TL;DR: Don’t worry about it. Be smart, plan your trip, and have fun 🙂
Do you like the pun in my title? I’m playing with my last name, Solof 🙂
Moving on, I’m going to get serious for a minute. Solo Female Travel. It’s a thing. Ladies, you can do it. You can so do it. You just get a job, save your money, buy a ticket, and go. It’s your fucking life, so take it by the ovaries and go.
Here’s the thing: I never thought about traveling solo as a woman. I never worried for my safety or loneliness. Not until other people brought it up.
It didn’t occur to me until I read another travel blogger’s post on solo female travel. This guy actually has guest posts from women on traveling solo as a woman. Again, I never thought about it as a thing. I’m a person- what difference should it make if I’m male or female? If I want to do something, I should find a way to do it. But the more I live and the more people I meet, the more I realize it’s a thing and it’s worth addressing, because regardless of if it’s top-of-mind for me or not, it’s top-of-mind for other people, and it can hold them back.
I must be lucky that I grew up not ever thinking I was different- that I could or should be different- because I’m female. The “female” part of me is just biology as far as I’m concerned. The rest of me is my own creation, and what that is is my own decision. Therefore, focusing on “female” travel is a cultural issue, not a personal one.
Nevertheless, here’s what I’ve come to realize are hot-button issues when people think about women who travel.
I’m a VERY independent person. Sure, I like company, but I also need time and space to do my own thing. It’s no different with travel.
When you’re on your own, you don’t have to discuss anything with other people. Every decision on what you do is yours. You never have to deliberate or negotiate, you just do what you want to do. That’s freeing. That’s simple. That’s easy.
Even when I’m traveling with friends, we need time away from each other. Every few days we may go our separate ways and do different things. We’re two separate people who have different needs and interests. I don’t want to hold someone back from what they want to do and I don’t want to be held back either. So, we’re together when we want to be together and apart when we need to be apart. It has always worked out well.
So often people think I must get so lonely when I travel. Like, my god, how could I possibly spend a few hours on my own? Let alone days or weeks, or even MONTHS?!
For starters, I’m not actually alone that whole time. I do meet other travelers while I’m out doing stuff. We become friends and hang out while we’re in the same place. I genuinely enjoy this part of solo travel- all the people you meet on the journey.
Also, I like my own company. I don’t need other people to entertain me or distract me from myself. I enjoy the space to explore my thoughts and experience a new place through only my own filter. When you’re with other people they often share how they experience what they see and that can influence how you see things. What if you took that away and just had yourself? What would you see? What would you discover on your own? That’s a powerful and important thing to experience, your own views and insights directed only by yourself.
This isn’t loneliness. It’s solitude. And it’s much needed, especially in a day and age when we’re bombarded with messages from every angle.
So you’re a woman and you’re on your own. Don’t men, like, want to, you know? And like, isn’t it uncomfortable? Or, are you, like, loose?
This is one of my biggest pet peeves when people find out I travel. They make all these assumptions about the kind of person I am.
Girl who travels = floozy.
It just doesn’t make sense. Like, I don’t even know where they get this idea, that’s how off-the-wall it seems.
Look, if a woman lives that life, that’s her thing and let her go do that. But these two things do not go hand-in-hand and I don’t appreciate it when people assume I must be this way because I travel. In fact, I’ve met plenty of female travelers who are not this way and plenty of women who never travel who are this way.
And for the record, some of the sleaziest guys I have ever met have been in my own backyard in the United States. I lived in Seoul for a year and rode a sardine-packed subway everyday to work and was never touched inappropriately. The very day I arrived in New York I could spread my arms out on the subway and not touch anyone, and some guy still grabbed my ass. So what does that tell you?
It must be so hard to date.
Again with the subject of men. I know my purpose in life is to get married off so some guy can inherit my dowry (my grandma did hand sew some lace and towels for me, and they are rotting in my parents’ basement), so I guess we should address this.
First, I don’t travel to meet guys. I travel to see the world.
Second, who knows who you’ll meet when you travel. Chances are, you may meet someone, get to know them for a week or so, and then go your separate ways. Maybe you’ll keep in touch through social media, and maybe you’ll meet again, temporarily, in the future, and you’ll keep nice memories. That’s probably what it’ll be.
But you might meet someone great and the connection will persist. You’ll keep in touch, very close touch, and find a way to bring your lives together.
I’ve never had this experience, but I know quite a few people who have. Like with most dating, most relationships are temporary and thus end, but some do last a very long time.
The trouble I find is that most people believe that if you’re traveling there is no shot in hell you could meet someone great. Or if you did, there’s no way it could last because of the ephemeral nature of a nomadic life. But I disagree, mainly because of people I know who’ve made it work and what I believe is possible.
This is what I think: a relationship lasts because two people want it to. That’s it. I know people who live in different cities, time zones, and countries from their partners. But the relationship lasts because they want it to. All the other shit people bring up are excuses. I’m not encumbered by all of that, but most other people are. I also know that if I start bringing that up, it’s a sign I’m just not that into the person.
So while being set in one city and having the opportunity to see someone a lot over a long period of time makes things easier, being nomadic makes you cut a lot of the bullshit. You only bother with people you really like and only great connections turn into relationships.
And only great relationships are worth it, because you need time and energy to focus on the world 😉
The World is Not What You Imagine It To Be
Americans seem to think of the world as the United States and the Rest of the World, as if all other countries that are not the US must be the same. Well guess what? They’re not.
Traveling solo, female or not, varies from country-to-country. You need to do your research before you go abroad to any country. How women are treated in that country may be different from what you’re used to, and sometimes it may be better. I’ve found that as long as you do your research and follow the customs of the culture you’re visiting, you will be fine.
Some of the customs or “changes” you make to your normal routine may not be obvious. An obvious thing would be wearing a headscarf in conservative Muslim countries. But I also found that having my hair dyed blonde in Mexico drew unwanted attention. When my hair was darker I blended in more and it was less of an issue. In South Korea, the issue was v-neck tops. Women there do not show their breasts, not even a teeny, tiny bit. Not even their chest above their breasts because it’s considered too sexual. These are all things you can figure out by doing little research.
Men generally have less to think about on this front, but it’s never a reason for women to stay home.
The big point I’m making is this: it’s not a big deal. If you want to travel, do it. You’ll be fine on your own. Be smart, do your research, and jet set.
Just remember one thing: Love everything you get from it.