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Take the Anxious Out of Solo Travel
How to see the world when you're on your own

Solo travel is one of travel's greatest joys - it allows you to focus on your surroundings rather than on yourself.

At least that's what I came to believe after traveling solo around the world for more than three years.

You'd be amazed at how many women are taking to the road by themselves. On some days it looks like everyone on the road is a woman traveling solo.

Study after study confirms not only an increase in the number of women traveling alone, but that we are actually enjoying it. 

All kinds of women travel solo - and they travel in all kinds of styles. Some prefer backpacking, others have upgraded to flashpacking, some of you want to be pampered while others prefer to live like the locals.

solo travel to santiago - a pilgrim arrivesSolo backpacker arrives in Santiago de Compostela after weeks on the Camino

If you're a woman who travels light, you'll enjoy my printable (Ridiculously) Practical Packing Checklist - it's the list I use when I travel. I bet you'll find at least three things on this list you wouldn't have thought of bringing with you!

(You'll get a copy for free when you subscribe to Women on the Road NEWS here, delivered right to your mailbox every other Tuesday, along with plenty of travel strategies and tips you can put into action right away.)

Solo travelers have a zillion questions - and I've tried to answer as many as I can:

Solo travel does not have to be traumatic!

Solo travel for women means... more freedom to get off the bus when something catches your eye... being able to change your mind and your direction... being more open towards others... being more spontaneous... taking risks... fewer compromises... or just lying in bed or going for a massage if you feel like it without having to make excuses to anyone.

If you're a woman traveling solo...

  • You'll often get special treatment - I can't count the number of times I've been given preferential seating on a bus because I was a solo woman
  • You'll meet more people - in countries where women on their own are rare, your solo status will awaken interest and curiosity
  • You'll become more self-confident when there's no one to blame or complain to - life just is
  • You'll be more approachable. Think about it: isn't easier to walk up to a woman and ask for directions than to a group or a couple?
  • You'll do what you want, when you want, even if others wouldn't think it's the right thing to do
  • Solo travel teaches you perspective - things you would have considered disastrous back home become mere inconveniences to be dealt with, not cried over
  • Flexibility means you'll be able to take advantage of unexpected opportunities- like the traditional Balinese marriage I attended after meeting someone at a bus station
  • Your language skills will get a quick brush-up if you're on your own with no one to turn to - a phrase book and wildly gesticulating hands usually do the trick and you'll learn something along the way
  • With no one to talk to incessantly, you'll have time to sit with yourself, and get to know yourself.

In Zanzibar I met two women who worked in Ethiopia and were vacationing on the island - they were parting ways, Rosie heading to South Africa on a bicycle, and Sam returning to Addis Ababa. We exchanged addresses, never really expecting to see one another again.

As I neared Ethiopia, I dropped Sam an email (still a rarity in those days). She sent a car to meet me at the airport and put me up for several weeks. I had a wonderful time in Addis - courtesy of someone I'd met on a Zanzibar beach! If I'd been with a group, we'd never have met up and I certainly wouldn't have been hosted.

Another time, in Burma I hired a horse and cart to visit the ruins of Bagan and struck up a conversation with the driver. He was the town's photographer until he was 'relocated', his house confiscated by the government. He was given a few sacks of cement and bricks to rebuild his home - obviously not enough.

He sold his camera to house his family.

Without a camera, he was no longer a photographer, so he began driving to earn a living. He invited me to his house to meet his family, and I was made aware of a slice of Burmese life I never would have seen otherwise. Had I not been alone, the dangers and fears of meeting with foreigners would have kept him away.

Let's face it - solo travel doesn't really mean you're on your own all the time, quite the opposite in fact. It just means you make your own decisions - but anyone can come along for part of the ride.

Have you ever traveled solo? What was your experience like? Please let us know in the comments below!