find appropriate menstrual products in a foreign country, especially in developing/non- Western ones. Always pack tampons and pads, and rags as well, since there may be a time when you don’t have access to menstrual products and you don’t want an emergency! (It sounds gross, but sometimes the convenience store isn’t so convenient, being that it is closed, 19 blocks away, doesn’t sell your brand, or in cases like some developing countries, certain menstrual products are difficult to find and sometimes outright unavailable!
- You’re semi-isolated. Unless you have tons of friends and family in every country you are going to, the only frame of reference, the only safety net, the only resources you have is yourself. This can seem overwhelming on many levels. Nights in a hostel or hotel room by yourself when everyone else is asleep, walking in crowds where there are numerous groups, families and couples, in big airports and train stations, are times I feel particularly alone and isolated. Sometimes I even feel invisible, like does anyone notice me? What do they think of me by myself? Which leads me to the next one….
- It’s an odd sight. Despite what many may tell you, traveling the world solo as a female is not a common venture. It is most definitely a niche in a sense. Now on Facebook and in many book stores you will come across many solo female travelers. But even so, these resources only exist because of women like ourselves who are still pioneering solo female travel. It wasn’t long ago that airplanes didn’t exist-think about it. The Wright brothers invented it in what, 1918? And while there are the few amazing women like Alexandra David Neel who were truly ahead of their time, it is still developing and changing and growing.People may regard you with a variety of reactions. Oh, you’re by yourself? Why? That must be scary! to- wow that’s amazing, you’re going all that way by yourself! to- that doesn’t seem safe. Are you crazy? And a mixture of all of these. Some more seasoned, cultured Europeans won’t find this odd, but most others will. People found it intensely scary that I went to Egypt and India by myself.
But I still did it.
It can feel redundant, like why do any of this since it has all been done before? But it hasn’t in a sense. You aren’t everyone else, you aren’t going to discover things the same way another person would or have the same experiences, and you will likely discover and experience things that they didn’t. Travel is large in part about experience, which is always new, even if the territory is not considered so. Seeing a place through your own eyes, unique background, skill set and even your own problems and wide eyed naivety is what makes traveling special.
Going to India by myself for the first time sort of spoiled the rest of the world for me. India is such a fascinating, vast, amalgamation of colors and scents and tastes and peoples that there really is no other place to compare it to. I remember being slightly depressed and disappointed traveling Europe as while each country had its unique flavor, they were all very similar in their westernization. (Most European countries have McDonalds, Burger King and Starbucks!!) Westernization isn’t bad, but for me if you never go to a non-Western nation you never really travel!! You don’t see how the rest of the world lives really. You don’t know what it is like to use something that isn’t a toilet to go to the bathroom in. You don’t know what it is like to eat meals with your hands. You don’t know what it is like to not be close to resources or not be able to get access to Western amenities. The one thing I missed in India, upfront, was pizza. Not such a problem in Italy!
So, how do you beat the blues as a solo female traveler? Well since you may very well not have access to a hot shower, be able to blast music in your car while cruising, or talk to a patient, familiar ear (let alone a therapist), here are some of the perspectives and tips you might want to keep in mind that I found help me:
- Know that you are not the first, nor the only person to feel the way you are feeling. This is normal, and it will pass.
- You are pretty amazing~
- Try various general coping techniques: journal, listen to your ipod (always bring it along!), take a walk in a scenic area, meditate, go onto Facebook and waste some time and contact your friends family (given you have wifi/internet access and an international phone plan). Also, museums and good food can make a difference!
- Approach, chat with, and even befriend other travelers and locals for the time being! While this may contradict a bit what I said earlier, I have met other Western travelers when I was solo abroad and ended up traveling to some destinations with them and even getting hotels with them. While this was great, (and who knows, maybe in future travels I may meet up with someone(s) and we end up traveling long term together), it can in a sense defeat the purpose of solo travel. It is also usually difficult to find travelers who are going your exact route, on your exact time frame who are compatible with you in the long-term, so meeting up and traveling with others is usually a short-term endeavor at best, like it was for me. I ended up going my own way and doing my own thing after short jaunts with others. Befriending locals is in my opinion the best way to experience the culture. Who knows, you may be invited to an event (wedding, celebration) or given a place to stay (as was the case with me) and will end up with perhaps life-long friends, a place you can always stay if you return, and even a family you consider second to your own ( as was also the case with me).
- Know that without great risk, and great adventure, life is nothing at all.
- God is on your side and he loves you and is looking out for you. You know the saying – fools and children!