I was born in a communist country (former USSR) where traveling abroad was allowed only for a certain number of people and prohibited for the majority, and I was one of them. But, life goes on, things change, and after the collapse of the restrictive regime, traveling abroad became available for those who ventured.
In 2013, at the age of 31, I flew on a plane first time in my life. For a month, I was traveling alone as a woman in Spain, and at the end of that solo trip, I came to Mexico. I had a one-way ticket, a suitcase, and a camera backpack. I knew basic Spanish and had money to cover only three months of stay. I didn’t have a precise plan, but I had a strong desire to stay and build a life in Cancun. And I did.
Now I am 39, soon will be my big anniversary, and I am having another pivotal moment in my life. So, I decided it was the right time to share my journey and info about female solo trips based on my experience.
One of the first questions that came to my mind when I decided to write about “Female solo traveling” is when did it all start? Tracing back all my memories, I remembered a distant moment when I was 23 years old and had a summer job in the woman-owned hostel downtown. I worked the day shift, so I was able to meet many solo travelers from Europe and the United States.
One day, a man in his 70s arrived, and while doing a check-in, we had a nice conversation. He shared stories about the countries he visited and, in the end, said: “I had visited more than 40 countries, and I realized that the world is so big, that one lifetime is not enough to see it all. But I keep trying!”
But it wasn’t until my first divorce that I decided that my time to travel had come.
On one winter morning, while exercising in the gym, I “I am 30 years old, and I have never ever traveled on a plane. How did it happen?” I was amazed and culturally shocked. I tried to recall why it never occurred to me to travel, and the only reasonable answer I could have thought of was, “because I never dreamt of traveling alone as a woman.” And you can only have what you can dream about, so I started dreaming about taking a trip alone.
Many activities in life can be called interesting, but only some of them are truly captivating – for captivating requires discovery, something that already exist, yet recently new for you. Female solo traveling fits that description.
Humans developed the capacity to travel more than 70000 years ago when it was a necessity rather than a luxury. Back then, our ancestors were migrating from one place to another in search of a better climate and food. In the 21 century, we travel for work, pleasure, and find ourselves. The word describing the same process had changed, but the meaning stayed the same – a movement between distant locations. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “travel” takes its origin from the French word “travail” and was first used in the 14th century. Solo travel for women became accessible at the end of 19th-beginning of the 20th century. And it has its own history, which was partly described in the book “The women I think about at night: traveling the paths of my heroes” by Mia Kankimäki, which I enjoyed reading. Recent studies have shown that women are more likely to travel solo than men, and the number is growing. Are we more courageous? I’d like to think that way, though I don’t think of courage when I am traveling solo. Instead, I focus on embracing the new environment, looking for peculiarities that reveal the secrets of the culture.
I perceive traveling solo as a deeply nurturing experience, a time to reconnect with my inner core and find inspiration to answer a question: “What’s next to come?”
But, enough of the memoir. Let’s get to the practical side of traveling alone as a woman. And following information is based on my personal experience.
How to plan your first female solo trip?
- Step by step. If you have never traveled before, start by traveling somewhere not far from your hometown. This will allow you to gain confidence before you go big. Before my solo trip to Spain, I traveled to Finland several times. It is the nearest foreign country, and the road there takes around 5-6 hours by car.
- Say NO to postponing! Buy a non-refundable airplane ticket. I bought a ticket to Barcelona 5 months prior. It was cost-effective and served as a motivational-inspiration-lighthouse. It allowed me to plan all the next steps of my solo trip to Spain. Visualizing is good, but the magic happens when you ACT!
- Invest time in choosing a hotel/hostel. I traveled to Spain using hostels as accommodations, which worked out great. Before my big solo trip, I heard about “hostels culture” in Europe, so I was comfortable staying there. Booking.com gives an informative inside look into all the hostels, and the “Map” option is helpful when checking out the location.
- Protect your documents, cards, and cash. That’s a necessary formality, and it’s super important. Having all that guarantees the financial stability of your solo trip. Keep it safe and enjoy exploring new cities.
- Level your expectations. I learned one of the big lessons from all my solo female trips – the less you expect, the better it goes. I always make a list of sightseeing spots I want to visit, but I keep my mind away from visualizing the joy of seeing them because it might feel like I am living it ahead of time, leaving no excitement to the actual moment.
- Keep your accommodation to yourself. Don’t overshare with people. It’s possible to have a pleasant conversation without sharing the exact location of your accommodation. Safety is
- Walk, explore, and talk to people. All along my solo trip in Spain in 2013, I used a printed map (Yes, you guess right! Google maps were not available on my old Samsung phone), and it was fun. I felt like I am a real explorer, looking for a treasure. I can’t say I am super good with maps, but it didn’t stop me from using them. You can learn very fast when you want to get somewhere, and you are short on time. Walking is the best way to find the hidden gems every city offers to a curious traveler. And talking to locals can be very insightful; they definitely know where to look for those gems.
- Have a portable charger. After my recent solo trip to New York, I will add – choose comfortable shoes and keep a phone charger in your bag. I explored the Big Apple for hours every day and took many photos with my iPhone. So, a portable charger would have been very helpful. I will make sure to have it on my next trip.
- Choose your destination with intent. Finland was my first foreign destination because of its convenient location and high-quality food (especially salmon!). In contrast to Spain, which was deeply associated with romance, butterflies, and dreams (Wink-wink, You know what I mean! ), I will talk about it in one of my following articles. Whatever country you choose to visit, having a purpose other than just sightseeing will enhance the meaning of the trip.
- Write in a diary or journal. A new place, environment, culture, views, and scents – a perfect combination of elements to spark new thoughts and ideas. I usually have a diary to put down in words when it happens. I find it very romantic – writing with a nice pen in a well-crafted journal. Call me old-fashioned, but it adds so much joy to a trip to welcome new thoughts and eternalize them on paper.
- Be ready to turn off your phone and open your eyes. Please, get me right, I am all for taking photos with the phone, but sometimes putting it in a Silent mode and concentrating on embracing the real moment opens up peculiar details you might otherwise miss.
- Keep it small. Share your upcoming solo trip plans with people you trust and who will encourage you. When I was planning my trip to Spain, only a few friends knew about it. I left behind my plans, people who liked to express sarcasm and other negative thoughts about others, who were actively engaged in life, unlike them. Planning a solo trip as a woman requires visual and verbal inspiration. So, select your circle of travel-trustworthy people wisely!
Solo trips for women are an ageless experience! You can do it any moment of your life! So trust yourself and your ability to travel anywhere around the world, plan, enjoy, and if you desire to share your solo trip’s emotions, I would love to hear from you in the comments!