Women traveling alone: 5 Tips from many years of traveling solo

In the last few years, there’s been a substantial increase of women traveling alone. It’s one of the most empowering experiences you can have. Ready to try it? Don’t miss these tips to make it a successful trip.

“The world is your oyster,” is an often quoted Shakespeare’s phrase. At some point, I’m sure someone said this to you. And if nobody ever did, I’m saying it to you now. The World Is Your Oyster. Yours for the taking. And this is the perfect time to explore that world.

I’ve been traveling solo for many, many years now and I absolutely love it. I recommend it to all my friends and colleagues and some of those who take my advice, become part of this large movement of women traveling alone.

In Amsterdam, while traveling solo doing a home exchange, I visited beautiful tulip fields.

In Amsterdam, while traveling solo doing a home exchange, I visited beautiful tulip fields.

It’s an experience unlike any other because first, you get to decide your destination and the kind of adventure you’d like to have. And then while you’re on the trip, you make every single decision throughout the day. There’s nobody to ask permission to do something you’d love to do. No need to go to places or engage in activities you don’t enjoy. So, you can get up early to join the hot air balloon tour or stay in bed all day.

You can spend the entire day visiting a museum or taking pictures of your favorite locations. You can eat when you want, what you want with whom you want. It’s your trip and you can even cry if you want to.

And if you’re horrified by the idea of making hundreds of decisions every day rather than letting someone else (perhaps your partner) make them for you… then, you my friend, really, really need to try this.

Here's a great read on Lateral Thinking to help you see issues from new perspectives
While traveling solo, I love to visit farmers markets and flower markets. You may find produce you've never seen before!

While traveling solo, I love to visit farmers markets and flower markets. You may find produce you’ve never seen before!

Women traveling alone discover who they are

It’s not an exaggeration to say that women traveling alone discover who they are and what they like. In some cases, even what they want to be when they grow up! Believe me I’ve met a few. It’s such a freeing experience to be on your own when most of the time we tend take care of the needs of others, whether our family, friends or colleagues.

To take a break of it all and go off somewhere alone near or far can be enlightening. And I emphasize near or far because you can have this experience by taking a bus and going one or two hours away from home to a location of your choosing for a short or a long trip. You can decide based on your budget what works best for you right now.

Tip for women traveling alone: Take a boat ride wherever you get a chance. It gives you an entirely different perspective of the place.

Tip for women traveling alone: Take a boat ride wherever you get a chance. It gives you an entirely different perspective of the place.

Some of the things I love to do when traveling solo

  • Staying at my own apartment or renting a bedroom in a woman’s house. I’ve been traveling with Airbnb before it was fashionable to do so. Sometimes I rather stay at someone’s house so I have a hostess who I can interact with and can give me tips of the area. I’ve become close friends with several of them.
  • Doing experiences with Airbnb. So now you can actually sign up to do a lot of things through their website. From learning how to cook, to having your own photo shoot, to visiting galleries with an artist. It’s another great way to meet like-minded people from all over the world, many of whom are precisely women traveling alone.
  • Talking to people who work wherever I go: hotels, restaurants, shops, galleries, taxi drivers. They have the real stories and insights of the place.
  • Starting my visit by seeing the city or town from the highest point, be that a church tower, the top of the highest building or hill. It gives me a great perspective of the lay of the land.
  • Visiting museums one or two hours at a time. I rather return to a museum than stay for a very long time in one.
  • Taking a boat trip whenever there’s water!
  • Discovering local food and learning how to make it. Going back to the same little bistro time and again so it feels like home. Here’s my favorite bistro that makes galettes from Britany in Paris!
  • Finding the best espresso drinks!
  • Learning to use the local public transportation system.
  • Sending postcards to friends and to myself. (Yep, I send postcards to myself from every place I visit so I can read them later and relive the best parts of the trip!)
    Drinking cappuccinos is one of my favorite things to do when traveling solo. I love to enjoy a cup while I write a postcard to a friend.

    Drinking cappuccinos is one of my favorite things to do when traveling solo.

     

    I love to enjoy a cup of espresso while I write a postcard to a friend.

Perhaps you should try a cruise ship with Captain Kate as a starter trip!

For women traveling alone being safe is key to enjoying the experience

Usually a big concern for women traveling alone is safety. And although this is true for anyone traveling solo, I have a few suggestions that work particularly well for my gender peers. Here you go:

1Keep your eyes on the road

This means, avoid being on your phone while you walk. Those who target women traveling alone are experts at pinpointing who’s a tourist, who’s confident, who is inexperienced. So by staying alert and present, you can spot them before they spot you. For this to work, you need to do your homework before you leave your hotel or apartment. Otherwise, when you need to spend a few minutes with your map or notes, just grab a cup of coffee to plan your next stop rather than walking around looking clueless. That way you know as much as possible about your direction, the train you should take, etc.

Tip for women traveling alone: nothing beats walking a town or city to get to know it really well. This is Nyhavn in Copenhagen

Tip for women traveling alone: nothing beats walking a town or city to get to know it really well. This is Nyhavn in Copenhagen.

2Check who’s in front of you

I’ve seen it happen many times. The person intent on robbing me is not behind me but in front. I suddenly realize they walk very slowly and turn their head sideways once in a while. When I stop walking, they stop. That’s my sign to either turn around and go back, look for another person to engage with immediately, or go into a store. You can always test this. If you stop and the person in front of you stops, slows down or pretends to be on the phone to make time until you start walking again, it’s a trap.

Since I discovered galettes (crepes made with buckwheat) I've become obsessed with repeating a particular flavor combination I love! The best place yet? "La petit bretonne" in Paris!

Since I discovered galettes (crepes made with buckwheat) I’ve become obsessed with repeating a particular flavor combination I love! The best place yet? “La petit bretonne” in Paris!

3Distribute your money and valuables

I carry a small, light backpack when I travel solo. In the backpack I’ll put in any accessories I might need. Umbrella, gloves, lipstick, sanitizer, etc. I put anything of value in my front pockets. Money, ID, keys, phone… I always assume that I may get mugged. Look, when you’re a tourist, you will be in areas known for pickpockets. So try to protect yourself as best as you can.

4When in doubt ask a woman

This one may sound obvious but it’s worth keeping in mind. Wherever I go, I ask a million questions a day. For many reasons: I need directions, I want a recommendation for a good place to eat nearby, I’d like to know where I can buy something, you get the point.  But no matter how many times a day I need help, I’ll either go into a store, or I’ll ask a woman in the street. Why? Because it’s less likely that she’ll turn me into a mark when she realizes I’m a tourist.

Keep your eyes on the road. Be present. When traveling solo, it's not only the best way to enjoy the trip but the safest!

Keep your eyes on the road. Be present. When traveling solo, it’s not only the best way to enjoy the trip but the safest!

5Don’t fall for these two (or any others!)

You’re sitting at a bench and someone bends over in front of you. Pretending to pick something off the floor they give you a “gold” ring. “You dropped this,” they say. And you look at the ring and you say, “No, it’s not mine.” So then they try it on and they tell you it doesn’t fit them but they are sure it will fit you, and you should keep it. You try it on, it fits, and you can’t believe your good luck. Until they say: “Well, maybe you could give me an euro,” or a dollar, or whatever. Just get up and leave. It’s an old trick and I did fall for it a while back.

You’re in a touristy area and a person pretending to be deaf and mute approaches you with a paper to sign some kind of petition. It’s a list of people’s names and signatures and you read the title and you think, “What’s the harm?” You sign and then they show you a little corner of the paper where they wrote: “Minimum donation X” and you know you’ve been had. So at that point you can leave.

Or, if you’re a sucker like me, you give them the minimum donation and swear this is the last time they’ll get you. You, a New Yorker raised in Buenos Aires!

There’s no time like today to discover the world and a little bit about yourself in the process. Try it. I promise that traveling solo will put you in touch with a side of you that will amaze you!

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Award-winning, best-selling author, corporate consultant and international speaker on career success and women empowerment. Frequent media contributor on CNN, Univision, Telemundo and others. Her latest book "Find Your Inner Red Shoes" is the backbone of the Red Shoe Movement.
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