In September 2012, I found myself shaking in my shoes, carry-on backpack strapped to me, one-way ticket in hand, ready to board a plane that would take me to Bangkok. It was exhilarating and terrifying at the same time, and in the months and years that have followed, those butterflies are still there when I board a plane to a new place where I don’t know anyone and have no idea what could happen.
Almost 10 years on, I continue to find empowerment in solo travel – I’ve traveled to over 60 countries, mostly on my own, and have no plans on ever stopping.
Commit to Your Decision to Travel Alone
Why are you taking a solo trip? For me, the decision was made after recognizing an overall dissatisfaction with life, despite a high-flying job, a beach-front apartment and a stable relationship. I had fears of failure and loneliness, but was determined to give it a shot.
I had to find a way to commit to my decision, and for me it was writing a blog post to let everybody, including my family, friends, acquaintances, and old co-workers, know that I quit my job and sold my stuff and packed up to leave. It was vulnerable and real, and a couple weeks later, I was on the plane.
That was 10 years ago, when solo female travel was nowhere near as common as now; today, over 85% of solo travelers are women. My blog, which is dedicated to solo female travel, receives 5 million visits annually. Take it from us – it’s one of the most empowering decisions you can make for yourself. It will be scary, and at some point, lonely, but that’s also precisely the zone where greatness happens, and everyone deserves to feel that way.
Pick Your Travel Destination
You know that fire that ignites in your chest and the rush of butterflies you get when inspiration hits to travel somewhere new? Your imagination runs wild with all kinds of possibilities but honestly, how do you narrow the whole world down to one place?
My biggest tip for choosing your solo destination is to be honest and realistic. There’s a lot to think about: price, vibe, activities, weather, safety, and so on, but here are a few lists to help you out:
- 20 unexpectedly awesome destinations for solo female travelers
- 10 best countries to travel alone for the first time
- 15 of the best places to travel with a broken heart
- 15 best places to travel alone in the USA
- The world’s cheapest destinations to travel to
How to Prepare for a Solo Trip
Now that you have decided where to go, it’s time to get to work. You may follow this fool-proof, step-by-step guide to plan a solo trip that I’ve used to plan over 100 trips around the world.
Planning a long-term solo trip? Here are my best tips that helped me prepare for a 6-month long solo trip around Southeast Asia:
- How to sell a household of furniture on Craigslist in one week
- How to handle healthcare and immunizations before your trip
I also highly recommend getting my solo travel guide book, Conquering Mountains, which has helped thousands of women realize their solo travel dreams!
What to Pack for Your Solo Trip?
If there’s one incredibly valuable thing I’ve done during 75% of my nomadic existence since 2012, it’s packing carry on only. Honestly, I’ve done it for years! It is one of the best decisions I made to never have to pay extra baggage fees, worry that the airline lost my bag, and wait for them to put it on the carousel. It also gave me freedom to hoof it when I had to, take cheaper motorbike taxis, and easily keep track of everything.
My biggest secrets for this were packing cubes (these have lasted almost 9 years of constant use) to compress my week and a half’s worth of clothes, and just buying cheap new stuff when I got tired of what I had and giving away the old. Sometimes I traded with fellow travelers as well or won the laundry lottery when the hostel accidentally gave back the wrong clothes. On that note, don’t bring anything you can’t live without or that can’t get dirty on your adventure.
Here are a few more of my favorite packing lists for different climates and trips:
- Southeast Asia
- European Summer
- European Fall
- European Winter
- My favorite natural toiletries
- The best electronics bag
Meeting Others as a Solo Female Traveler
My biggest fear of traveling solo wasn’t whether I’d be safe (although that certainly mattered too!), it was actually that I’d be lonely. I had no idea how many, if any, other girls were out there traveling alone and how easy it would be to meet people. It was actually SO MUCH easier than I thought, and it made me a more social and confident person as a result.
I learned a lot about how to connect with people, and this is how I approach the social aspect of solo female travel now:
- Join a group activity as a solo female traveler. When arriving in a new city, my favorite thing to do is to join one of those free walking tour (your hostel will likely have recommendations) to get a first-hand experience of the area and meet other travelers.
- Stay in places that are have high ratings for being social online, like hostels and backpackers accommodation. They usually have private rooms too if you’re not interested in dorms.
- Connect with other solo female travelers on social apps and Facebook groups prior to your trip.
Even as an introvert, I find it easy to meet others as a solo traveler. Somehow, being alone in a foreign country seems to give me courage to approach others! That being said, there are days I spend completely by myself, which brings me to the next point:
How to Enjoy Being Alone
Don’t worry too much about the times when you are alone, because it will happen and that’s okay. It’s a gift to get you all to yourself. We are influenced by those who know us, usually without even realizing it – the sum of the 5 people we’re around the most. As social creatures it’s what we do!
But what about if you’re on your own? Then there’s nobody around to affect how you act, feel, and judge things. It’s all on you to define what you enjoy and what you want to do. That’s some powerful stuff, and every woman should get the chance to come up with her own identity, right?
Tips for Safety
Being safe is a big consideration, and it’s probably also one of the biggest, if not the biggest concerns of your loved ones regarding your solo journey. Staying safe when you travel alone is not rocket science, though, and you can take certain precautions to have a more relaxed and enjoyable experience. Focus on a few key factors:
- Make up your own mind without anyone coercing you when it comes to anything you are doing or might not want to do.
- If/when it feels wrong, stop and leave. You’re allowed to change your mind.
- Listen to your intuition.
- Know your surroundings – Read up on customs, the appropriate dress code, and dangers before you go
- Do what you do at home to stay safe – Don’t get intoxicated on a night out alone, don’t walk dark city streets alone at night, don’t be flashy.
Want more tips? I asked 31 other solo female travelers how they stay safe on the road and this is what they said.
Embrace the Chance to Grow
I was really surprised to find that traveling on my own would be so beneficial to not just “finding myself,” but really, getting to know myself. I realized I’m brave, I can be quick on my feet, and that I wanted to be a writer and to follow that dream.
Traveling alone has so many benefits:
- It makes you confident in yourself and your abilities. If you can travel the world alone, what can’t you do?
- You tend to get better at problem solving because when there’s no sense in sulking and you can’t pass the buck, you become really good at making decisions.
- Your become more outgoing because travelers are friendly people and they’re easy to talk to.
- You grow so much, learning about yourself and the world (here are a few favorite spiritual reads of mine to help that along.)
Traveling solo triggered all kinds of growth for me, what could it do for you?
How to Take Your Own Photos as a Solo Female Traveler
During my first year of solo travel, I was too self-conscious to take selfies and did not have the courage to ask for help from others. Then I went home and realized I had almost nothing to look back on, and decided to change that. After years of practice, I now take 99% of my own travel photos, make money out of travel photography and even launched a travel photography masterclass! Traveling solo doesn’t mean that you have to come back with a bunch of photos that don’t have you in them, or are super crappy because someone else took them who didn’t put in the effort. Here’s a detailed blog post on how to take beautiful travel photos of yourself.
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I hope this solo female travel guide has helped you to get started on your journey, though I know there are still a lot of details that you might be wondering about things like your resume, how to handle working on the road or a sabbatical, what exactly to say to your concerned friends and parents, and how to handle things like mail forwarding and immunizations.
I’ve covered it all in Conquering Mountains, How to Solo Travel the World Fearlessly, plus case studies and advice from dozens of other solo female travelers. It’s basically this guide on steroids. If you found the info helpful here, imagine 80 more pages of specific advice designed to get you from idea to action.
Happy travels, ladies, the world’s our oyster.