The Secret Life and Realities of Solo Female Travel
Hooray, you finally decided to embrace the life and realities of solo female travel. But seriously, what is it really like? What should you expect when you’re expecting… to travel alone? I mean, do you have to gird your loins as hordes of men dive bomb you in an effort to get in your panties or, “Seal the deal” (pretend that I said that in a super creepy voice). Should you invest in a steal clad chastity belt to ensure that your feminine virtues remain intact while you’re checking out some wicked awesome solo female travel destinations?
Okay, while it can feel like that sometimes, going to various solo female travel destinations is really not that bad because if it was, I would never do it. I mean, no one wants to carry a fog horn and can of mace at the ready, just in case you need to ward off the creepiest of creepers (One of those things that are sadly universal. Why can’t chivalry or personal hygiene be universal?). But all kidding aside, solo travel is super fun and something that I believe every traveler should do.
However, when embarking on solo female travel Europe style, or any other style really, there are some things that you need to know because solo travel is a totally different experience from traveling with an entourage (Service minion, I chipped a nail. Just kidding, I don’t roll like that). I mean, when the proverbial shit hits the fan, or your shirt when a pigeon makes its presence known, its kind of nice to have a wingman or wing-woman by your side to keep things in perspective. But when you’re alone, there’s no one to rely on and that can make you feel a little isolated. No not Cast Away isolated, so you won’t need to make your own Wilson out of a stray volleyball, but you should know what to expect from things like eating alone (This is still awkward for me. I pretend I’m super important and play on my phone the whole time but a lot of times I’m not even connected to Wifi so I basically stare down my bread basket and with my eyes, accusingly ask it, “Why do carbs have to taste so damn good?” ).
So that’s why you need this post to help you mentally prepare for the journey you are about to embark on, because guess what? It’s gonna be a little weird but honestly, the best and most memorable journeys in life often are. So read this post (pretty please) and rock out on some of the best holidays for solo female travelers.
1. Traveling Alone as a Woman = Unwanted Male Attention
This is honestly probably the biggest pain in the ass about traveling alone because no matter where you got or what you do, if you have a pulse and look like a woman, guys are gonna hit on you (Even being a woman is negotiable. I had an ex who got drunk and accidentally hit on a transvestite. Oops). And honestly, sometimes you don’t even need a pulse for guys to be disgusting and make lewd comments like, “Those pants are very becoming on you. Of course, if I were on you, I’d be coming too.” And yes, someone really said that to me because I have been sexually harassed by men about as many times as Ashton Kutcher has Punked a celebrity. So yeah, a lot (and I always hoped that I was being punked and that it was all a joke but nope).
And while this type of behavior is totally unacceptable, us women folk have learned to deal with this nonsense on a daily basis. But this type of thing can be pretty terrifying when you are in a foreign country and are not quite sure if your vacation spot is one of the safe destinations for solo female travelers.
I mean no, a random man leering at me, smacking his lips, and undressing me with his eyes doesn’t bother me at all. I actually perceive it as the most wondrous and enticing mating call ever. Seriously, can we please mate, like right this minute? No time like the present, am I right? Plus, it’ll be like the ultimate travel souvenir (all said with intense sarcasm). Of course, it doesn’t bother me that you’re following me down the street when I don’t know anyone, have no idea where the police are and doubt anyone would find me if you decided to chop me up into little pieces. I actually enjoy feeling like a fresh piece of meat that is waiting to be devoured.
Yeah, no one likes that aspect of traveling alone, and yes, it happens even in the safest countries for solo female travelers. But don’t panic. Most men are not out to get you and are just regular, everyday citizens that I dunno, maybe just want to get laid and think that’ll work for them? Yeah, I am not really sure why men do what they do. If I knew this then I probably wouldn’t be single but that’s another story. What I am basically trying to say, before I let me feminine bitterness creep too much into this blog post, is that most men are not waiting in the wings, ready to plunder you and all that you hold dear. Most guys are just regular people, and that’s why those random cat calls tend to be just a whole lot of talk and no game, thank God. Just remain vigilant and aware of your surroundings because you don’t have a second pair of eyes to watch out for any creepers du jour in your vicinity.
Now let’s say your current, not so gentlemanly suitor is persistent like the two men who followed me back to my hotel in Paris. I was on vacation and just didn’t want to deal with this kind of idiocy. That and it was hella scary. I felt like I was gonna be on an episode of Law and Order SVU or something. But I kept telling myself that it wasn’t happening and that everything was in my mind. But in my gut, I knew what was going on.
That’s why I high tailed it out of there and practically sprinted, pseudo-Olympic style, to the nearest public place since generally speaking, most people won’t try anything if you have about 10,000 witnesses swarming around you (like in the animal world, safety in numbers people).
Now if this man is just a total psycho and continues to harass you, make it clear that you are NOT alone and that you are meeting a boyfriend (I make it a point to always tell strangers that I am meeting someone so that they know people are waiting for me).
Now let’s say that this guy is super dumb or super psycho and will still not leave you alone. In this case, get in a cab and IMMEDIATELY head to either the police or your local embassy. Your primary concern here is to get away from him and get to a safe place as quickly as possible. Also report the incident if you can because if it happens to you, chances are, it’s gonna happen to someone else. That being said, I have never had a situation escalate that much but I would have to get a little New York on their ass because no way are things going down like that, not on my watch.
2. The trip will be more expensive (womp womp womp)
This is probably my least favorite reality of traveling alone as a woman because let’s face it, it sucks to pay more money. I mean, it’s not like we’re swimming around in pools of it. But when you live in a world that caters to traveling couples, chances are you’re gonna have to pay a little extra since most rooms are designed with a two person occupancy in mind. This means that if you’re not rolling with a women’s travel group and you book a room flying solo, then the price is gonna be more expensive. The only time this really isn’t true is if you book a bed in a hostel dorm room. In this case, the bed is designed with a single person in mind (But I never do this because communal living gives me the creeps. All I think about is foot fungus. Ick. Besides, I have had way too many hostel nightmares to ever consider booking a bed in a dorm).
The same is true for taxi’s, which generally charge a set fee, no matter how many people are in the car. Therefore, if you travel alone, it will be more expensive because you have no one to split the taxi fare with. To save money, I force myself to socialize with other travelers and organize a group that can share transportation to and from a common location, like an airport or a train station. This way, you get to meet new people and save money at the same time.
But I hate meeting new people since it takes so much effort on my part. So in reality, my fear of strangers usually wins out and I just suck it up and take the hit on my wallet. Yeah, I loathe talking to people I don’t really know that much. It just feels so fake to me. “Hi, my name is Kelly. I live in New York and would really like to pay less for transportation so I’m gonna talk to you in the hopes that you will be nice enough to share a cab with me and make things cheaper. After an awkward cab ride together where we sort of chat, we will pretend that we will somehow see each other again and say something generic like see you around. But we both know that is a lie and will never happen. But I’m just gonna screw my smile and hope for the best.” Sorry, but the thought of this type of forced conversation sends shivers up and down my spine. Geez, I feel like I need women’s travel group therapy session. Either that or I am turning into a crotchety member of the older women solo crew. Where’s Betty White when you need her?
Even when you go to some of the best places to travel alone, people will look at you funny, kind of like you’re an alien with six heads because you’re (gasp, shock, horror) traveling alone. I know crazy right? Why would I ever want to be alone and not have a man or another human by my side? LoL. Its sounds funny but legit, the first question I always get asked is, “Oh, who are you here with?” And usually, my answer 9 times out of 10 is sweetly, “Myself.” No joke you should see the looks I get. It’s like someone trying to do math but the equation says 2 + 2 = fish. They are baffled or think you are a total lunatic who has absolutely no friends. Stop it stranger, I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life.
Kidding, I am so used to the looks and raised eyebrows and really don’t give a hoot what other people think because they’re not paying for my vacation. My vacation, my choice. Boom, drop the mic. Besides, my mother always told me that I was quirky and had character. I know, that’s mom’s speak for secretly I’m a total weirdo but its cool. I have learned to love it. So embrace the awkward glances because you are doing something that most people would never dream of doing. So rock on with your bad self and own it.
4. You’ll be a Target for Scammers
When you find places to travel alone as a woman, this one is super annoying. Its like somehow, all the scammers out there get a nationwide memo that yes you are traveling alone and that yes, you will be on the metro at 3 pm and available to have your pocket picked. See ya there (When I am alone and in a foreign country, I sometimes feel like I am just waiting for something bad to happen. Like someone will plant drugs in my bag and then I’ll end up in prison. And not in the cute Bridget Jones’ Diary kind of way. In the rat-infested, cockroach laden, getting sold for a pack of Lucky’s kind of way. Yeah, I watch way too much tv)
But that’s the reality of life as a woman alone, who is traveling. Or anyone traveling alone really because you just don’t have anyone watching your back, both literally and figuratively. People just see you as an easy target or as bait. I feel like that little worm just dangling on a hook and then boom, a soul-crushing great white shark chomps down and your life is in ruins. Kind of like when I got my wallet stolen in the subway in Barcelona.
In fairness though, I did a lot of dumb stuff. I put my wallet in my backpack (travel fail), I wore a neon green shirt and an ultra pink backpack that drew attention to me and for all the wrong reasons (travel fail again), and shocker, someone their saw me and took my wallet. Honestly, I should have listened to my gut when it told me that the guy behind me was no bueno. But of course, I just told myself that I was being overly dramatic and emotional because of my estrogen riddled body.
Well, I was a total MORON and should’ve listened to my gut and told this guy off. So don’t be like me and always listen to your gut. Yeah, it’s hard to do because we always think of that one time when we totally overreacted but as your mother always annoyingly said, in a super nasally voice, “Better safe than sorry.” So yeah. Maybe mom had a point and If something makes you uncomfortable or feels wrong then just get out of there. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks because you don’t know anyone and will never see them again. Plus what do you have to lose? Nothing. So be a little more cautious and ensure that your trip is a little less eventful, in a good way. Not in the I’m bored to tears and kind of want to gouge my eyes out with a spoon kind of way.
5. You Will Have to Take your Things Everywhere
Who knew that traveling alone really meant that you had to be part sherpa, mixed with a pinch of Harry Houdini because how else are you gonna miraculously fit all of your luggage into the bathroom stall with you? And you know that as soon as you get into the stall, your new purse will slip out of your hands and fall onto the floor, in a toxic pool of bathroom water sludge, sprinkled with a little E-coli for added flavor.
I know, its the worst when you are at the airport and you turn to the person next to you, to ask them to watch your stuff, and then you realize that yeah, you don’t know them. Heck, they could even be the very thief that you are trying to protect your stuff from. So instead, you now have to cart around all your junk, I mean stuff, after a long flight that leaves you totally jet-lagged and feeling like you may just want to have your tubes tied because there was a screaming baby right in front of you on the plane.
That’s the moment when you’re like, “Oh right, maybe I should have read that packing light post and should not have insisted on bringing my two curling irons, three hair straighteners, and laptop with me. I knew my bag felt a little heavy.” That’s why you need to prepare yourself for this situation and try and pack as efficiently as possible (says the girl who packs boxes of protein bars in her carry on. But whatever, it helps me save money. I’m a chic minimalist in training. Now where’s my hummer? Kidding).
My lone traveler holidays arch nemesis, dining alone. So awkward, even when you find the best places to go traveling alone. Like where do you even look? I mean, should I play with my phone the whole time or should I stare down my bread, willing it to chat with me and relieve me from my social awkwardness? It is just so bizarre. And then because I have nothing to do, I end up eating everything on the table and feeling like a beached whale. Can you say Free Willy party of one? Geez.
I have learned to sit at the bar, which makes the awkwardness a little better but I hate when the bartender either ignores you or is all up in your grill because you’re a solo female. Sometimes I wanna be like, “Dude, just because I have two X chromosomes and am alone does not mean I wanna sleep with you. Dial it back a notch.”
That’s why a lot of times I just avoid the whole situation and get food to go so that I can eat in my room with the only true love I have ever known. Yup, you guessed it, Netflix. Actually, lately I have been cheating on Netflix with Amazon but shh, don’t tell. It’ll be our little blogosphere secret. Because I mean everything on the internet is a secret right? Except for this article. You should not keep this article a secret because sharing is caring.
Random aside, I also hate the pity dinner invitation, and if you travel solo you know what I’m talking about. It’s when a couple feels bad that you’re all alone and out of some weird sense of guilt, they invite you to dine with them. Sometimes it’s just because they actually like you and that’s fine. But it’s the worst when they give you the dinner invite because they feel sad for you. I wanna be like, “Being alone is a choice, my friend. I swear I really do have friends and no, that are not all imaginary.” Kidding, I never had an imaginary friend.
7. You Get Lonely
Picture this. You are strolling down the quaint streets of a small town and suddenly you turn and see the most amazing sunset in the world. For a moment, you are in complete and total awe of the beauty and power of mother nature. But wait, you remember that your Instagram feed is in dire need of a little sprucing up. And what better way to do this than with a photo of you romantically looking out at the sunset, while contemplating the meaning of your life, or where you’re gonna eat next. On second thought yeah, probably the eating thing.
You turn to ask your friend/significant other to take your photo but wait. No one is there. It’s just you, with only your tripod to comfort you in your time of need. Okay, so maybe it won’t happen quite like this but eventually, you’ll get lonely. And that’s okay because it’s totally natural and guess what? You’re human and you’re not gonna love every minute of traveling the world alone.
It also sucks when you’re doing single person travel and you see a couple holding hands or kissing and think, “Well geez, traveling
alone as a woman really blows!” Or how about when you get off the plane and everyone else has someone to greet them and you just have a whole lot of nothing. Kind of like the end scene of Love Actually only you really don’t have anyone to hug.
Just go with the feeling since it’s pretty normal and gets easier with time. But just don’t let it take you over or encourage the loneliness to stick around. I mean, locking yourself in a room while listening to Alanis Morrissette and watching Lifetime movies where the lead man always cunningly and callously ruins the woman’s life and destroys her soul is probably not the best idea.
Instead, if you’re feeling really lonely, try and meet people through tour groups or by chatting people up in public places. I swear, it works! Most people are pretty friendly and really excited to be on vacation. That’s why they’re super friendly and all too eager to talk to you and tell you their story. I have honestly met some of the greatest people this way, like my friend Danielle. I met her on a train platform in Stockholm and she let me share a room with her at the Ice Hotel in Lapland. Talk about amazing!
Go forth and Kick Some Solo Travel Ass
After reading this whole impromptu soliloquy, you’re probably thinking, “Kelly, why do you do this to yourself time and again? I mean traveling alone seems awful, scary, and a real drag. I feel like I need to invest in a rape whistle. Geez.” But I swear, its really fun because if it wasn’t, then I wouldn’t do it. I’m not some weird glutton for punishment who gets a kick out of making myself suffer. Traveling alone just takes a bit of work and is as much fun as you make it. So get out there, try new things, and meet new people. Remember, you may not be in this place ever again. So, make the most of the time you have and put yourself out there. Make mistakes, take chances, and make momma proud (“Aww, my little baby is all grown up and saving China.” Mulan anyone?). Okay, well maybe not a momma but kick ass and take names.
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