Solo Female Travel

First time solo female travel: how the hell am I supposed to do this?

Reader Question: Hey Trisha. I have a question… I am 17 years old and have never been out of my large (but confining) state of Alaska. I am planning my first solo female travel to Spain for next fall (a month before my 19th birthday) and so far everyone is against me traveling alone. Do you have any tips on solo female travel that’ll help them feel as confident as I am in my abilities?
– Bubby, USA

“I want to go to Europe!”

“Nope. Too many bombings and terrorist attacks happening there.”

“How about South America?”

“Zika virus.”

“Fine. The Holy Land?”

“It’s pretty cool but you know, they have this ongoing war with Palestine.”

“What’s pretty cool is India! They have a very rich culture and I can learn a lot. Maybe I’ll go there.”

“You know they treat women differently there? You can get raped!”

“Okay. USA! It’s a first world country! It’s safe.”

“Gun shooting and…. Trump.”

This is the usual conversation you will get when you are talking to friends and family which is normal. I had tons of these and I believe me, I’ve had countless or stressful arguments with my mother just because she has a premium subscription to CNN.

“You will only understand me when you become a mother someday” is the famous line and though this is very true (right, correct, 100% precise, factual), the solo female traveler in me was unleashing like Bruce Banner struggling like crazy when he transforms to the Hulk. It’s that severe. The thing is, solo female travel is not for everyone but when it comes to you, in my opinion — grab it. It’s a gift. Having this urge doesn’t happen to every female life form so consider it as a skill. Thinking about traveling solo is already a big leap so don’t ignore it.

But how the hell am I supposed to do this?

In this age of terrorism, war and every violent crime there is in the history of mankind, one of the greatest challenges of living in this world is to be a woman. A traveling woman. The idea of living and surviving in this world as a solo female traveler still amuses me but what lead me to discovering I am made for this is by simply doing it at first. I wouldn’t imagine my life right now if I didn’t say yes to everything. If I didn’t jump into opportunities before me. If I didn’t YOLO. The YOLO part is what I would usually say (IT JUST EXPLAINS ALL!) but I want to try to be more serious in this post for our friends who are new to the solo female travel league.

First Time Solo Female Travel Guide

Before you leave, consider this...

Of course, you have to choose where to go and when to do it but believe me, this is the easy part. The guide books can take care about that but what if you never traveled anywhere yourself and you feel like a noob with zero knowledge with anything? Your head screams I don’t know anything!!! Then you’ll get panic attacks and in the end, you’ll just decide that first-time solo female travel is not for you. Don’t worry. You can practice and train for the big league while you are still at home. These are very simply and are often not given importance in our daily lives but try it:

 

Eat out alone

Seriously, what are people’s problems when eating alone? It might be sad. It’s a torture. People are looking at you in a restaurant like an idiot but ignore them. Go to a restaurant (preferably mid-class). Sit down, order a drink, decide what you want to order. When you are eating out with friends, you will usually start dinner with “what are you going to have?” If you’re eating by yourself in a restaurant, there will be no one to consult if you’re going to have a margherita or a Whisky on the rocks – it’s all you. We don’t notice it much but the food that we order in the restaurant is more often affected by what everyone in the group are going to have. Your brain transmits that you want this food but in reality, you only want it because your BFF from grade school tells you it’s good.

This can be compared to the daily decisions that you will make if you ever travel alone. A small “turn right” is already labeled as making a decision so at this very moment, while you are still back home, please try to be alone and decide for yourself.

You can also go to the movie house alone. Again, it will appear sad but I’ve done it a lot.

Travel in your own backyard

This is usually the easiest practice and will help you a lot in getting used to being alone. I would highly suggest for you to try the public transport as it requires more technical planning and it also enables you to interact with people aka asking for directions. Go somewhere that you’ve never been before (now that I thought of it, this line really sucks). Choose a place that is about 2-5 hours bus ride away from home but make sure there is a phone signal. Don’t be all Reese Witherspoon wild right away. Let’s do the basics.

If you’ve surpassed all these, you are now ready to go on your ultimate first time solo female travel. I should warn you though, nobody’s ever ready for anything. There is no meter in our brain or body that says “Go. You are ready.” I might sound repetitive, but seriously, it all depends on you.

I should warn you though, nobody’s ever ready for anything. There is no meter in our brain or body that says “Go. You are ready.” I might sound repetitive, but seriously, it all depends on you.

First Time Solo Female Travel Guide

Trusting your instinct is a very lame line but it’s very precise

When I am caught in two different situations, I always choose the difficult one and it really sucks. “Two, Trisha! You have two freaking choices and you always choose the hard one! Why?! Why! Why!”

What I found out to be true is that difficult is not always the wrong choice. If I strongly feel that I should spend a night in this sketchy $5 hostel, I go for it. When we are faced with situations that doesn’t look comfortable, we always think it’s not the right choice. Don’t get me wrong – please, by all means, you have all the right to feel comfortable. Let me put it in an easier saying: for example, you are about to go to a restaurant in Bolivia where you have to pass by an alley. Not dark but maybe a bit of green stinky dumpsters hanging around. What is the difference of this when you are in Paris with the exact same environment?

Our mind often plays tricks on us. If a hotel is more expensive than the other, then it’s better. If there’s a free Wifi sign outside the window, then this place serves better food than the other. You know, all these stuff that forces us to look at things based on aesthetics and notions because that’s how we were raised.

But trusting your instinct is still the best policy. It always gets me through. If it feel right, then it will fit. If it doesn’t feel right, run to the other direction but always look where you are running to.

First Time Solo Female Travel Guide

Keeping your family and friends informed

Up until now, even if you think I am the pro traveler here, I still have those first time solo female travel practices that I never outgrew. My sister knows all the flights I took and all the hotels I stayed in for the last 5 years because I always tell her. You don’t have to overdo it by telling someone your every move but at least say the important details. I’ve always been paranoid about things: what if this plane fecking crashes and I didn’t tell anyone I was in it? What if I invited some peeps I just met in my hotel room and in the end, they murdered me and no one knew?

These are very bad stuff to think about – please forgive my savage imagination but sometimes, this world is just forcing me to think about these things although they are not likely to happen.

Get in touch with your country’s consulate or embassy

In the event that you don’t have a BFF to tell your plans and whereabouts to, you can always come to the friends of your nation and the world – the consulate of your country in a country you are traveling to.

When I traveled Northern Africa and Western Sahara, there were so many red alerts on travel warnings but I ain’t going to rot in my hotel room if I know it’s okay to go. I always send an email to the Philippine Consulate of any country I am in and I wasn’t really sure if I was making sense.

Below is the letter I always send to the consulate whenever I am in doubt regarding safety in my travels as a solo female traveler.

To whom it may concern:

My name is Trisha, a Filipino citizen and I am currently traveling Morocco. In the days to come, I might head to Western Sahara, Senegal, Algeria and Libya but I have read a lot of travel warnings in these countries. Therefore, I would like to inform you that I will be here (on this date).

In case of emergency (or in the event that my family are not able to locate me), please tell them I got in touch with you and relayed you this information to. Thank you so much!

Trisha
(Passport #)
(Local Mobile #)

P.S. But please exert your effort in finding me, just in case.

Their e-mail addresses are not usually updated in their websites and I often get mail delivery failure so you better watch out for this. Make sure your e-mail gets in.

First Time Solo Female Travel

Solo female travel packing list

Seriously, it sucks that women are not always free to wear whatever we want. This is so much of a man’s world and it sucks. Being blamed, abused and taken advantaged of with what we wear is one for the most stupid human act but still, we have to play by the rules in this department most especially if you are in countries that have a very deep rooted culture.

Western countries are usually okay with whatever you wear but please, take the the dress code seriously. When I traveled to Iran, I wrote to the Embassy to ask about appropriate clothing and they said I am required to wear what the Iranian women wear. I then had to improvise because you can never ignore these kinds of warnings especially if you really want to travel and be part of a culture. Girls, this is really important so pay attention!

First Time Solo Female Travel

More solo female travel tips

The best tip I can give is to learn the local language. I love languages and can communicate in 7 different languages!

Next to “can I have a beer please,” the word “help” is also one of the things that I always learn when I am in a new country. Even if you think that the country you are in speaks English perfectly, in tough situations, their instinct only responds to their local language. To make it more clear, if you are, let’s say in South America for example and someone grabbed your purse: if you shout help, there is a big 5-8 second gap from the response you will get as opposed to the half-second response when you say “Ayudame!!!” I hope that makes sense now, ladies because I am really at the moment – but of course, we all want to help Bubby.

When you want to learn a local language, don’t just focus on the hi, hello, bye, etc – think of the words that have a big impact to you in your native language and learn it.

When I feel strange, these are the things that I always do:
  • When a man looks at me disgustingly, I walk like a boy and put a cigarette on my mouth because it allegedly takes power from them. I noticed that the tougher you look, the more that people run away from you.
  • Pretend that you are on the phone. Okay, a lot of times, I was shaking like crazy and couldn’t get a word out of my mouth but I am a big talker and can definitely pretend I am talking to someone. Say things like “I’m on my way there now,” “I’m walking now at blah blah.” In your conversations, always put strong words like “now,” “going there,” etc. Make it appear that you are going to meet someone and that fake person on the phone knows where you are at this very moment.
  • Don’t always tell the truth. Not to the nice people you met but of course, to those people, you don’t feel connected to but are forced to sit down and have drinks with because that is the current situation you are in. Remember, you don’t always have to divulge all the information about your life when they are asking you a question, especially if you are not comfortable. You don’t have to say you’re alone, you don’t have to say where you are staying – you are totally in control of what information to share.

However, if you are comfortable with the people you are with, of course, you don’t have to lie. Remember that first-time solo female travel will earn you friends – maybe even friends for life. That’s what happened to me and up to now, the idea of meeting people who will be your friends forever while traveling still amazes me.

I would say these are all applicable to every first-time solo female traveler but overall, we are different humans with unique lives. Our auras and vibes are different. Some of us are troublemakers, accident-prone (really clumsy like me), or street smart but none of us have the same exact lives so I guess it’s all about confidence and taking control. You have the wheel. Go in the direction of your gut and may it be a very beautiful journey.

If you are confident in your abilities, you will always go far and wide. You will be unstoppable.

Trisha is one of those people who left their comfortable life to travel the world and learn about life. Her style is to stay in one place she likes for 3 months (or more) to know what it feels like to eat, cook, speak, and sleep in another culture that isn’t hers. She'd like to believe she's not traditionally traveling but she just chooses to be somewhere else all the time. In no particular order, her favorite cities in the world are Barcelona, Buenos Aires, Hong Kong, Mexico City, and Tel Aviv.

Comments

  • March 15, 2017

    I loved this, it was truly inspiring and thank you so much!
    Solo travel is definitely on my radar and on my bucket list – I literally can’t wait to experience it!

    reply
  • March 18, 2017

    Indeed a great article. Amazing tips which will surely help lots of tourist coming to India. Thanks for sharing it.

    reply
  • Malaya Gaile
    March 19, 2017

    Thank you for this article Trisha! My first solo travel was 2 years ago in Singapore and it was a very life changing moment for me. I felt more matured in that 5 days travel than my 20 plus years of existence in this world. Hahaha. Before that, I haven’t tried travelling alone in the Philippines because I was working in Saudi that time so every time I was on vacation I always spent it with friends and family. That Singapore travel was the only chance I had. Now, I’m back here in the Philippines and I want travel alone but it seems that I can’t do it. I’ve been planning so many times already but I just can’t materialised it. I have so many fears and what’s if. It’s kinda weird that I find it more difficult to travel here alone than abroad. That’s why this article is very timely for me, it reminded me again of why I love travelling alone and why you will always be my peg in life. Thank you so much again Trisha for inspiring women like me. I hope I can meet you someday kahit 40’s na tayo or whatever age. 😀 Enjoy there and keep on rocking!

    reply
  • March 20, 2017

    This is one hell of a guide girl! I can just forward this to females who have been asking me how to travel alone, I mean this pretty much it; the things they need to prepare on down to the dress code! I honestly never thought about solo traveling as something that only a few could do. Sure I was a bit nervous the first time I did it, but I never really thought that I was doing something amazing, I just wanted to try it and it turns out that I could do it. I haven’t heard people telling me to do otherwise (well maybe because I didn’t really go for longer periods and the countries I went to are considered “safe.” I do understand the letter sender’s case though, she’s young so people are worried. But like you said, she just need to prepare herself and she can definitely do it.

    reply
  • March 24, 2017

    I loved this! I always make it a point to travel solo once a year (more, if I can take the time off) because there’s something liberating about it. I get to manage my own time and not care about other people, I get to eat what I want (the downside is, I can only eat small portions and not try everything because I don’t have anyone to share food with me), I meet new friends, and I can take care of myself in peace. Sure, I’ve been harassed by drunk men (I bought a storm whistle after that), got trapped and scammed in a taxi, cried in a train station because I did not exchange enough money in the currency.. but I came out of it wiser, and more confident about myself. The first trip is always the hardest one!! <3

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  • May 6, 2017

    Trisha, you are having so much fun! Traveling solo is a worth-while experience!

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  • August 28, 2017

    Really geat article and I love your email template, made me giggle. I have become comfortable traveling solo but have avoided places that would actually require some discomfort or effort on my part. These tips help!

    reply

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