The Highs (And Lows) Of Travelling Alone As A Woman

Flying solo.

Photo by Leah Kelley

I read somewhere once that travelling alone, as a female, is one of the most rewarding and life-changing things you can do for yourself. You’re in a situation where everything is unfamiliar, you only have yourself to rely on, and you’re in charge of every decision you make. I’ve heard that it’s daunting and you’ll have moments of ‘what the hell am I doing?’, but in the end it forces you to get in touch with your instincts and helps you to learn who you really are. It’s something that I would love to do, even if it’s just a weekend away somewhere nearby.

In fact, it’s so important to me, it’s on my bucket list. But no matter how close I get to ticking it off, I fumble just as I’m about to click ‘book’ on Skyscanner. I’m an introverted person and I know I would thrive in an environment doing what I want, when I want, but when push comes to shove I always seem to find an excuse to postpone my ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ moment. ‘I’ve no money’, ‘I could do this alone, but I’d have more fun with other people’, they’re valid excuses, sure, but I think they mainly serve as a mask for the big one lurking underneath – I’m scared.

As women, we’re conditioned to see the world as one big threat – ‘Don’t wear this’, ‘Don’t go there’, ‘Stick with your friends’. It feels like survival instinct to heed at least some of the warnings we’re given, and going to a foreign country alone feels like going against almost everything we’ve been taught as women. I suppose I don’t want to find myself in an unsafe situation that I put myself into, but it’s 2023, why should I let that hold me back? There seem to be more positives than negatives when it comes to solo travel, and since the world resumed post-pandemic in recent years, more and more women are embarking on self-led adventures.

It’s no wonder really, women are earning more money than ever before, we’re staying single by choice and settling down much later in life than past generations. On top of that, travel is more accessible than ever, of course it’s still a huge privilege, but budget airlines, low-cost accommodation, smartphone technology and remote working means that we can up and leave with more ease than has been possible in the past. To kick the doubtful voice in my head, I spoke with two women who bit the bullet and went travelling alone, picking up both memories and self-sufficiency along the way.

Rebecca, 27, spent three weeks last summer travelling Italy. After her original plans to travel in 2020 were robbed from her by COVID she went into 2022, more ready than ever to Carpe Diem. “When everything opened up again after the pandemic, it felt like the perfect time to get out of my comfort zone and do something I’ve always wanted to do, travel alone,” Rebecca tells me.

Learning a lot about herself, Rebecca says the three weeks travelling showed her just how resourceful she is. When it came to navigating her safety, she says that keeping in touch with friends and family back home was crucial for her peace of mind. “I won’t lie, I felt really unsure almost as soon as I got off the plane, but once I got into the swing of things a couple of days in, I was fine. I had a couple of brief encounters where I felt like there could be some danger, so I always made sure that I was in contact with people back home.

Photo by cottonbro studio

I let my friends and family know my loose plans and travel route so they always knew where I was. I would ring them if I ever felt uncomfortable or like I wanted to leave a situation, which thankfully rarely happened.” As for advice for other women considering doing the same, Rebecca says: “DO IT! It doesn’t have to be a year travelling the world, it could just be a weekend in Portugal. Before you go, do some research on the place. Hostels are a great place to stay because you meet other people there, and you can get female-only dorms too if you’re worried. If you have a trip away with friends you could even travel there yourself a couple of days earlier, or leave a couple of days later. There’s plenty of ways to ease yourself into solo travelling.”

From Italy to South-East Asia, Amy spent 8 months last year backpacking around the other side of the world alone. Covering 9 countries in that time, Amy says that travelling alone made her truly fall in love with herself. “There aren’t many opportunities in life where you can be completely selfish but I really see solo travelling as one of them. I have suffered a lot in the past with negative thoughts about myself. feeling very insecure and generally down. It might sound cringey, but I really fell in love with myself while I was away.”

Amy adds that the life lessons are immeasurable. “You spend a lot of time alone so you get to thinking about your life, and who you are as a person, and what you like about yourself and what you don’t. I started to learn to like the things about myself that maybe I felt insecure about before. I’m an extroverted person and always have hated being by myself. But solo travelling made me realise that actually I can be on my own and be happy.”

While it’s called travelling ‘solo’, Amy says that you meet a lot of people along the way, picking up new friends and happy memories with them as you move. “Really, you should never be worried about doing it alone because you won’t be. Most people that you meet while travelling are extremely friendly and helpful. The hardest part is approaching someone but once you make the move, it’s easy from there. I’ve always been a confident person but solo travelling has made me feel even more confident and happy in myself.”

While solo travelling comes with some challenges, the freedom and experiences detailed by Rebecca and Amy makes it hard to put it off any longer. My trip might not be as jam-packed as a month around Italy, or as audacious as half a year in Asia, but it will be a small journey of self-discovery, and if you, like me, have always wanted to do it, why should we deny ourselves that?


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