Women Solo Travel

By Sue Lavene

My first solo international travel experience was to Cancun in 1991. What allowed me to decide to make the trip alone rather than wait for a travel companion was: a. I had the extra money; b. I had the time off from work; c. No friends were available at the same time and d. I had the intense, deep-rooted desire to do it. I knew from the bottom of my heart that this type of travel "spoke" to me like nothing else and that I had to experience it – back then I told myself, at least once – in order to prove to myself that I could do it. And you know what? It turned out to be one of the most enjoyable, life-altering experiences I had ever had and I was extremely proud of myself for taking that plunge into the unknown.

Here are several tips to get you thinking about going it alone because believe me, it's so worth it!

1. Pre-planned packages
Going with a tour operator or through an agent who makes all or some of the travel arrangements for you, such as language or cooking classes with lodging, etc, allows you a feeling of safety and security, around which you can plan your days. Especially when embarking on this adventure for the first time, it's a good idea to have some structure in your day and then, you can be as active, not in the physical sense, – or not – for the rest of your day as you wish. At least you wouldn't have to face arriving and saying to yourself "okay, now what?!?".

2. Establish a routine.
At least in the beginning of your trip, try to establish a routine either first thing in the morning or at some point during your day in order to ground yourself from the start. In other words, if at home, you enjoyed a morning stretch, took a walk or listened to music, try to recreate your routine in order to try to acclimate to a new environment even if you have to modify somewhat to fit your new surroundings. For example, on a recent solo trip to Guatemala, I brought several favorite books and my journal with me to several lunches in order to ease myself into my new surroundings which is something I often do at home for inspiration.

3. Create a home away from home.
Similar to the idea of establishing a routine, is setting up photos of family/friends/pets, candles and other momentos/trinkets of your life back home in your hotel room or whereever you are staying. Of course, ideally they would be lightweight and easy to pack/travel with. This will allow you some calm and grounding during your initial few days in the new country.

4. Frequenting local businesses
If you haven't been somewhere before, it is often disconcerting to be amongst unfamiliar surroundings, though this is also one of the beauties of travel. To allow yourself to find familiarity, it is helpful to go to the same locally run female-friendly restaurant or shop, for example, several days in a row. Often times, the staff will recognize you and strike up a conversation with you.

5. Eating alone
This topic often makes people uncomfortable to imagine eating alone especially if you aren't accustomed to doing so even at home. This definitely takes some practice – perhaps you can practice at home before your trip – though is well worth it to still be able to enjoy the local fare despite the fact that you have no one with whom to eat your meal. When I first started eating out alone, I found that if I had something to do or read during my meal, I was able to enjoy myself without a companion. Some examples: You can bring along a good book or two, a travel journal (to jot down your day, ideas, your meal, etc) or postcards (that you can send to friends and family or why not to yourself as well?).

Some additional resources that have helped me on the road as well as inspiration prior to planning trips include:

A Journey of One's Own: Uncommon Advice for the Independent Woman Traveler by Thalia Zepatos
A Woman's World edited by Marybeth Bond
Gutsy Women: Travel Tips and Wisdom for the Road by Marybeth Bond
Gutsy Women: More Travel Tips and Wisdom for the Road by Marybeth Bond
More Women Travel: Adventures and Advice From More Than 60 Countries a Rough Guide Special
Nothing to Declare: Memoirs of a Woman Traveling Alone by Mary Morris
(This author's solo trip around Latin America)

Women Travel Tips
Journey Woman (a very fun site!)
Independent Traveler (includes a message board)
Student Travel

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