When I was 15, I went to New York for 2 weeks to join a Summer course studying English. It was my first trip away from my family and I wasn’t worried about anything. I thought I was brave, but my mum said I was unconscious. In hindsight, I think my mum was right.
Now at 32 as a female solo traveller, I would consider myself fearless, however, I’m not as naive as when I was 15. I plan everything very carefully and opt for the safest options before and during my trips.
In my Solo Traveller journey, there are quite a few topics I’ve explored regarding fears or obstacles of travelling alone. Still, for this blog post, I wanted to refer to these statistics so that it incorporates a wider Female Solo Traveller community rather than only my point of view.
In this blog post, I will talk about the top 8 obstacles for Female Solo Travellers and I’ll try to give some advice on how to overcome them based on my personal experience.
#1 Personal Safety
This is definitely the hottest topic out of all of them. Before travelling I always do a lot of research on the countries I would like to visit and look at the neighbourhood where I would like to book my accommodation. Being prepared and choosing safe countries is very important. However, you can’t always be prepared for what could happen – this is the same as in your own country. These are some helpful tips I always follow when travelling alone:
- Make a spreadsheet with my itinerary and update the hotel details for each night. I then share the link with my family and closest friends so they can always get in touch with my hotel in case of emergencies.
- Always take taxis at night
- Never look lost even when I am. If I need time to understand where I am by checking a map or Google Maps, I make sure I do this indoors or in a cafe. Looking lost could attract unwanted attention from not-so-genuine people but there are always kind people around who just want to help
- Book experiences with Airbnb Experience or local alternatives and join other groups
#2 Higher Costs
The Solo Travel Industry has literally boomed after COVID-19, which means that hotels, cruises and experience providers will need to adjust and remove the “single traveller fee”. Yes, travelling alone is more expensive than in groups but this will change soon (read more here). On top of that, if you are well organised, you can save a lot on flights and accommodations. I detailed every step in this blog post but some of my tips involve getting a credit card with travel rewards (such as American Express), flying in low season and subscribing to flight alerts which will notify you when the price goes down.
#3 Getting Lost
This is a tricky one for me because I always get lost, even in my own neighbourhood in London. However, when I travel, I’m normally concerned about not having data so I can’t access Google Maps when I’m lost.
Luckily last year I found a good solution. I found out I can actually download maps to use offline. Not only that but Google Maps works offline too – it’s very limited so you won’t be able to search or read most of the road names but you can check if you’re going in the right direction. So when I have WiFi, I take a screenshot of my destination zoomed-in and out so I can work out where is it roughly even offline. I actually screenshot not only my destination but also cafes/restaurants on the way which are Lactose-free or Soy-free so I can stop there if needed knowing I won’t have allergic reactions!
You can stop and ask anyone for help especially when you’re lost. I like being as independent as possible especially when no one speaks my language.
#4 Share Moments
I used to think that witnessing something beautiful wasn’t worth it if I couldn’t share it. I remember looking at the most amazing sunsets and thinking about how lonely I was. Because I was on my own. Now, I see this as a gift that nature is giving me and it’s beautiful. I try to watch it every day from the park outside my flat or even out the window from the tube on my way home.
There were moments in which I was really scared and lost. This is also the reason why I travel alone because if I don’t go outside my comfort zone I will never find these feelings. By being lost I found the most beautiful places, by being scared I met the nicest people.
#5 Plan On Your Own
I don’t personally see this as an obstacle but the biggest piece of freedom out of the concept of travelling alone. You can do whatever you want and budget on your terms, no one else.
Follow my steps on how to plan your solo holiday and how to book your first trip. Maybe having an extra pair of eyes would have made the research shorter. But this phase is also part of the solo travel experience. Ask yourself what matters the most right now. What are you looking for? No one can answer this for you.
A few months ago I went to see Fran Lebowitz at the Barbican Centre in London. Someone asked her if she ever feels lonely and she replied “I never get lonely or bored unless I’m with people”.
I understand that the fear of feeling lonely might be a limitation, especially if you currently live with others or you’re an extrovert. Check out my blog post about how to enjoy a solo holiday if that’s the case. But in reality – you are with the best company, yourself.
#7 Language Barrier
I’m personally fluent in 2 languages and studied 3 additional languages at school and University, so I always try to find ways to communicate when travelling. Having said that, my 5 languages won’t help me as they won’t cover all the countries. So the language barrier still affects me. Communicating with others is critical to me considering I can get severe allergies to food.
Luckily, nothing has happened so far (touch wood) and this is how I got by so far:
- Duolingo is a language learning app I always download and try to learn a few basic phrases/words before going (free app)
- I would save images of ingredients I’m highly allergic to so I can show it at restaurants
- Google Translate could do miracles when things get sticky
#8 Obligations At Home
I don’t have children or anyone to look after at the moment but I do have a cat (Malibu). I know she is not a child, but I feel awful leaving her home even if I know someone will look after her. As a result of Malibu, I can’t rent out my flat to anyone so my travels are even more expensive than they should be.
Apart from my cat, having children and/or partners might be an obstacle. But sometimes having a break from your everyday life could make you a better parent or partner.
Feel free to reach out to me on my social media or email. Please let me know if you agree with this list or have experienced something different. I hope this post was helpful for you and enabled you to book your next trip.
Ciao for now!