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Convincing the Parents?

I just graduated from college, and am looking to start traveling solo. I've done plenty of traveling in the past. I've traveled all around the US and to South Africa, but I always had someone with me. I'm looking to just start with short 2-3 day backpacking trips around the state, but my parents are always trying to convince me not to go. Do you have any suggestions or ways to calm their nerves before I go? I don't want to sit around and wait for someone to go with me every time I want to travel. Thanks for your help!

Answer: It's worth putting the dangers into perspective. Most young women travel around the world and come home without a scratch. Danger lurks everywhere and you're as much at risk of being hit by a car in your hometown as you are of running into trouble overseas.

A good way to allay your parents' fears is to show them a clear plan and give them plenty of details. If you've thought your trip through sensibly and can show them where you'll be, for how long, and where you'll go next, they may (grudgingly) accept you're at least serious about it all. Promising to stay in touch (and keeping the promise) goes a long way towards comforting them as well. Take a cellphone and agree a time and day - and stick to it. Choose one of the 'safer' destinations, or at least considered safer.

My mother was horrified when I told her I was going to backpack around the world on my own, and warned me about all sorts of things. I slowly brought her around to my way of thinking by countering her arguments diplomatically, showing her pictures, and even asking her to join me at some point (which she did, by coming to visit for two weeks when I had plunked myself down in Bangkok for a while).

You could also tell your parents you're only going to stay where there are plenty of other travelers. Stay in hostels, and give them their names. If you do that, I can almost guarantee that the only time you'll be on your own is on the plane. After that you'll make friends and will have plenty of people around. It may be a bit of a sacrifice to your freedom at first - but if it makes your parents worry less, it's worth 'staying with the pack' at the beginning. Once they get used to the idea of you being on your own, you can take a bit of distance.

There's no tried and true way to convince your parents other than showing them you are serious, sensible, and committed. You can never guarantee safety - anywhere. So tell them that - and tell them you are reading all the right things, taking precautions, doing plenty of research… and that you'll do whatever it takes to ease their concerns - other than stay home.

Come back and let us know how it goes! Your experiences and insight will help other travelers facing the same issues.

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What is the minimum age for volunteer work overseas?

by Claire
(Unites States)

Answer: Hi Claire, I take it from your question that you're quite young but would still like to volunteer...

The minimum age is usually 18. I say usually, because there are a few exceptions. For example, certain paying groups, like Cross-Cultural Solutions, offer teen programs for 15-17-year olds. These don't come cheap, however, and parental help would be seriously required. United Planet has some short-term volunteer plans if you're at least 16, as does Greenheart Travel.

Finally, check out Teen Summer 411 for a list of teenage volunteer opportunities for even younger age groups, some as young as 13.

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Young Aussie woman to travel solo in Australia, Asia and beyond

by Chloe
(Australia )

Hi, I'm 22 and would love to go and travel around my home country Australia and Asia then work in Europe or the UK, and South America - just go wherever I want to. This will all be on my own which excites me to a certain point, but how do I find someone to travel some of the way who is not from a dating site? Also I need to work - I will have a certificate in tourism and business.


Since this isn't a job site I can't help you with finding work but I can point you towards my Female Travel Companions and its resources on finding women with whom to travel.

If you're looking for men as well, your best bet would be one of the larger travel forums. Try posting a request at the Thorn Tree or BootsnAll.

A word of advice: if you're serious about finding travel partners, narrow down your search by giving people approximate dates and places and make your request a little less general and more specific. Happy travels!

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21 year old blonde traveling alone in Ecuador

I am looking to possibly volunteer at an orphanage in Quito, Ecuador during January of 2013. I will be 21 by then. I have always wanted to do service work in a third world country - I'm hoping to really gain perspective. However my parents and I are very worried about my safety while traveling. I am VERY natural bright blonde - I even get a lot of people talking about my hair color in the US where blonde is common! :)

I would be in Quito for a little less than a month, living with a host family. Im not sure but I think I have to find my own transportation between the host house and the orphanage. Additionally, this is my first time leaving the US.

Some insight here would be greatly appreciated :) Thank you so very much!

My answer: You're not the first with that question - ultimately what tends to worry us when we travel is standing out from the crowd and being singled out for special attention, not all of it positive.

I've suggested several strategies to another traveler headed to Costa Rica who faces the same challenges, and you'll find them at being blonde and female in Costa Rica.

That said, the first thing to do is take common safety precautions for Quito. I'm sure you've already visited the State Department page for Ecuador but if you haven't, take a moment to do so, bearing in mind that these government warnings usually present the WORST case scenario. It's true, there is crime in Ecuador, and a lot of it is directed at foreigners as they are perceived to be wealthier. That said, thousands of people visit the country each year without any mishaps at all.

You don't mention how you found your host family but this is one area where choosing carefully would make a difference. Make sure your host family comes with excellent references, and better yet, try to talk to previous guests. Given the availability of Google maps and similar software, you should be able to map your public transport route to the orphanage well before you go. The closer, the better. You might also check with the orphanage to see if they have on-site lodgings that would help cut transportation to a minimum. Distance from work becomes particularly important if you don't speak the language (you don't mention whether you speak Spanish).

If I were you I would also get in touch with expatriates living in Quito. Check out the various blogs - just Search for 'expat blogs' or 'expat forums' - and contact foreigners who actually live there. They will give you a far more realistic picture than you'll get from government and other websites. I've found most people to be helpful and friendly with this type of information - just don't give too many details about yourself. You're there to get information, not to give it out, at least not in the first stages.

Being blonde will make you stand out, no doubt about it. But most foreigners do stand out by the way they act or dress, so you won't be the only person they'll be staring at. A kerchief or some kind of relaxed headgear could help, but so will the way you carry yourself. The trick is to look as though you belong.

Finally, if there's any way you can join a few other travelers at least at the start of your trip, you'd have a bit of a support system that would help you get settled in. I've never been one to worry too much about travel, but since this is your first time and you haven't chosen the easiest country, I'd try to plan as much as I could before going.

Remember, safety is relative and things can happen, no matter how many precautions you take. Bad things can happen when crossing the street at home, so it's not being abroad that in itself increases your danger. And please come back with more questions if you have them!

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Oct 24, 2012
by: cb

I am a blonde female was there in feb 2012, i was volunteering some time in Quito mostly Tena area. I didnt ever feel unsafe but i was always with one other person. However, walking through the market or down the street you do get cat called i would just ignore it and nothing really would develope from there. Another side note people will approach you from off the street and hand you there children and then ask to take a photo of you with them.

Overall its an amazing experienced highly recommended.Also, what i usually find with volunteering, you go to a new country alone and within the first day you have friends and on spare time you usually hangout together so may actually never be alone.

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Egypt/ Israel for a solo young first-time traveling female?

by Kimberly

I am a 21-year-old female, and a travel newby. The farthest I've been is Puerto Rico, but I went with a friend and we stayed very comfortably with his family... I have dreamed my whole life of going to Israel and Egypt, but I have heard that it is a difficult place to travel - especially for a female - and especially for a first-time traveler.

I have a bit of shyness working against me. I know I'll have to get over that immediately traveling and to be honest that is sort of why I want to travel.......

My parents are very fear-oriented. So I am surrounded by an accumulated consciousness of 'worst possible scenarios'. I want to break free from it all! But of course, inevitably, I am a little afraid. I know that there are better places for a first-time traveler to go, but the Middle East calls to me. Any advice would help. Thank you so much!

Answer: I beg to differ with common conceptions: the Middle East is probably one of the safer places to travel as a woman on her own. People are extremely hospitable, and in most countries, certainly in Egypt, very courteous.

Terrorism is anywhere and everywhere - of course Jerusalem is a target, but history has shown that you can easily be a target in London, Madrid or New York. Certainly, some parts of the Middle East get more than their share, and you'll hear about it because the media will write extensively about a terrorist event. Thousands of travelers visit the region all the time - and they usually come home safely, filled with wonderful experiences.

Lets start with Egypt.

The more rural or remote your destination, the more conservative the people. If you're at a beach resort, you'll feel perfectly at home - they look like beaches anywhere.

A good rule of thumb outside highly touristy areas is to cover up a bit more - shoulders and knees, and your tummy, of course. It's not so much that you'll get really hassled if you don't dress conservatively - it's just that you'll project an image you might not want to. This remains a male-dominated society and women who show off more than men think they should are considered fair game. You might attract more attention than you bargained for.

In Egypt, there's a heavy sales culture and the country is poor, so more than safety issues, you'll have to deal with petty annoyances, people trying to sell you things you don't want. Just be firm, polite, and walk on. Being on your own won't make a difference - everyone gets this treatment so you won't be alone!

Then there's the male/female thing. As a first-time traveler, you should be aware that the culture you'll be facing in a Muslim country is different from yours. What you consider normal and friendly - looking a man in the eye, shaking hands, accepting a drink - may be innocuous where you're from, but in countries like Egypt these small acts have more of a 'come hither' meaning and may encourage men to think you are looking for something more. So unless you actually WANT to be pushing someone away loudly in the middle of a public place, avoid these situations. If a man is clearly being too forward by touching you inappropriately (touching your hair, or giving you a major hug) just say something loudly. Public embarrassment is something to be avoided at all costs and there's a good chance you'll scare the man off.

My biggest safety concern in Egypt? Crossing a crowded Cairo street.

Now, for Israel. Strange as it may seem, Israel is one of the safest countries for solo women on the road. Think about it: it's highly policed, the country is constantly on alert, security is tight. This makes it safer than many other places in the region, and beyond.

Certain parts of Israel are more dangerous than others, and I'd stay away from those. But my advice would be - and this also goes for Egypt - ask when you get there, because things change quickly. If you're staying in a hostel or somewhere accustomed to hosting travelers, you'll probably have the freshest news possible. Ask other travelers. And ask local people: they'll know their own backyard.

Mostly, use your head, as you would in New York or Los Angeles. If something feels wrong, stay away. Try to understand a bit of the culture before you go. Don't assume things are the same as they are back home. Don't be too naive. In other words, take the same precautions you would anywhere, with one small addition: keep up with news in the Middle East, so that if trouble does break out, at least you'll know about it.

All I can do now is wish you a wonderful trip!

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May 26, 2010
thank you
by: Kimberly

Wow, well you definitely just upped my confidence about the trip 10,000 fold. thank you so much:) :) :)

Jun 08, 2010
Travel to the Middle East
by: Rachel

Hi Kimberly,

I agree with Leyla. Israel, believe it or not, is one of the safest places for women travelers. In West Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, English can be heard everywhere. When lost, you can ask people on the street for help or go into any hotel. Israel makes its money from tourism, so hotels--especially in big cities/tourist sites--are all over the place.

Because Israel is largely a country of new immigrants, it is full of residents from English speaking countries. Many new tourists are often pleasantly surprised when an English-speaking resident will see them wandering Jerusalem and invite them home for a Sabbath meal. Middle Eastern culture is one where hospitality is practiced to the fullest degree. Guests are immediately offered something to drink when they arrive at someone's house.

Also, women are very liberated in Israel and can feel comfortable wearing tank tops and short shorts--except in very religious areas. Usually, these areas will be denoted with modesty signs. If you are not dressed entirely modestly when you arrive at a religious site, a woman working there will hand you a shawl and you can feel free to enter the area.

In Egypt, and specifically in Cairo, my experiences were very different. I felt on edge without my brother and very conscious of the way I was dressed. As a white woman with light hair, I felt I was ogled. Wearing a long skirt or jeans and a long-sleeved shirt and wrapping my hair in a scarf helped to lessen the stares.

I felt a lot more at ease in the Black Desert, where there were fewer people and endless sand dunes. I traveled there too with my brother and a Bedouin guide and felt comfortable wearing short sleeves.

I did love Egypt though--my senses were awakened like never before. But I am happy I went with my brother. Going alone, I don't think I would have had the same amount of access as I did with a male by my side.

Feel free to ask me questions. I've been to Israel tons of times and Egypt twice and I am happy to help you plan your travels!

And feel free to visit:, an online community for women travelers to get real travel information geared specifically to women through anecdotes, photos and comments.

Enjoy your travels!

Jul 07, 2010
Tips for Women Traveling in Egypt
by: Lynn

Greetings, I lived in Egypt for near 18 months in the mid 90's so things may have changed quite a bit but really the culture is beautiful.

Do be aware that the less educated may think you are looking for sex by being alone. If you shake hands dont grasp - use an open palm and just briefly touch. Give eye contact to the women and stick with them, dont go off alone with a man unless his mother/wife knows and is ok with it -she can give approval so that you are like a surrogate sister. If a guy asks you to go with him make sure there is a woman with him (somewhere). You need to be aware that the culture does believe that women have trouble controlling themselves sexually - the guys dont take responsibility at all and will push you. On the streets you may encounter men asking you for sex quite openly in some ways ie they will say it as they walk past you ... don't make eye contact with a guy unless it is fleeting and to locate him in space - dont look, as such. Be aware that the men often marry young so if some young handsome guy wants to go out with you make sure that he isn't married. If your eyes do connect don't smile.

You will be asked for money by so many people that it will get tiresome, mainly by small children - don't give any money as the word will spread and you will be targeted. Do tip when someone does something for you, sometimes it is the way they earn their income for example with some guides - the actual price that you pay may not go to them at all so they rely on your tips for their families.

Learn some basic Egyptian arabic. I was told when bargaining to drop their prices by 2/3 then bargain up a bit, 'act as if' and show confidence even if you dont feel it.

Egypt is a fabulous country - I am sorry that I didn't get to Israel but I lived in the very poor section in Cairo initially - just under the Citadel later moved to Maadi-Digla where the American community lived - the people were more cosmopolitan there so you may not encounter so many overt sexual attempts in the wealthier and more westernised section. I ate on the back streets of Cairo and belly danced with some women when a trio of musicians played on the streets, so my experiences were more local - the women's community is great and they will 'pass you along' and keep you safe - they know the dangers and the need for safety. Get to know some of the older women and they will look after you and you will have a much better experience. You may be invited to family gatherings and this is where the real Cairo resides.

Sorry, I could blather on ... :-)

Have a great time - remember that the stats say you are more in danger from men that you know than from total strangers but do listen to your intuition and if you feel reluctant about something then don't! if you dont want to do something - don't do it. It is your life .....

Jul 22, 2010
Just got back from Egypt - black female traveller
by: Anonymous

I agree about getting to know older women, about wearing long skirts and covering your shoulders.

It was very different for me when I walked with an older woman than when I walked with a younger male - both from the same family that I've known for over a decade.

While in the desert, my male friend later told me the locals thought I was part of some strict sect because I refused any of the guides' helping hand even when climbing in or out of a carriage or up and down the pyramid blocks.

Some local Egyptian women warned me that as bad as it can get for local Arab and white women, since most black women in Egypt are 'poor' Sudanese or African refugees, they will go so far as to physically push and hit them.

Based on experiences in India, while in Egypt, I constantly wore dark glasses, averted my face when walking by males I didn't know, and never let any stray smile (seeing a little kid or cute cat) linger.

And I'm not even young - over 40 and heavy. I've thought about it and I'm not sure I would venture around Egypt solo for my first visit. Maybe on a 2nd trip, and I would have to do it where I know I can quickly get to some safe place where people know who I am, if I need to.

I've found that local Egyptians often resent descriptions of this type and deny that they have any merit. Another aspect of the challenge.

Ed. Note: For other viewpoints on racism in Egypt, see Black in Cairoand Life with Maya Meron.

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How to travel solo and safely in the Western USA if you're a 20-year-old

by Renee

I've always wanted to travel out West on the road. Whenever I mention it to my parents they always say that It would be a stupid thing to do for a single 20 year old girl to do. So I suggested that I take one of my friends but since she's the same age and a girl they said that would be dumb too (plus she wouldn't be able to come because of school).

And I understand where they're coming from but I can't find anyone that would come with me due to school or money. I think its dumb that people think I can't do it unless I either go with a lot of people or a guy. And I wouldn't mind going with a guy but I don't have one and I don't want to go with a bunch of people. So I'm kinda stuck on deciding what to do. Do you have any suggestions? Is there a safe way that would allow me to travel by car out west alone (due to the lack of not having anyone to go with)?

Answer: Safety is always relative, and having a guy with you isn't necessarily safer than having a girl - or going by yourself.

If you do decide to travel on your own, you'd have to take certain safety precautions. Here are just a few of the things I'd do if it were me:

  • Get the right maps and map your route ahead of time.

  • Reserve your lodgings along the way - before leaving.

  • Keep your cellphone on at all times and check in with your family at regular intervals. Don't forget to take a phone charger for your car.

  • Stick to the most traveled roads and don't wander off into unpopulated areas.

  • Make sure your car is in absolutely perfect shape to minimize the risk of breakdowns along the way.

  • Join your local automobile association and make sure you have an emergency number in case of breakdown.

  • Stick to family diners for food and stay away from bars or other places where men might be looking for entertainment.

  • Basically, use your common sense. Your parents sound like caring people who have probably brought you up sensibly. Keep their teachings in mind.

These are significant precautions and if you stick with them there's every reason your trip should be a smooth one. That said, there is no such thing as a safety guarantee. Everything carries at least a small risk - as does crossing the street in front of your house.

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Nov 02, 2010
I did it!
by: Sara

I'm from Cincinnati Ohio, and I am 25 years old... 3 years ago I did just what you are wanting to do! I drove from Cincinnati to Colorado Springs, across to Moab Utah, down into Monument Valley, AZ, then through Sedona and down into Tombstone, across to White Sands, New Mexico and back home. I camped a few nights and stayed in hotels the other nights. I had my collie, Molly with me.

Maybe I got lucky, but I never had one problem. Having a dog with you might help. Camping alone in the middle of nowhere was a little bit scary, but again I had no problems. I had mace and a giant pocket knife with me... people tell me I was crazy... maybe I am! But I would do it all over again.

So IMO, go for it!! Just be careful, don't tell anyone you're traveling by yourself, and make sure you have a GPS or a good map so you don't get lost. :)

Nov 14, 2010
I'm not 20, but....
by: Anonymous

I travel full time solo in an RV. (I'm in my 30s.) Lots of people were certain I was going to fall prey to criminal harm.

My experience is that people who stay locked in their houses watching too much TV think strangers are dangerous. People who are out in the world exploring, think strangers are kind.

I have a group on Yahoo called Women Go Solo for women who are traveling solo full time in the US.

I blog about my solo travel here:

Good luck!


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How well can an 18-year-old girl travel alone in Europe?

by Paige M. Erickson
(Lima, Ohio, US)

My parents are sending me to Europe for the month of June as a graduation/accepted to college present. Will I be ok traveling alone? I'm pretty intelligent with common sense and funding isn't an issue.

My answer: What a wonderful gift - and how fun that you'll be able to focus on the adventure and not worry about money!

Once you know where you're going, try to reserve your first couple of nights at your first destination. It'll be a bit of a safe haven and you'll know where you're going once you land. Also make sure you know the best way to get to your reserved room! You've got all the Google Maps and other tools, and use to figure out how to get from the airport to town.

Will you be OK traveling alone? I can't see why not! Europe is filled with 18-year-olds who are taking a gap year between high school and college. You say you're smart and sensible so just use those smarts, as you would back home, and apply these travel safety tips:

- be careful when meeting strangers and learn how to avoid unwanted male attention
- don't go off with anyone you don't know WELL (just take a friend along: you'll have new friends in no time) and beware of drinking with strangers (now I'M starting to sound like someone's mother! - but unfortunately not everyone has the best intentions and being careful at the outset can save you grief later)
- take a few basic hotel safety precautions
- set up regular times to talk to your family by phone or Skype (it will help them worry less about you)
- watch your money - wear a travel money belt and try to play down what money you do have
- stick to well-lit areas and if your guidebooks tell you to stay away from certain parts of town at night, follow their advice

Communications shouldn't be too hard. Many people speak English, and you can carry a phrase book for countries where it's not spoken. Hotels and guesthouses will all understand you, as will most tourist attraction staff. And outside Australia/NZ and Canada, Europe is in many ways as close as you'll get to the USA culturally.

None of this is scary or huge. It's just a bit of research, as you would do for a term paper in school. Know what to look for, and then go off and have a great time!

These other questions were also asked by young women heading off to travel on their own:
How young is too young to travel?
How can a 16-year-old travel?
Budget travel to Europe: Prague to Paris
Convincing the parents
Can a high school graduate travel alone across Africa overland?

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Feb 07, 2012
Alone as a Teen
by: JAVSimson

I lived in France for ten months at age 19, and traveled around the country, largely on my own, back in the '50s. Then went from there to Germany the following summer. It might have been some safer then, but we were not nearly as connected: no cell phones or internet, and using a landline phone there was an unbelievable hassle. I just winged it and had a wonderful time, but I was always careful. The response above is right on target! And stay away from the booze and night spots unless you're with someone you really know and trust. Maybe not even then.

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Can a girl fresh out of high school travel Africa overland for a year? Alone?

by Grace
(Ohio, USA)

Soon I'll be graduating from high school. For a long time I've dreamed about traveling in Africa. When I was twelve I visited Ghana, but only for a short time. I've recently realized that what I really want to do is see Africa, get in depth with Africa. My route would be overland from Jo'burg, South Africa, traveling in a wide arc to Mauritania, spending about a month in each country. While on route I *might* travel through Sudan and Chad, but I haven't decided yet.

And yet, more and more when I express this dream to people their response is, "Alone? Why don't you just volunteer?". But my motivation in visiting Africa isn't to bringing my own culture and way of life there, but in being exposed and introduced to the varying and fascinating ways of life that define the African continent.

So, is it possible? I will be eighteen years old. Please give me your honest opinion. Thanks so much for your time!

Answer: You asked me to be honest so here goes. As you'll know from reading my site, I'm very keen on solo travel and myself traveled solo for the first time at 15 (which, thinking back, was too young - I was fine but I was lucky).

You sound extraordinarily mature for your age, so that is a definite plus. However, Africa is one of the hardest - if not THE hardest - place to travel, for a number of reasons. The numbing poverty of some parts of the continent may not be something you're used to. Safety factors, such as poorly-maintained vehicles and awful driving, means your chances of an accident are higher than they might be at home. Going from country to country can be daunting, and even seasoned travelers may find it difficult. I crossed Africa and while it was brilliant, it wasn't easy.

At 18, in all honesty, I couldn't recommend crossing Africa solo. It's a continent for the seasoned traveler, in my opinion. Others may well disagree. I'd start with something easier, like Europe or Southeast Asia, if you want to travel solo for any length of time. Get your 'sea legs', then head for Africa.

All that said, if you feel ready to face such a major trip, then try to team up with people. You don't need to travel with the same person everywhere, but make sure you've got a travel mate you can share moments of frustration with. They're not hard to find.

The first thing I'd do is check out the best travel forums online and see who's going where. You should have no trouble finding someone to share that first leg with. Once you're on the road, stay in hostels where you'll meet plenty of other young travelers. I never failed to find someone to travel with this way.

For safety's sake, as a new traveler, I'd stay away from countries with distinct security risks or where foreigners have recently been kidnapped. Make sure you check out your government's travel advisories (you'll find the link at the bottom of my dangerous places page).

And don't forget: keeping in touch is one of the most important things you'll do on the road to let your loved ones know you're safe.

So, in a nutshell... I would not recommend travel across Africa solo if you're not an experienced traveler. I would opt for a small tour to get to the know a bit of the continent first, say a few weeks of overlanding to get your feet wet. Then at least you'd have an idea of what to expect. Or, if you're really keen on solo travel, start with an easier destination. Much as I love Africa, travel there is more challenging than in most other regions of the world.

If you really want to go it alone, then I'd make sure to find travel companions along the way. You'll still be traveling solo, but at least you'll have people around you. Of course the usual safety recommendations apply when you're looking for a travel partner!

A final option - homestays or couch surfing. The advantage of this is staying with someone local, who'll be able to show you the ropes and help you steer clear of danger, since they'll know their surroundings well. Just make sure you check them out thoroughly first. Families are best and again, make sure your own family knows exactly how and where to find you.

Please come back here and post about your decision and how and why you made it - we'd love to hear!

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How can a 16-year-old travel?

by Jenna
(New York)

I am only 16 years old but I am so interested in travel! I have a list of over 100 places that I want to go and I add to it everyday! My parents are so busy and complain about travel expenses so my future doesn't look too bright! I know I'm young but experiencing new and exciting places and cultures is all I can think about! I'm obsessed with travel, quite frankly! It breaks my heart that I will have to wait so long to be able to go where I want to go! Any ideas or suggestions on how I can travel abroad? Solo travel even sounds great! Obviously I'm not married and I am a very independent girl! I don't need anybody, a man specially, to travel with. Thank you for your time!

Answer: Jenna, your enthusiasm is contagious! I'm sure you'll make a wonderful traveler - passionate, curious and open to the world.

You will have to wait a bit - but it's not a question of age. Most of us don't have the kind of money that allows us to simply pick up and go so we too have to toil and save until we have enough to finally visit our dream destination.

At 16, it's true that your options are a bit narrower because you don't have your own money and depend on your parents. If you have the option of a semester abroad, that would be a great way to get to know a different culture and these programs are well-organized. Similar groups offer student exchanges, where you go stay with a family who has a child your own age, and their son/daughter comes and stays with your family, either at the same time or one after the other. You'll find plenty of programs like AFS by searching online for 'high school student exchange'. Many of the groups listed will be able to answer your questions and maybe put you in touch with students overseas.

There are plenty of groups and organizations that organize trips for young people - some are hugely expensive, some less so, but all cost money. Still, reading their sites might give you some ideas, like Travel for Teens.

Another option would be to volunteer, since some organizations accept teenagers. You'll find a great list at Transitions Abroad and reading through them will also give you plenty of ideas.

My final idea concerns social or religious clubs. If your parents are members of the Rotary, Lions or similar club, talk to them because they often have exchanges with their counterparts in other countries. The same goes for churches, which sometimes host youth events in other countries and may be able to help.

Don't worry though - I know it seems to take forever but if you stick to your guns, you'll soon be sending us stories about your travels. Good luck, Jenna!

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Nov 12, 2011
Rotary Exchange
by: Anonymous

The Rotary organization has exchanges with students from other countries. Its a year long program. You lose a year of high school, but you gain so much more than school credits! Talk to your guidance counsellor at your school about the Rotary Exchange. Or, call your local Rotary Club and ask for information.

Nov 12, 2011
travel for the young
by: teresa roberts

My children started traveling early in life as foreign exchange students. My daughter had been to Europe twice by the time she was sixteen. My son applied to go to Germany as soon as he graduated from high school. He attended a 13th year of school there in a German High School. He also applied to do a year abroad through his university and was able to return to Germany in that way.

Start learning a foreign language. That will come in handy if you decide to travel. Maybe your family could host an exchange student which can be a vicarious form of travel. We did! Whatever you do, don't get too distracted from your goal. I applaud the whole idea of any age.....whether young or a grandmother like makes life thrilling!

Nov 30, 2011
same here!!!
by: kelsey

Girl I'm 19 and I'm in the same boat!!! I wanted it since I was a freshman and I want to go more than anything and my list of places is huge!! I have looked online and it's a lot of money but I am bound and determined I am going to go!! Keep your head up girl! And another thing its really hard to find someone to travel with you cause I have asked everywhere and people are just scared to go!! Good luck to you!

Dec 04, 2011
by: J. Sands

I agree with the idea of Rotary :)
Both my grandfather and father have been members of Rotary for a very long time and I am a member of Interact (junior Rotary).
My family has been host to a few exchange students and they have all had a wonderful time! I HIGHLY suggest looking at their exchange website for details.
Usually students stay with about 4 different families over the year. This really gives an opportunity to see what life is like :D
Best of luck with your travels!!

Dec 06, 2011
You're not alone (:
by: Anonymous

When I read what you wrote, I literally gasped out loud (and its not like I commonly do that). I have a book that I made that's about 50 pages long, consisting of places I want to see in my lifetime. The more that I stay at home, living in the suburbs, the more I wish that I could see the world! I'm almost 16, and my bucket list is about 4 pages long. I'm already saving up money. For example, this year for christmas, I'm just asking for money to go towards my travel. You could do that, if you wanted. I'm also going to Washington on spring break because my dad's cousin lives there. Ask realatives if you can stay with them. Finally, I'd suggest learning a foreign language. I'm close to being fluent in Spanish because I really would love to see Argentina; my ambitions to go there are really pushing me to work hard in school. PS, my top places I want to visit are: The Northwest part of the US and the southwest part of Canada, New Zealand, Argentina, the rocky mountians, Greece, and Alaska.

Jan 30, 2012
I'm in the same boat
by: Anonymous

The only thing in my way is my father. Literally. I'm 16 and can pay for the whole thing and can even support a friend to come with me but he's completely set in stone. Turns out, trips like these are quite ordinary.

Jan 16, 2015
We will make it somehow(:
by: Sandunie from SL

I even have the same problem.Im sixteen too,and my parents think that a sixteen year old shouldn't travel alone.but then,they cant come with me too,because they are too busy with their work.My family is so weird and trust me we never had a family trip through out these sixteen years.Their ideas are so different than mine.
What they want is to stay at home and chill.But what I want is to travel all around my country,and the whole wide world!I want to get to know new cultures,new food,new clothes,lifestyles of different parts of the world,after all its a small small world(:
I want to travel as much as I can.To make my dreams come true,I want support from my parents,I need money and I need protection either.After thinking alot,I came to a decision that I would never bother my parents.
I will find money for myself,I will do whatever it takes!and at the end I will somehow achieve my dream of travelling(:

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19 year old aspriring backpacker

by Catherine

Hey! I just wanted to say first of all that your site is amazing and has helped me a lot. Not just with information but with reassurance that I'm doing the right thing. I just turned 19 last month so when I said I was going backpacking alone I've gotten a few head shakes and discouragement. At first I just shrugged them off because I'm doing this for myself not for anyone else but I have to admit after a while they were starting to get to me. That is until I saw your site.

Anyways just wanted to ask you on your opinion of whether I should travel to Australia or to Thailand from Indonesia because that is where my mom and I are first heading and also separating.


Thanks for the nice words about my site, Catherine! I'm glad to hear you're finding some inspiration and courage here.

Of course people will discourage you from travel on your own - they care about you and don't want anything to happen. My parents were also concerned whenever I traveled on my own, and I'm glad they were. It made me try to do things in a way that would worry them the least.

One thing I found really helpful to my family was constantly keeping in touch. Wherever I went, I would Skype or email (or before the Internet, I'd phone) on a set schedule, usually a couple of times a week. It's comforting for them, and for me too.

As for your travel plans, there are pros and cons for both. Australia will probably be much more like home, so if this is your first time on your own, it might feel more familiar and be an easier transition. On the other hand, many of us travel to see new places, so the cultural change you'll experience with Thailand would be greater. Thailand is also a relatively safe country in which to travel, and it's full of foreigners so you'll feel right at home.

Both countries work, for different reasons. So just ask yourself - what are you looking for as an experience? That might help you decide.

Have a wonderful trip!

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Sep 05, 2010
Backpacking around the world
by: Mari

Hello Catherine,

I'm not sure how this works, or if you will ever see my comment (I hope you will though). I found this page when I looked around the internet for some tips and whatever about backpacking. I have this dream about backpacking around the world for a while, living «on the road». I admire you for going on your own! I wonder if you can tell me a little about it? That would be great! Just whatever you think is good to know.

This page is amazing by the way, I have found so much information and inspiration here, thanks! (I hope you anderstand my English, its not very good).

Mari, 19 years old, Norway

Dec 04, 2011
Money Matters..
by: Anonymous

As said before, both countries work for different reasons..
Personally I would go for Thailand at your age. I went there 2 years ago and I loved it :D

It also depends on money. Australia is very expensive for nice accommodation, Thailand on the other hand is cheap, cheap, cheap! I had stayed at the Bayoke Sky (Thailand's tallest) in the Presidential Suite (which included your own in-room mini golf - if the 18th floor's golf range isn't your thing lol) with my family of four. It was cheaper than an average suite in Aus.
The entire country is full of beauty from Bangkok to Kanchanaburi to Koh Samui.

Needless to say Australia is full of it's own beauty in many different ways to Thailand. It's really up to you to decide though :)

- P.S. If you decide on Thailand remember to always ask Taxi drivers to use their meter and invest in scented fans (trust me you'll be thankful when you come across a few 'colourful' scents while passing a drain or vent on the street).

Happy Traveling!!

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What is the safest Asian country for a 21-year-old?

by Renske

I'm a 21 year old girl from Holland and my dream is to go for a certain amount of time on my own to a very beautiful country.

Now my question is that I'm a bit confused about which country I want to visit. Last year I went to Japan with my ex boyfriend backpacking, which was amazing. Now I want to go again to Asia.

Which one is in your opinion one of the safest for a girl and one of the cheapest?

Thank you very much for helping, this site helps me a lot to make my dream come true :)

Answer: The good news is that if you're looking for cheap, beautiful and safe, you won't do much better than Asia so at least you're on the right continent.

Once upon a time I would have said Thailand instantly, without thinking. It was beautiful and safe and cheap. These days, it still is, but just a bit less so. Prices have crept up, though it's still one of the cheaper Asian destinations; huge tourist pressure means natural beauty is being crowded by tourism over-development, but not everywhere - you'll still find islands of breathtaking beauty; and the massive number of foreigners make petty crime (and at times not so petty) a lot more common that it used to be. Still, I wouldn't let that stop me - I'd just be more careful, that's all.

One country you might consider - and I do urge you to do your own research by reading what the forums have to say - is Laos. To many, it's what Thailand used to be 30 years ago. I've been half a dozen times and have always enjoyed the laid back pace. I have not visited in several years, though, so again, head to some of the better travel forums online (I would suggest you start with BootsnAll) and see what they're saying. Back then, some of the rural roads were unsafe (bandits!) but there was always widespread information about which ones these were and how to stay away. You'll probably enjoy the capital Vientiane, but Luang Prabang in the north has amazing character.

Lets see if anyone else weighs in with some suggestions!

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Dec 27, 2010
Consider Siem Reap
by: Suzanne

I travelled to Siem Reap by myself and absolutely loved it. I admit to being much older than 21 however it wouldn't matter what age you are. I felt very safe, ate meals on my own in restaurants, had a few drinks at the bar - at no point did I feel threatened or intimidated as a solo female traveller. Of course it's worth doing your homework before you go - I stayed in a lovely boutique hotel a short walk from the main town and fitted in very well.

As a destination it's amazing - Angkor Wat is well worth the visit, especially if you do your research and find a local guide who will take you to those temples that are off the beaten track.

The Cambodian people are amazing - so much brutal history yet they are some of the friendiest people I have had the good fortune to meet.

Safe travels to you!

Dec 29, 2010
Minnesota, USA
by: Kerry S

My vote goes to Laos, I've been there twice and it was beautiful, the people are so nice and friendly and you can find pretty good food and pretty cheap everywhere. It's a bit sleepy so if you're looking for some excitement maybe this isn't the right place but even along the Mekong they have bars and restaurants and they're good fun, lots of foreigners who work for charities hang out there and its easy to make new friends.

Jan 05, 2011
Loving Laos
by: Dianne Sharma Winter

SE Asia is the perfect destination for any young woman alone. Laos is just lovely if you have time to either get off the main tourist drag where things are becoming a bit of a drag these days...tourists behaving badly have seen the smiles slip from the faces of the locals which is such a shame BUT if you get off the path a bit there they are again. People love Laos for the people!

You can train to the border of THailand and Laos in one overnight trip to the border town of Nong Khai which is an unexplored gem in Thailand...stay at the Mut Mee guest house on the Mekong River, very helpful and friendly people.

Think also about Malaysia, you can easily train there from Bangkok (trains in Thailand are fabulously cheap and clean). Malaysia is still off the backpacking radar but prices are good, the beaches are superb, spotlessly clean and gorgeous, the people are lovely and speak good English and the shopping in KL is fab!

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How young is too young to travel?

by Simone
(The Netherlands)

I am sixteen years old and I'd love to backpack in Australia with my friend of seventeen years old next summer. I was wondering how old you were when you 'started'. It seems like you have a lot experience and I love to hear from you! (:

Answer: Although I traveled with my parents nearly from birth (I was on the Orient Express or whatever it was called in those days at the ripe old age of five weeks), my first solo trip was at 15. Now in all fairness my parents did not know I'd gone. I wasn't exactly honest about where I was spending the weekend (with a friend) and I jumped on a train instead and headed south in Spain, where I was then living, and caught a ferry to Morocco. My poor father had to come all the way down to bring me home because although I made it there, I had neglected to plan for my return and ran out of money. I just hadn't learned how to budget at that age. So I might have been mature at 15, but I was too young to do what I did, and the dishonesty didn't help.

The next time I traveled on my own was at 17. We had moved to Vancouver and I decided I wanted to visit California. I had relatives there so I wasn't exactly on my own. At 18 I flew off to Amsterdam and London, and somehow I haven't really stopped since.

In my travels I've met quite young women traveling. I truly believe it is about maturity. I know a 15-year-old girl who was mature beyond her years and went off to Europe on her own for the summer. I think that's too young because you don't have the experience of life yet, experience that will tell you if you're in danger, if someone is lying to you, or if the friends you meet are genuine. That only comes with time. That said, I've met women well into their twenties who should never have been let out of their back yards - immature, rude, unobservant and disrespectful. I don't know why they bothered to travel.

If you do decide to go, make a plan and stick to it. Have a strict schedule for getting in touch with your family, and don't miss a call, ever. In all the years I've traveled, I've always called in at prearranged times, even today.

So… I feel 16 is quite young for a summer of backpacking but I should in all fairness qualify that by saying it also depends on whether the two of you are experienced travelers and whether you do some serious planning with the support and approval of your families. Age isn't a number - it's a state of mind but it also does take time to become aware of the world around you and know what to do when things don't turn out the way they should. It's not about what happens when things go right, but what happens when things go wrong. At 16 I hadn't quite learned how to handle real trouble.

Also I thought recent posts might be interesting:
- How can a 16-year-old travel?
- 19-year-old aspiring backpacker
- Convincing the parents
- Can a girl fresh out of high school travel Africa overland for a year alone?

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Nov 30, 2011
Some gratefulness
by: Simone

Thanks so much for your useful and honest answer!

Jan 02, 2012
Too young to be aware?
by: Barnabas

Thanks for an honest appraisal of your adventures at such a young age. I tend to agree that age can cloud the issue when perhaps we probably need to look at maturity, common sense, savvy, and might I add - situational awareness. Having raised a family on board a sailing boat I was proud of my 16 year old son when he skippered a 55ft boat we had just sold, down the east coast of Australia for the new owner. This level of responsibility is not given on the basis of age but on demonstrated ability.

When it comes to my daughters I readily concede that they too have a maturity and enhanced abilities from a traveling life afloat. As a father I am naturally protective and reluctant to see them travel alone at any age. But this is more about me than a lack of confidence in them. If a young person has been exposed to the potential hazards and pitfalls of traveling and this results in them being more situationally aware then a young age should not be a barrier. Savvy, street wise, situational awareness call it what you like, will give you the best chance to enjoy your travels in safety.


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