When you first tell your family you are going to travel alone and you are a girl, all hell breaks loose. Your mother visualizes you dead, your father gathers information about human trafficking and your friends start telling you gruesome tales of women who were kidnapped abroad.
Of course, bad things happen, but this doesn’t mean you have to lock yourself in a bunker. Life happens!
Now, after more than two years of solo traveling, I can say the world is mostly friendly for a woman traveler. I was lucky enough not to go through bad things, except a couple of incidents in Thailand. Most of the times, women helped me and treated me like their own daughter. I believe people tend to trust women from the start, so this is a big advantage of traveling solo.
But there are also disadvantages…
People pity you
Ok, this was a big shock for me on my first solo trip in Vietnam, where I was too old to be single. It came as a shock also because I was volunteering and I was a student at the time, so no one expected me to even consider marriage. I was 20 years old. I met two local girls, aged 18 and 19, who were already married and had kids. Their mothers were really young and, despite they never told it, I knew they pity me because I had chosen to travel and work instead of having a family.
Another problem I faced was the men’s perspective upon a single, young woman who travels the world. Most of them seem to believe I was looking for occasional hook-ups – which I was not! When I rejected them they were completely shocked.
When you are alone you can’t do certain things
I don’t leave the house after nightfall, I never go hiking and I never take a taxi. I am too afraid to do these things on my own. And I am pretty sure I’ve skipped at least two amazing opportunities because I was too afraid to follow a local deep into a wood or down a river.
However, I do know lots of women who are not afraid to hike alone or jump in a boat with a man they’ve just met to explore the jungle. So, it might be just my own way to avoid potentially dangerous situations. Nevertheless, it’s unpleasant.
You might have to obey certain rules
When I traveled to Morocco I had to follow the local rules regarding clothing. But I also had to avoid entering cafes, among others. There are many countries around the world where women are expected to dress and behave in a certain way. In most of these countries not complying with these rules might get you a lot of evil looks, but there are also places where you can get in real trouble for ignoring these rules. Men, on the other hand, can be more relaxed, as long as they don’t forget to take their shoes off before entering a religious establishment or a Muslim house.
You get a lot of unwanted attention
A single woman traveling alone draws a lot of attention, especially if you travel to parts of the world where your physical appearance sticks out from the crowd. I am a white woman, which made me very visible in Africa. I got loads of marriage proposals. One man even offered to give my father camels in exchange for my hand. Most of these men were very polite, yet insistent. While I never felt in danger, I had to be very firm when I rejected their proposals.
Having your period on the road
Well, that’s the ugly and painful part of traveling. Many parts of the world don’t offer the same opportunities when it comes to personal hygiene. When you get your period in rural Africa you will struggle with cold water buckets. Intimacy can also be an issue, so you might have to do your things in toilets without doors.