How to travel alone (as a woman!)

Traveling alone is intimidating. Especially for women, I think it is hard to imagine that if you're alone you'll be safe, happy and comfortable in a new place without someone else there with you as a buffer.  When I tell people that I am traveling to a new place by myself, they tend to think I'm going to go the way of Taken.  

I've actually never seen Taken but I gather that it is about men trying to scare women out of doing things they want to do...is that correct?  

I once heard someone say that traveling alone is like pressing on a sore muscle - it hurts in a good way.  I've come to realize that a fact of life is that sometimes I'm going to want to go places that other people don't want to go (or their schedules don't align with mine or we want to do things differently or any other number of reasons), and I am still going to visit these places because at some point, I just have to throw up my hands and do what I want.  So do you.  Here are 5 reasons why traveling alone is THE BEST:

  1. You can eat whatever you want, whenever you want.  No one can judge you. Example:  one day when I was alone in Paris I ate exclusively croissants, macarons and cheese.
  2. If you want to get a 90 minute massage and then a scrub and then another foot massage, there's no one there to tell you not to or that they're trying to do something else.  (Unless you then tell everyone on the internet about it and they judge you....)
  3. Wake up and go to sleep exactly when you want to.
  4. No waiting for anyone to take a shower before or after you.
  5. No dealing with anyone else's dietary restrictions.

I've spent time traveling alone in Istanbul, Quito, and Paris.  Just a few weeks ago, I spent a weekend alone in Bangkok and it was mostly wonderful, but sometimes that traveling alone muscle felt extra sore.  I'm going to share the strategies I used to make that trip as un-scary as possible.

 the best dang bowl of noodles I ever did eat.  (all alone without anyone complaining that they wanted to go somewhere else.)

the best dang bowl of noodles I ever did eat.  (all alone without anyone complaining that they wanted to go somewhere else.)

Be strategic about where you're going.

There are places that are more friendly to solo female travelers than others.  Hong Kong, for example, is one of the safest places I've ever visited.  I haven't been cat-called a single time since I've been here and I feel completely safe walking around alone at night.  Bangkok is pretty safe, but I also knew it was a place where I would feel fine missing out on the nightlife. If you're going to, say, Amsterdam and you know that the nightlife is a major draw for you, that might be a trip you want to reconsider doing alone.

Make plans for group activities.

For my three days in Bangkok, I made a reservation to have dinner at a restaurant with a community table one night, and to do a group cooking class the next day.  If you build in activities where you know you'll speak to other people, you're basically building in anti-insanity insurance.

Do something special for yourself.

In Bangkok, I treated myself to two massages in three days. (I feel like a shrug emoji is necessary here.) It made the whole weekend feel like a getaway (from my very stressful exchange student life in Hong Kong.)  Generally, I spend more money when I'm traveling alone. I take taxis and stay at nicer places.  When I'm solo, it is a lot harder to laugh off horrible cheap-o travel experiences.  They feel less funny and more stressful and potentially scary.  Instead, I try to travel alone to places where I can afford to splash out a little more (Paris, for example, was not one of those places.)

 I thought this little temple was really beautiful so I sat and stared at it for 20 minutes and there was no one there to hurry me up.

I thought this little temple was really beautiful so I sat and stared at it for 20 minutes and there was no one there to hurry me up.

Plug in

I find that when I'm by myself, I am entertained by things for a shorter period.  I can't really stare in awe a local sights for as long if I don't have anyone to talk to about them.  I have always been a lover of audiobooks and podcasts, so I recommend loading up some of those and sticking a headphone in one ear as you wander.  In Bangkok, I had The Guilty Feminist in one ear the whole time and I felt like I was hanging with the coolest of friends.  I also have an Audible subscription that I utilize extra happily when I'm going it solo.

When I'm traveling alone, I also always, always, always, carry a book in my bag.  That way, I can set up shop at a cafe or bar if I start to get overwhelmed.  The best part of traveling alone, in my opinion, is deciding to spend 6 hours reading in a cafe getting drunk on cheap champagne.  I've recently read Being Mortal, The Course of Love, and All the Single Ladies (a power book for traveling alone.)

Let's talk about hostels.

I know a lot of people who "travel alone" with the intention to stay in a hostel and make a ton of instant friends.  I went to Bangkok planning to spend most of my time alone.  I knew what I wanted to do and I didn't really care to meet people who I'd only know for a few days.  If you're interested in finding people to do stuff with, stay at a hostel and you're almost guaranteed to find a group of other solo-travelers.  I challenge you, though, to think about the possibility of intentionally spending some time doing your own thing and see how it feels.

The facts:

This is where I stayed in Bangkok.  I got massages here and here.  I ate dinner here, which I'll talk about more in a later post.  I did a cooking class here.  If it had worked better with my schedule, I would have done this food tour with Context travel, aka my favorite travel company.  I used Uber to get around and I felt totally safe.  Go forth and conquer, ladies! (And gents.)

Have any of y'all ever done any solo travel?  How did you approach those trips?  Hit me up cuz I'm always looking for more tips.