Being a Solo Female Traveller

I got two reactions when I told people I was going backpacking alone, the first was "Wow you are so brave" and the second was "Are you sure that's safe?" Both reactions surprised me, I didn't feel brave for planning a trip by myself, it actually seemed like a pretty popular thing, all over Instagram were women travelling alone for extensive periods of time. The second reaction was "Are you sure that's safe?" That equally surprised me. I understand that we hear horror stories about solo travellers, but I kept thinking what about the "dangers" at home? What about walking home late at night alone or just travelling to big cities? I think a lot of the fear expressed just came from not knowing enough about the countries I was visiting, or thinking you're so far away how can anyone help you if something does happen. And to be sure, there are countries where the police are corrupt and where women's rights are not as advanced....although as I'm writing this, I keep thinking...well thats true in North America too.

While I was travelling alone I was lucky to have no negative experiences, and honestly from the women I met that was the general experience. Did we get cat-called? yes. Do we get cat-called at home? yes. That was the extent of the "bad experiences." I will say I was a bit more cautious when travelling alone, for example, I skipped the Full Moon Party in Thailand. The Full Moon Party is known for its heavy drinking and drug use, and I just didn't feel comfortable letting down all my inhibitions on my own. But when I was in Chiang Mai and Pai I was travelling with two girls from Germany and we went out drinking and dancing. I still went out and experienced some of Thailands' famous night life, I just did it when I had made friends and knew that we would have each others backs. I also noticed that in Thailand, especially in Pai, the locals knew that a lot of the money supporting their economy came from tourists and they didn't want to jeopardize that. The women in Pai took extra care to watch out for solo travellers. I walked the 15 min walk home from the bar alone one night and a Thai woman came and walked with me, she said the road was safe but it was safer in pairs.

Hanging out by myself on my 25th Birthday on a beach in Thailand
Girls night in Pai! We all went out to a popular bar and were painted with black light paint!

Cambodia was the only place I felt slightly uncomfortable but then again I was there for the shortest amount of time so I didn't make friends and was also suffering from some bad food poisoning so that might have skewed my perspective. I did have a woman come up to me, ask me where I was from (thats normal), when I told her near Toronto, Canada, she said she had a sister moving to Toronto and I should come back at night to this street corner and she would take me to her house for dinner and could meet her sister and give her tips about life in Canada. Needless to say, I did not go but I mean, I wouldn't do that if someone approached me in Canada with the same request and who knows maybe she was genuine. I found that if you just applied the same common sense you would at home, then you were fine. And again, I know not everyone has this experience, there are some truly awful travel stories about women who travel alone, but then there are also some truly awful stories about women in Canada, bad things happen everywhere and I think the fear of the unknown causes people to make assumptions about other cultures and countries.

I was only in Chiang Rai for a few days so I rented a motor bike and drove out to see a temple! Just hanging out by myself all day!

Looking a little pale and queasy at Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Touring the temples alone and taking selfies!

Morocco was somewhat surprisingly the country I got the most incredulous looks about. People were REALLY concerned when I said I was going to Morocco alone.  For the record, I felt completely safe there. The people in Morocco were very friendly. When I was there I made 3 friends who I travelled around with, they were all from New Zealand, two girls and one guy. One night, Andrew was sick and stayed in so us three girls went out. Did we receive different treatment without Andrew? Yes. But did we feel unsafe? No. We mostly got asked "Where is your husband?" "No man? Ill marry you!!" "Smile more!" (funny how that last one is pervasive in all cultures. When we toured around with Andrew the comments were more "Three ladies how did you get three ladies!" He was seen as a very successful man to have three women around him. But honestly, when he wasn't there I still felt completely safe. I think a key component to why I felt safe was I respected their culture and societal norms. I wore longer skirts, kept a scarf tied around my purse so if I came upon a beautiful mosque I could cover my hair and enter. I didn't wear low cut tops or drink (Morocco is a dry country although tourists can always find alcohol). Being respectful of their traditions meant I didn't draw attention. 

When people ask if I have any tips for travelling solo, it's pretty much just try to make friends. I made friends everywhere I went. And when there was no one to make friends with (like in Budapest) I just tailored my activities. I didn't stay out till 1 am in Budapest, alone, although I probably would have been fine. I also noticed that at a lot of hostels will ask what your plans are for the day, its an easy way to let someone know where you are going. Making friends with the people who work or own the hostels means that someone is watching out for you. Keep an open mind and follow your instincts. I made friends a long the way who shared stories of befriending a local and going home and meeting their family and sharing a family dinner. Who hitched a ride into town on the back of a strangers bike etc. There are obvious exceptions to everything so trust your gut.

Enjoying a glass of wine at the opera house in Budapest. Travelling solo means most pictures of you are selfies!

Travelling alone was the best decision I ever made. It taught me how to get out of my shell and make friends (something I wasn't the best at). It taught me how to be alone with myself. And it gave me a lot of confidence. Travelling alone also means doing exactly what you want, no compromising on activities or sites you want to see. I suggest everyone at one point in their life go somewhere by themselves, even if just for a few days, go and be alone with yourself.

One of my favourite pictures from my trip. This was taken in Sappa Valley in Northern Vietnam after going for a hike.
Drop a line in the comments below if you have any solo travelling stories or tips! You can subscribe so you don't miss any posts and don't forget to follow me on Instagram @thenomadicbee


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