When I first started this blog in 2015, it was with one clear purpose. I had quit my corporate job in payroll to travel and write and wanted to speak exclusively on this and related topics. During that time, I got married, before which, I told my husband to forget a relationship with me if he in any way intended to hinder me from travelling either alone or with my friends.
He promised he wouldn’t. To his credit, while he has broken his fair share of promises, this one he kept. In time, the rest of my family also learned to adjust to my tendency to hop on a plane alone to see new places where I knew not a single soul. People who read my blog were at first amused, but more and more, I get asked why I travel alone.
My question is why shouldn’t I? Men can hop on a plane to any corner of the world — married or unmarried, father or childless — and no one bats an eyelash. But a woman does it, and she spends hours fielding questions about why she went alone. So, if you’re thinking of walking that same path, here’s what you need to know.
Prepare for Intrusive Questions
I think it’s important for people to acknowledge their role in perpetuating double standards, as well as a feeling of entitlement to details about people’s personal lives when they do not volunteer it. When married women travel solo, there must be something wrong in their lives. When single women travel solo, there must be something wrong with the woman. I have experienced both sides of this coin.
That said, the first thing a woman should know about travelling solo is that people will ask questions — a lot of people will ask a lot of questions — and people will judge you. In my experience, these people are typically White and from the Boomer Generation. Considering all I have said in the past about White patriarchy, this is not surprising. African-Americans rarely bat an eyelash. Jamaicans never do.
Ironically, there are several romantic getaways and family trips I have taken where I do not mention a travel partner. You will not find pictures of my family on my blog or social media. In spite of this, I find that privacy is a myth for travelling women — even if you don’t have a popular lifestyle blog. So, prepare for the assault on your private life.
Planning Is a Lot Easier
The invasion of your privacy is the biggest hurdle you will overcome, but once you build up a strong resistance to this, there are perks to enjoy. When I talk to women about travelling, no matter how young or old they are, they tend to have one main concern:
My friends are never free for travel when I am. And then, when they are, they don’t have the money.
My response to this is always, “So, why don’t you go by yourself?”
Sometimes the woman is taken aback and has no response. The idea that I would even suggest such a thing is preposterous. Other times, she stops to think about this for a moment and decides that it’s probably not a bad idea. Some women return an immediate and heartfelt no.
Wherever they fall on the spectrum, I always tell them that if you sit around and wait for your partner and/or friends to be available when you are, you might never go anywhere. If I was that kind of person, I would have cancelled my trip to the Maldives after my friend bailed on me just seven days before departure. And, I certainly would not have volunteered to be the guinea pig to check out rural-suburbian California by myself.
Planning is a lot easier when you don’t need to consider anyone’s schedule, availability and budget but your own. It may cost you a bit more money, but you get to travel the way you want with no compromises.
Consider the Solo Vs Group Economics
Despite the perk of easier planning, travelling solo can also be a little wasteful. In the Maldives, I had a 2-bedroom-1-bathroom suite. Simply put, I could have slept four adults. When I travelled to New Hampshire by myself, my hotel room had two beds as well. This is a fairly common setup.
When you actually get to the hotel room is when you realize that you could have saved a lot of money by just bringing someone along. However, you might end up saving on the entire trip by simply not going at all, if you sit around waiting for other people to be available at the same time you want to go somewhere.
While splitting accommodation costs could save you money, the price on your own is usually doable. I have never spent more than $500 on a hotel room to myself for two weeks. I have spent as little as around $280 for a week. It all boils down to where you go and whether or not you travel during the off season.
You Need to Enjoy Your Own Company
When I talk to women about travelling solo, another concern they often voice is that they might not have fun without their friends. As an only child, this confuses me. There isn’t a living soul whose company I prefer to my own — except, maybe the cat! My family has long come to accept this and know there are times when I should be left to my own devices.
It’s really hard for me to give advice on how to learn to enjoy your own company, but it is imperative that you do. Otherwise, you will spend your entire trip bored and lonely, or put yourself in danger by continuously looking for some stranger to spend time with.
If loving alone time is not your default setting, I recommend starting small with the following solo activities:
- Stay in one Friday night and read a book or work on a solo hobby, such as painting.
- Go for a run or hike along a trail with plenty of foot traffic.
- Watch a movie you’ve been dying to see at the cinema.
- Take yourself out to dinner.
In my opinion, online gaming and binge-watching Netflix doesn’t count. The list I provided are things you may end up doing alone on vacation when you travel. If you plan to stay in your hotel room and watch TV or play video games, you’re better off saving money with a staycation.
Safety: The Concern Vs Issue Mindset
Travelling alone as a woman has greater risks than travelling alone as a man. There is no denying that. If you plan to go adventuring, as I do, then the risk increases. I have gone snorkelling and hiking by myself, both of which can be dangerous, especially in unknown territory. I have walked past signs blatantly telling me, I might die.
People often ask me why I do this if I know the risks. I do make plans for my safety. I will probably write a whole article at some point on some safety tips for solo-travelling women, but this article is not specifically about that. The important thing here is to treat safety as a concern and not an insurmountable issue. Put plans in place, be responsible, and live your life.
The second you start viewing safety as an issue instead of a concern, the fun gets sucked right out of your trip. I would not have gone to a Muslim country by myself. I would have been terrified of the woods in New Hampshire. And, I would not have discovered my favourite hiking spot of all time in California.
I’m sure there are tonnes of other things worth mentioning here, but these are the top concerns I usually come across as a solo traveller that you likely will too. Just know that while there are obstacles you need to overcome, the benefits are well worth it.
I know this firsthand. This year, I gave myself three weeks of paid vacation from Alexis Chateau PR. While not my original plan, I spent those three weeks of vacation travelling alone. Do I regret it? Absolutely not.
Especially as I move into a new decade of my life, it gave me time to think and realign myself and my values. I could reconsider my priorities, and finally, make some well-needed time for myself.
Is solo travel for everyone? It probably isn’t. Even guys are often intimidated by the prospect of travelling alone. However, if you do try it and enjoy it, you may uncover a love that lasts you a lifetime. I sure have.