The How-To Guide on Solo Travel for Women

Solo travelling has soared over the last few years. A study undertaken by Phocuswork found that 7 out of 10 travellers in the US in 2016 were solo travellers. The rise in the number of solo travellers is due to a number of factors, the most important being that travelling alone can be incredibly rewarding and allows you to be much more flexible than if you were with another person or group. The other reason is that, despite the label, solo travel does not necessarily mean you’ll be alone. In fact, you have the freedom to decide how alone you want to be. Of course you’ll start off on your own, which can be daunting if it’s your first time, but within the first 24 hours you’ve probably already made a friend.

However even with all the advice in the world, the best way of travelling is figuring out what works best for you and what makes you feel safe, which always takes a bit of time. I, for instance, soon realised that hopping from city to city every other day was not the right way for me to travel. But I met plenty of people who found that ideal. Figuring out your own way of travelling is part of the “travelling experience”. Nevertheless, there are still a few measures you can that make things easier while you’re figuring it out.

1. Hostels

It probably doesn’t even need saying, but hostels are the traveller hubs. Most people, (or specifically those travelling alone) are usually open to meeting new people and spending the day with a stranger. In my experience, the cheaper hostels were the most sociable. The Hostelworld app is a great way to find the one with the best value for money. Depending on the city, most hostels have spare beds the day before which gives you ample time and flexibility. If you’re not comfortable sharing mixed dorms, almost every hostel has women-only rooms – however it’s best to be a bit more organised when booking those because they tend to be the first to go.

  • 2. Take a ‘free’ walking tour
  • I use the word ‘free’ delicately, because a tip at the end is almost assumed. You might prefer to go wandering off by yourself (which is definitely worth doing anyway) but if you find yourself in a historical landmark, a walking tour is the perfect combination of meeting new people and learning about the history of the land.

    If you’re looking for a good tour company, ask the hostel or hotel you’re staying at who tend to partner up with some of the smaller more independent touring companies that tailor to specific destinations. It’s always a good idea to check out reviews before you choose – it can also give you an idea of the type of people who go on the tours – whether young travellers or families.

  • 3. Airbnb Experiences
  • Everyone is talking about Experience. Artificial Intelligence started it, Marketing and Sales have picked up on it, and now Airbnb are taking the idea to expand their business. Whether it’s trendy or not, these are great ways of branching out and trying something random. It provides everything from classes, to local activities, to pub-crawls, and offers a unique way of linking up with fellow travellers. If you’re worried about that feeling of inauthenticity from regular tours, Airbnb Experiences provide smaller gems of experiences and can sometimes take you off the beaten track if you look carefully. When it was first introduced, it instantly became a popular feature and is now used all over the world.

  • 4. Go Couchsurfing
  • I had some of the most rewarding experiences through Couchsurfing; the people you meet are often the friendliest and most inviting people – some of whom I’m still in touch with today. Living (even briefly) with someone who knows the city well gives more insight and depth into local culture than any other ‘experience’. After hearing about a few negative Couchsurfing experiences from other women I met, I always made sure to stay with people who had really good reviews, from a mix of both men and women. I tended to stay with more women simply because I felt more comfortable doing so – but that remains entirely subjective.

  • 5. Wear the right clothing
  • As the famous explorer and motivational speaker Sir Ranulph Fiennes said “there is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing”, you need to dress the part. While Ranulph was referring to the physical conditions of a place, I think this also applies culturally. It’s important to respect a culture by wearing appropriate clothing and adapting to different standards of dress code. Don’t simply copy what other travellers wear because they might not necessarily know. Read up on a place before you go and make sure you have the right clothing. Also, invest in a great pair of shoes.

     

    Written by Flora Meadmore

    My Audible Summer Listening List

    I’ve always been drawn to books. I like things that make me smarter. I like being exposed to new ideas. I like thinking. I like the quasi-meditative state my brain enters when I’m reading. I like the way I feel refreshed after finishing a book.

    When I was younger I read all the time. Then I went to college and I didn’t have much free time anymore. I was busy taking as many credits I could squeeze into a semester, working, and having a social life. Things didn’t change once I graduated either. I got a job, went back to school at night, studied for various certifications. I lost the time I once used to read. I always told myself I’d get back into reading one day, but I always make myself so busy that I rarely have time to sit down and read a book.

    Then I discovered Audible. Audible allows me to get through all the books I want to read – except I don’t need to actually read them. So I can live my busy life and still get my healthy dose of books. Listening while driving. Listening while hiking. Listening while running. Listening while on the metro on the way to work. Listening on the plane. Listening while my eyes are closed. I LOVE Audible and I’m so happy I’m able to go through books like I used to.

    If you’d like to sign up for a free 30 day trial, to go to audible.com/christinexploring

    Below is my summer listening list (thanks to everyone who gave me suggestions!)

    Call Me by Your Name – Link to Audiobook

    Deep – Link to Audiobook

    Into Thin Air – Link to Audiobook

    Into the Wild – Link to Audiobook

    Born to Run – Link to Audiobook

    North – Link to Audiobook

    The Hidden Life of Trees – Link to Audiobook

    Sapiens – Link to Audiobook

    Born a Crime – Link to Audiobook

    The Defining Decade – Link to Audiobook

    Grit – Link to Audiobook

    A House in the Sky – Link to Audiobook

    On the Road – Link to Audiobook

    Turtles All the Way Down – Link to Audiobook

    The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck – Link to Audiobook

    The Alchemist – Link to Audiobook

    Salt – Link to Audiobook

    I’m so excited to listen to such a wide variety of books suggested by you. Please send me more suggestions!

    Disclosure: I received compensation in exchange for writing this post. As always, all opinions are my own.

    Tips for Traveling as a Vegan

    As a vegan who travels often, I have found myself seated with a plate of food I can’t eat more often than I would like. Attempting to communicate dietary restrictions when abroad can be frustrating and at times ineffective. Here are a few pieces of advice based on what has worked for me:

    • Learn the word for “vegan” in the local language.
    • Also learn the words “no,” meat,” dairy,” and “eggs”. Some people won’t understand what vegan means, even in their local language, so knowing how to explain it can be very helpful.
    • www.happycow.net is a great resource and will allow you to find vegan, vegetarian, and vegan-friendly restaurants in many places around the world.
    • Googling can also be helpful.
    • Chain restaurants can be nice. I’d much rather eat local, but if I have a choice between Starbucks and who-knows-what from a local restaurant, I’ll take the Starbucks, where I know what is vegan.
    • Stick to meals that are difficult to hide potentially problematic ingredients in – for example, while rice won’t contain any animal byproducts, bread and noodles can have eggs, dairy, problematic flour, etc.
    • Bring bars just in case. Pro Bars and Clif Bars are my favorite.
    • Don’t forget to special order your airplane meals! Make sure you do this in advance, as airlines often won’t bring vegan meals on a flight unless one has been ordered.
    • If you’re going on a guided trip, communicate with your guide in advance. Explain exactly what you can and cannot eat.

    Solo Travel as a Female – Kenya Edition

    What am I doing? Is this a bad idea? Maybe I should change my plans. Thoughts raced through my mind in the weeks leading up to my trip to Africa. Let me be clear that I have traveled alone many times. Usually it does not phase me. But this time was different.

    I had made plans months before to climb Kilimanjaro then go on a safari in Tanzania with friends. I have a goal to travel to every country in the world, so I thought it would be cool to stop in Kenya alone for a couple of days on my way back. Without doing much research, I booked a two night stop in Nairobi. Sometime close to my trip, I became aware of the political turmoil going on in Kenya. Elections had been held and there were allegations of unfairness. The country invalidated the elections and rescheduled them for shortly after I was to be leaving Kenya.

    At that time, I started to do more research. The US State Department warned of the political unrest and advised against travel to Kenya. News articles covered the protest. I remember reading one article saying that Kenya is likely heading towards a civil war. Am I stupid?!, I thought. How could I have planned something so dumb. But, as I typically do, I tried to take my focus away from my fear. I didn’t want to cancel my trip, so I figured I would be careful and hope for the best.

    Despite my efforts to quell my fears, my anxiety rose in the days before my departure. Things changed quickly during my Kilimanjaro trek. I’m not sure what it is about being in nature and challenging myself physically, but it always seems to put things in perspective and make me feel strong and capable. After all, maybe Western media was exaggerating the dangers. The few Tanzanian locals whom I told I was going to Nairobi didn’t seem to think anything of it. Phew. I felt better.

    I landed in Nairobi at night. The hotel I was supposed to stay at was going to send a driver to the airport for me. I went through immigration and customs, got my bags, and walked outside. I was instantly harrassed by about 20 taxi drivers who wanted to give me a ride. I politely declined and walked over to the pickup area. I looked for my name on a sign. Nothing. Ugh. I waited for 30 minutes. I had free wifi for an hour, so I emailed the hotel then sat down next to some of the drivers. I started to get worried that I didn’t have a ride and I didn’t feel comfortable getting in a taxi alone at night. I had about 20 minutes of wifi left. The sign next to me read “Intercontinental Nairobi”. Okay, I thought. I’ll use this last bit of wifi to book a room at the Intercontinental so I can drive with this guy. So that’s what I did. When I got to the hotel, I had to step out of the car and put myself and my belongings through a metal detector. Maybe this place isn’t so safe, I thought.

    I felt quite safe once I was in my room. The next morning, I woke up and thought about what I should do that day I usually like to experience new places by going on adventures and checking out the natural attractions. However, I had just spent a week on a safari in Tanzania. I didn’t have time to go to Masi Mara and the parks in Nairobi seemed less exciting than what I had already seen. I went downstairs to talk to the concierge, and ended up deciding to walk around the city. I was given a map. I asked whether it was safe to walk around alone and was shown the areas where it would be safe to walk. I was told to avoid talking to anyone. I shouldn’t let anyone be my tour guide and I shouldn’t allow conversations to last more than a few words.

    I left the hotel. A tall, blonde, American female. Walking alone. I stuck out like a sore thumb. I saw one other white person the whole day, and it was an older man sitting in a coffee shop. I walked assertively with my head up. I didn’t want to look unsure of where I was going. My passport and wallet were in the waist of my pants, not visible. I wanted to see the area, but I didn’t want to look around too much and make it more obvious I didn’t know where I was. Everyone stared at me. And I mean everyone. I acted like it didn’t phase me. Some people talked to me. I responded confidently and tried to keep conversations short. When anyone asked how long I had been in Nairobi, I said either three weeks or a month. It was enough time to seem pretty knowledgeable, but not too long. People believed me. A young girl hit my arm and said “Give me water, sister.” I ignored her. She demanded that I give her water again. I tried to walk by, but she stood in front of me. Other children joined, putting their hands out. I ignored them too. It’s not that I’m against helping people, but I am against parents training their children to beg like that. I went to a market. Everyone tried to talk to me. I might as well have been a walking dollar bill. I repeatedly said that I had no money and was just on a walk for exercise. People tried to sell me stuff anyway. Several people tried to “guide” me around the market. I walked around the market then left to continue my walk.


    I walked farther, and soon realized I was past the area where the concierge had told me to stop. Whoops. I saw a parking lot where people were skating, so I sat down to watch. Several people came up to me and asked whether I wanted to try. I said I had no money. I was just there to watch. One man told me I could go for free and said I was wearing the right clothes for skating. He was right. And I did want to skate. But I had my passport and wallet in my pants, and I didn’t know whether I should trust anyone, so I declined. I watched everyone skate around for about an hour then started walking back to the hotel.


    I stopped at a coffee shop on my way back. I’m a vegan and I don’t drink coffee so I asked whether the shop had soy milk then asked the barista to make me a smoothie with bananas, ice, soy milk, and vanilla syrup. I’m pretty sure I was the most complicated customer they had ever had. When she handed me my drink, she warned that she had no idea how it would taste. It was actually quite good.


    I walked to the park I had been warned to avoid because of theft. I stayed on the outside and walked back to my hotel. When I got to my room, I saw a newspaper. The front page was about the elections.


    That night, I thought about what I would do the next day. I had done some research on the Giraffe Center and animal orphanage. Both helped rescue and rehabilitate animals. They weren’t zoos, so I was ethically okay with them. Maybe it would be fun to go. When I woke up, I went back to the coffee shop and ordered my complicated drink again. The barista remembered me.


    More people talked to me on my way back. I noticed that race was a popular topic of conversation. I guess that makes sense considering I’m a white female from America, which now has a reputation for racism (Thanks, Trump). One man asked me “Trump or Obama?” I responded, “Obama” and he gave me a high five. Another man asked how we treat blacks in America. All I could think of is…we’re all people, aren’t we? I was embarrassed. I felt bad. I didn’t want to be associated with racism, but that’s the reputation Americans have these days. Ugh.

    I wasn’t sure how long to let conversations go. I did want to talk to locals, but I was unsure of their intentions and I had been warned by the hotel. One man told me that the best way to learn while traveling is to talk to people. I agree, but I questioned why he was saying that and why he was so eager to talk to me. I still kept my conversations short. I’m not sure whether I should have.

    More people begged for money from me, especially children. One girl followed me asking for money for “the baby”. I felt terrible. I wanted to help. I used to give old clothing to people like that. I don’t anymore. This trip I gave my clothing to my Kilimanjaro guides and porters and hotel staff. Maybe they don’t need it as much, but I don’t want to encourage people using their children like that. I hate it.

    I got back to my hotel and asked about the Giraffe Center and animal orphanage. It was about $60 to go. After having spent a week on a safari, I just didn’t feel like spending that kind of money. I headed up to my room to check emails and get some work done. An hour or so later, I heard a few booms. I ran to the window and saw smoke rising on the sidewalk. People were yelling. It was a demonstration. Shortly after, police with tear gas arrived. The demonstrations were on and off. They didn’t seem violent, so I decided to go take a walk.


    I walked. I felt safe despite the demonstrations. I remembered how nervous I had been before I came and laughed. The demonstrations were relatively small, but I felt like I was learning a lot by being there. Even though I just spent the weekend walking around Nairobi doing not much of anything, it was one of the more impactful trips I have taken. I left feeling stronger, more sure of myself, and a little more empathetic.

    Life Lessons from Traveling Alone for 6 Weeks

    Six weeks ago, I boarded a plane to Iceland without a return ticket.  The preceding year had been a difficult one in terms of career-related stress.  It was my last year of law school.  I took 19 credits my last semester, the maximum allowed by the American Bar Association.  I also worked full time at a large law firm.  It was the first time my law school had allowed this.  Previously, full time students (12 or more credits) were not permitted to work more than 20 hours a week.  I often worked more than 40.  On top of that, I was studying for the Virginia Bar Exam.  During this whole time, I was not as financially comfortable as I was accustomed to being.  Prior to attending law school, I had a career as a consultant.  I had to sacrifice my salary for a much lower paycheck…and the same mortgage, car payment and other bills.  So what did I do?  Rather than adjust my lifestyle, I chose to work more.  I turned to Instagram advertising and beer/liquor promotions.  Which brought even more stress.  I’m good at suppressing stress and just pushing through it, so I don’t think I even realized how stressed I was at the time.  However, in hindsight, it had been affecting my health, my relationships, my work ethic, and my personality.  I just wasn’t myself.

    And so I left on this adventure.  I wasn’t sure exactly what the next weeks would bring, how long I would be gone, or what I would do.  I had been so consumed with working and studying that I neglected to do any real planning.  I did had plans to meet up with friends in various places.  Well, things never go as planned, now do they?  I spent five days in Iceland with my friend, but ended up spending the remainder of my trip alone.


    Despite this change in the only plans I had made, I ended up having the best six weeks of my entire life.  I’ve never learned so much about myself and the world we live in, reached such a high level of self-awareness, or felt so genuinely happy.  I could try to explain the experiences I had and the things I felt, by my writing could never do them justice.  No words could adequately describe the feeling of despair I felt as I was lost in Norwegian fjords in the middle of the night, followed by a great appreciation for the beauty of nature when I unexpectedly saw the northern lights as I was searching for my way, and finally a feeling of satisfaction and confidence after I spent all night hiking in the dark and finally found my way back to the parking lot.  Or the feeling of awe I felt as I wandered through the tundra in Greenland with no real destination and no other humans in sight.  Or the connection I had with Greenlandic sled dogs as I pet and played with them for hours every day (warning – these dogs can be vicious, and I wouldn’t recommend running up and petting them).  I can’t explain what happened.  I can’t adequately describe my experiences.  But maybe I can describe how I changed.

    Accepting Things for What they Are, How They Are

    I used to get really bothered when things weren’t the way I wanted them to be.  I’ve never been one to give up easily, and I took that to an extreme.  I would obsess over everything that wasn’t perfect or the way I wanted it to be.  I would expend endless amounts of energy trying to fix things.  At a certain point over the last six weeks, I stopped caring as much as I did before…in a good way.  I can accept things for what they are now.  Several things that had been really bothering me before I left are no longer the issues they were before.  I am either content or only slightly annoyed with them now.  I no longer obsessively try to fix them.  I’m so much happier like this.

    Knowing Which Relationships Matter

    I am so much more comfortable with who is in  my life now – and who is not.  I’ve realized that I now have some of the most genuine, good-hearted friends I could ask for.  I know that I have people who care about me and would be there no matter what.  I appreciate these people more than I did before.  Before I left, there were people I missed because they are no longer in my life.  Now, I see why they are gone, and I know it is for the best.  A couple of them have contacted me while I was away.  The interest I previously would have had in reconnected with them is gone now.  I had an ex reach out in the last week of my trip and say he wanted to see me and see how things went.  Before I left, I would have absolutely agreed to this.  Now, I know that he is nothing that I want.  I’ve realized that his interests in designer clothes and eating at the most expensive restaurants just don’t mesh with my far more laid back lifestyle.  He cares way too much about what other people think, and these days, I want nothing to do with that.

    Understanding Myself

    Spending so much time alone has led to a much deeper relationship with myself.  When there’s no one else around, you get to know yourself in a way you didn’t before.  You are your only company and while your good qualities shine, your flaws come out and stare you in the face like never before.  I felt this particularly in Greenland, where I had limited access to wifi, and therefore limited communication with my friends and family.  I was my only company, and this made it pretty difficult to ignore my flaws.  But self-awareness leads to self-improvement and this alone time has helped make me a better person.

    Knowing What I Want

    Part of getting to know myself better has been learning what I really want.  Sure, we all know generally what we want in life, but I now know what matters the most and what my priorities are.  I’ve thought about my career.  Although it is stressful at times, I love what I do and I need the mental challenge in my life.  However, I also love the mountains and being outdoors.  Although it is the idea location for my career, I’m not sure how much longer I can be in DC.  Life is all about balance, and I’m working on finding the balance between a satisfying career and being where I want to be.  I know what goals I have for myself.  I want a successful legal career.  I also want to climb mountains and travel the world.  I’m not sure how well the two fit together, but I’m going to do my best.

    Finding Happiness

    I think I’ve always been a relatively happy person.  I have a great life, and I certainly recognize that.  However, before I left, stress was consuming me.  I wasn’t relaxed enough to enjoy the great life I had.  All of that changed.  With every hike, my stress faded.  I saw new places, met new people, and learned more about the world.  I developed a new mindset and appreciation for life and the beauty of the world.  I feel extremely grateful for the amazing life I live and I’ve never been so happy.

    I spent a lot of times on trains my last few days, slowly making my way back home.  I did a lot of reflecting on my time away.  I found myself smiling at the memories I made.  I found myself crying tears of sadness that this amazing adventure is over.  But I also found myself crying tears of joy that I’ve been so fortunate to experience life so well.

    Six weeks may not seem like a long time, but everything feels different.  I left with a clear head, better relationship with myself, and greater awareness.  Most importantly, I discovered a deeper sense of true happiness.