Solo female travel is on the rise and showing no signs of slowing down. The chance to escape your comfort zone, meet new people and discover more about yourself are just some of the well-known reasons to give travelling alone a go – but what are the benefits for women specifically?
Travelling alone is the ultimate confidence boost and the rewards can be game-changing for women. Lugging a heavy backpack from place to place, navigating new cities and learning to handle touts and hustlers, all – shock horror! – without a male companion or ‘safety in numbers’ can reveal strengths you never knew you had. You’ll also defy stereotypical gender norms in the process.
Straight, white, cis men aren’t the only ones who can conquer mountains, road trip through deserts or tag a few days of luxury onto a high-stakes business trip. Through their very existence, solo female travellers are giving the metaphorical middle finger to archaic ideas that define what women can, can’t or shouldn’t do – and that feels incredibly liberating.
You're the boss – but no one's calling you bossy
If you’ve travelled on your own or are considering your first solo trip, chances are you’re reasonably bold and assertive. These are characteristics of natural leaders, which, when possessed by women, can bamboozle certain types of people. (Hint: the types who are quick to use labels such as ‘control freak’ and ‘bossy’.)
Even travelling with close friends and partners can be a challenge when your travel styles clash. The joy of independent travel? You get to choose exactly how to spend your day, guilt-free, without fear of judgement. You’re free to stick to your own hour-by-hour action-packed itinerary, or laze by the pool for two weeks. You can eat, sleep, spend money and socialise however and whenever you want. You make the rules – and get to break them too.
You're never really alone
Think solo travellers are lonely? Think again. While loneliness is a reality of life on the road from time to time, it’s not as common as you might expect. It’s easy to meet people in hostels, on local tours and guided trips, or even on public transport, and you may find that you’re hardly ever on your own. As a solo woman, people are, rightly or wrongly, likely to perceive you as non-threatening and approachable. This results in the occasional irritating encounter, but it can also work in your favour when it comes to finding travel buddies.
If you’re still unsure about solitude, research social events and meetups in your destination ahead of time so that you can meet local women on the ground, or consider a female-only tour or group trip if you want to meet like-minded travellers (Intrepid launched its first batch of women-only trips in 2018). Support exists online too: Facebook groups such as The Solo Female Traveler Network, The Blonde Abroad Travel Tribe and Solo Women Travel Tribe offer advice, tips and a friendly community at the swipe of a smartphone.
Freedom from social expectations
A solo female traveller is nurturing no one but herself. She’s at the top of her own list of priorities, which is subversive even in today’s western society. Solo travel is often thought of as a pastime reserved only for carefree singles, but mothers, grandmothers, loved-up ladies and wives are also benefiting from taking leisure trips alone. Forget that advert-worthy bubble bath or a fleeting moment of peace on the sofa with a slab of chocolate: a solo trip is the epitome of modern-day ‘me time’, giving women a sojourn from traditional caregiving roles.
And there’s more. If you’re tired of oppressive beauty standards and considering a change, long-term travel is a great opportunity to test out a different look: go low maintenance and leave the razor, hair straightener and make-up at home, or get that sleeve tattoo you always wanted. Taking a break from the treadmill of insidious body shaming, diet culture, fashion and fitness trends that tend to inhabit our everyday lives means there’s more room to simply be yourself – or find out who you really are.
A sense of sisterhood
While many destinations are totally safe for solo travellers, some are more challenging than others and women always have more to consider when it comes to personal safety. Gender inequality therefore affects solo female travellers by default, at the planning stages and throughout their trip – but it’s not all negative.
Cultural norms and attitudes towards women vary dramatically around the world, and experiencing these first-hand can be eye-opening. From adopting local dress codes in Iran to immersing yourself in domestic life at a Guatemalan homestay, connecting with our counterparts abroad gives us the opportunity to learn more about the roles and rights of women around the globe. You can exchange smiles, share stories and celebrate the things which connect, as well as differentiate us.
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