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Solo Travel Books for Women: Taking the Leap

Solo travel books, especially those for women, aren't easy to come by, but there are a few - and they are good.

The Art of Solo Travel: A Girl's Guide
by Stephanie Lee (2010)

If you're a first-time solo traveler and you're a bit anxious about it, or don't know where to start, The Art of Solo Travel is the best thing that can happen to you.

This feisty and congenial e-book is wonderfully written, filled with photos and helpful graphics that just take you by the hand and tell you everything you need to know about hitting the road on your own: quitting your job, telling your family and friends, saving your money (in Stephanie's case, AUS$13,000 for six months, three continents, 18 countries, most of them in expensive Europe), deciding where to go and for how long, what to take, how to travel cheaply, dealing with loneliness, returning home and much much more.

At just over 40 pages, you won't find another book that packs so much information and advice into so little (and easy to carry) space. It's also fun to read and hits the spot - each time you come up with a question, The Art of Solo Travel seems to come up with an answer.

The author, architect and travel writer Stephanie Lee, writes from experience rather than research - you can tell she enjoyed her solo experience, but she also calls it as she sees it, including the down sides of solo travel.

Most of Stephanie's advice is common sense - stay away from dark alleys, carry fruit and chocolate for snacks, have a Plan B, learn to couchsurf, start with the information counter, pack only one bag... the nice thing about this book is that it's all in one place, sensibly organized, and designed with the bewildered first-timer in mind.

A Journey of One's Own
by Thalia Zepatos (2003)

Without a doubt this is one of the best - and one of the first - travel books written for women who are considering solo travel. It covers every possible practical eventuality, from packing light to dealing with difficult travel companions, if by any chance you team up along the way.

"My biggest fear was traveling alone," she says. "Confronting and overcoming that fear opened the door to remarkable adventures." With these words she addresses the deepest fears of women who are thinking of traveling on their own.

She did what she had to - she took the plunge and after years of dreaming, finally set off for 18 months around the world. She came back changed, as many of us do when we finally take the plunge.

The result is A Journey of One's Own, which distills not only her wisdom but the voices of other women she had met along the way. While not strictly about solo travel - she provides plenty of advice for women wanting to travel with partners or in groups - her underlying philosophy is empowering and can-do - one that says we all can.

On solo travel, her advice to beat loneliness - establish a home base, follow routines - is spot on and the same advice I give women travelers.

Her book is culturally sensitive and she's strong on sustainable travel, so her attitude fits with our times. A bonus - Thalia provides excellent web resources that you can use to follow up on her ideas.

Fly Solo: The 50 Best Places on Earth for a Girl to Travel Alone
by Teresa Rodriguez Williamson (2007)

This is a book about places - the best places - and why solo women should visit them.

Fly Solo is fresh in the way it looks at travel. Rather than deconstruct a destination, Teresa starts by telling us why this place - from Fairbanks, Alaska to Buenos Aires, Argentina - rocks, and how it rates for culture, activity, weather and social criteria.

She then lists the 10 most extraordinary experiences in that destination, with a few occasional additions such as Read Before You Go and a Flying Foreplay section that prepares you for a place's quirks.

Panama City gets a 5 for Activity, because it has "water water everywhere" for diving, fishing, sailing, kayaking... In Vietnam, she warns about knowing your history (no Ho Chi who? thank you very much) and in Stockholm, she explains why vodka and tennis go so well together.

It's a great book to pick up and put down - just take your time. Broken down into bite-size paragraphs, you can use it as a guidebook as well. If you've got a particularly wicked attack of wanderlust, just lock yourself up somewhere, curl up with good strong coffee, and start reading.

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