Solo travel is popular - increasingly so. For some women, it's the only way to travel. For others, it's a great 'once-in-a-while' adventure. And for yet others, it's just too plain scary or downright unpleasant.
One thing is clear: solo travel isn't for everyone.
Who is it for, then?
Follow me and find out.
Women on the Road NEWS: Contents for Issue #39
- What does it take to travel solo?
- What's New on www.women-on-the-road.com
- Ask me a question!
- Have you joined my free travel writing course yet?
- Most Popular Posts Last Month
- Travel News from Across the Web
- Cause of the Month: Fighting Human Trafficking and Sex Tourism
If you boast just a few of the following character traits, then you could try solo travel and see how it feels. Tread gingerly. If the match is 50-50, it's definitely something you'd enjoy. Go on, take the jump. And if the following characteristics are absolutely you, then you're probably halfway around the world already.
A sense of adventure
Of course. There's every chance your trip will be less predictable if you're on your own since you'll have no one to prevent you from changing your plans. Who knows where that hidden alley or overgrown mountain path will lead.
If you need someone to make decisions for you, you're not ready for solo travel. After all, you won't have anyone around to ask.
A bit of courage
Not a huge amount - solo travel is no more dangerous than any other kind of travel. Still, some situations are harder to deal with on your own, say eating in a restaurant, arguing with a driver or walking around the streets after sundown. Whether it's an emergency or simply a change of plans, you'll have to be a 'can-do' kinda gal.
An outgoing nature
Not indispensable but it helps. Solo travel shouldn't mean lonely travel so being able to make friends easily is a definite plus if you're seeing the world on your own.
You never know what might come along! I was headed for Singapore and ended up at a Balinese wedding instead, all because of someone I'd met on the back of a truck.
Like your own company
You'll spend plenty of time with yourself, so this is a prerequisite. Long bus trips on which no one speaks your language or interminable waits with only a book for company can be downright pleasant if you're at ease with yourself.
The ability to relax or meditate will go a long way in unfamiliar or delicate situations. I once waited three days for a bus in a tiny northern Ugandan town and did a lot of meditating as buses filled to the brim drove by without even stopping. Patience did indeed become a virtue.
You want something different
No question, solo travel will be different, whether you're trying to escape the cubicle, find yourself, explore the world or just get away for awhile. If you're happy doing what you're doing, chances are strapping on a backpack isn't high on your list.
A sense of physical strength
You don't actually have to be strong or a martial arts black belt, but you do have to carry yourself as though you're physically confident when you're on your own. You don't want anyone to see you as a potential victim, do you?
Speak your mind, girl!
You'll often have to stand your ground. In some cases solo women can be among the most oppressed travelers - lousiest restaurant table, back of the bus or second-class citizen kind of thing. Don't become invisible: solo travel is no place for insecurities.
Every place is different and you'll have to be ready for that diversity. In fact you'll have to welcome it. Being open-minded and open-hearted is bound to send plenty of unexpected experiences your way.
Ready to rough it
Single travel often means not getting your first choice - of room, table, seat... so don't be attached to your luxuries or your expectations. They may not be met. In fact, they may be replaced with something even better.
The heart of an explorer
Not necessarily to cross jungles on a pack animal but happy to do so if the opportunity is there. To travel solo you should enjoy the thrill of exploration, the tiny village not on the map, or the recently-independent country whose borders have just come open.
A willingness to let go
That's right, to let go - of your habits, fears, resentments, expectations... solo travel will help you face yourself, whoever you are. And that's something you have to be willing to do.
Are you wondering...
- how safe it is to travel solo?
- the best places to go on your own?
- how much it might cost?
- what to pack?
- how to meet people and ward off loneliness?
- about the most unusual destinations?
Here are some of the questions readers asked in the past month:
Backpacking in Honduras?
SOS - My first solo trip - I'm 59!
Too shy to travel?
African-American woman solo travel to India?
Six months and plenty of options - what next?
...and had these nice things to say:
From Michelle: "Thanks so much for the packing list. Very Useful! I am looking forward to learning more from the website and the ezine. It is a great website." Thanks Michelle!
From Zen: "I'm so excited for my first pilgrimage in August 2011.Your advice has been very helpful. The traveler in me is coming out." How gratifying - that's what this site is all about, getting your inner traveler out there!
This reader didn't leave her name but her message is loud and clear: "I just wanted to get in touch because I found your website to be really great for someone like me. I am currently teaching English in South Korea, and have been here for almost 7 months now. I only graduated from a Commerce degree last year. It took me quite some time to make the decision to leave home and venture out to live and teach in a foreign country, but I am so glad I made this decision.
"Now, I am so much more open minded to the possibilities of travel, whereas before, I would never have considered doing something like this. Because I am now out of my comfort zone, I want to push myself more, to do more travel, work in different jobs, volunteer, and do so many other things without the expectations that bounded me when I was back home. So I am continually checking your website for new ideas and travel news." What a wonderful outlook, the future looks bright!
Julie from Taiwan: "As a single girl, I must say that this is a very cool site!" Well, I'll allow myself one last blush this month.
Do you want to get in touch?
If you're a woman on the road - or about to hit the road - and have a question which could be of interest to other readers, post it here and I'll answer it online. Please don't ask me for job leads or recommendations for hotels or restaurants - plenty of sites out there do that far better than I ever could!
If you need to get in touch with me personally for any of the following reasons, please either Reply to this email or use this form (and don't forget to include your email!)
- to exchange links
- to approach me with a proposal
- or anything else that might require a personal answer from me.
Walk the talk
Dreaming is easy. And travel is one of those dreams many of us carry around for years.
It's not every day we can turn our dreams into reality so maybe it's time to walk the talk. If travel has been at the top of the list of things you absolutely have to do soon, then you need to read The Art of Solo Travel: A Girl's Guide - especially if you're finding it hard to decide where to start.
This adventurous little book will help you sort things out. The Art of Solo Travel by Stephanie Lee is a feisty, congenial, visual and intelligent e-book that will tell you and your friends everything you need to know about getting out that door.
Find out how to save for your trip, break the news to your loved ones, take care of those last-minute jitters, and even how to deal with coming home. It's short, light and to the point - no padding like so many other e-books.
The author, an architect turned travel writer, traveled solo for six months and took plenty of notes along the way. Her advice is eminently sensible, from the obvious - don't walk alone in dark alleys - to using iGoogle for everything from location to translation.
Her central premise? "Embrace your individuality and sense of adventure."
If you're like thousands of others who would love to see their names in print and if you love to travel, have you ever thought of writing to pay your way?
Travel writing paid for my own travel across several continents so I know a bit about the writer's life and what editors like. I've put a lot of that knowledge together for you in a free online course called the The Travel Writing Magician, available exclusively to readers of this ezine.
Just sign up and get it in your mailbox in seven easy daily installments. Work the assignments on your own and see how your writing improves after just one week. You'll never know if there's a travel writer lurking inside you until you try!
1. Volunteer Work Overseas
2. Overseas Jobs
3. Travel Money Belt
4. Solo Travel
5. Travel Accessories for Women
6. Travel Writing Jobs
7. Travel Packing List
8. Women's Travel Clothing
9. Travel Destinations
10. International Travel Nursing
Should You Pay to Volunteer Abroad?
5 Amazing Websites to Help You Volunteer Anywhere
5 Reasons Why the Middle East is Safe for Women's Travel
5 Best Travel Skirts for Women
Protecting Your Laptop While Traveling
For food lovers...
...and lovers of other arts
If You're Visual
The Istanbul Not in the Guidebooks
Travel Squire: Dakar, Senegal
11 of the Best Free Things to do in Atlanta
A Gaucho Detour from Buenos Aires
North Korea Travel Experience
My $100 Weekend in New York: Where the Money Went
An Expedition to the Far North... of New Zealand, that is
Deadly Harvest in Laos
Human Trafficking: Feeding the Sex Tourism Industry
Worldwide some 27 million people are being held in modern-day slavery. It's called human trafficking, generates some US$ 32 billion annually and is the second most lucrative crime in the world. It often involves the travel industry.
Sex tourism is defined as: "The sexual exploitation of a child by a person, who engages in sexual activities with a child while traveling away from their own country or region. It usually involves some form of payment." Over two million children are sexually exploited throughout the world every year. It is estimated that about 25% of the sex tourists exploiting children abroad are from the United States.
ECPAT-USA (the US arm of the Thai-based ECPAT International network) and The Code Organization have partnered to end human trafficking within the travel industry. ECPAT-USA, which stands for End Child Prostitution, Pornography, and Trafficking, is a non-profit dedicated to ending the sexual exploitation of children through research, advocacy, and public awareness campaigns. The Code Organization promotes guidelines that can be incorporated into travel companies’ ethical policies to prevent exploitation. Together, ECPAT-USA and The Code Organization have produced two public awareness campaigns that allow you, as a traveler, to join the fight against exploitation.
The first campaign is the development of TassaTags, brightly-colored luggage tags that allow you to spot your luggage more easily as they tumble down to the carrousel. They're made at the Regina Center in Nongkhai, Thailand, which helps women stay in their villages, a major strategy in fighting sex trafficking. Income earned goes to the women, the Regina Center and to ECPAT's work.
The second campaign is The Code Postcard. You submit a postcard to your travel company. It states that you as a consumer demand responsible practices to be implemented. You can download the postcard at www.ecpatusa.org/thecode. It's hoped that the postcards will help make people more aware of sex tourism and in this way help fight child exploitation.
To help fight human trafficking and sex tourism:
You can contact ECPAT-USA directly by emailing email@example.com.
The following non-profit organizations are also working to fight trafficking and sex tourism:
Not For Sale
World Vision Child Sex Tourism Prevention Project
Equality Now Campaign Against Sex Tourism and Trafficking
To read more about it:
6 Survival Tips That Could Save Your Life
(c) 2007-2011, Leyla Giray. All rights reserved. Women on the Road News is published monthly. Reproduction of any material from this newsletter without written permission is prohibited.