When I told people that I was planning on travelling solo, let alone moving to a whole new continent solo, people had a lot of questions. ‘Aren’t you scared?’ was probably the biggest one.
The answer, of course I was.
Anyone would be, it’s a scary thing. To be honest my strategy was to put the fears to the back of my mind and focus on planning and getting inspired with gorgeous images of places on my hit list. However, as the time got closer the anxiety got harder to ignore, in fact the last week before I left I didn’t sleep well at all.
Now that I’m nearly halfway through the SE Asia backpacker portion of my trip – it’s gone so quickly it’s terrifying, I don’t want it to end – I thought I’d reflect a little on some of the solo female travel fears I had and how I’m overcoming them (and you can too!) now that I’m in the thick of it.
Of course this was the big one, and the one both of my parents were/are still the most concerned with. Being a female solo traveller comes with its own safety risks, we all know that we have to take certain precautions and measures to keep ourselves safe and often that seems like a harder thing to do in unfamiliar surroundings. We’re told not to wander around ‘sketchy’ areas alone at night, to constantly keep an eye on our drink, not to get too drunk when surrounded by people you don’t really know, to make sure you’re always able to run if needed etc. The list goes on and on. It’s frankly depressing that in 2019 women are still having to police their behaviour in this way but unfortunately, that’s just how the world is at the moment.
Safety is a totally valid concern and when travelling you do have to be extra cautious at times, for example being sensible about where you keep your passport and purse, not flashing expensive gadgets or cash around and just generally being aware of your surroundings. However, I wouldn’t say that you have to be overly cautious, it’s an unfortunate fact of life that bad things can happen to you anywhere and staying at home isn’t guaranteed to keep you safe. Living in fear and letting it get in the way of the things you want to do will only make you miserable.
A great way I overcame and continue to overcome this fear is research. I researched the places I wanted to see, read reviews, spoke to other solo and female solo travellers to get the insider info. I also read hella lotta articles (thanks Pinterest) on safety tips for solo female travel – so many of which are common sense anyway. Here’s is a fab blog post with some great practical tips.
This was probably my biggest fear, the one I pestered friends who’d been travelling solo about constantly. I’m an introvert by nature so I was having visions of being stuck friendless and lonely in hostels. Of course, like my friends reassured me, that didn’t happen. In fact, on my first solo day in Bali I buddied up with an awesome group of people from my hostel who I ended up sticking with for virtually the whole Bali leg of my trip.
Remember, you might be travelling solo but that doesn’t mean you’re by yourself. Everywhere you go you’ll have the chance to meet people. In your hostels, in restaurants and bars, on tours, queueing for buses and plans. If you’re an introvert like me then just be open to opportunities as they arise. Say yes to going to breakfast with your dorm mate, tag along to that tour that looks interesting, and thank God for the extroverts, as they’re the people most likely to scope you out and invite you on these adventures!
Travelling friendships form quickly and thanks to social media they’re easy to maintain. I’ve spent a lot of this trip re-meeting people in different places for a night or two and it’s a great safety net going to a new place and knowing someone there already.
One top tip I have to help with potential loneliness is to read the reviews of the hostels you’re planning to stay at carefully. I specifically looked for ones that said they’re social/good for solo travellers. I also asked other travellers for recommendations of good places to stay. Having a social hostel is a great way to quickly and easily meet people to buddy up with.
This was a big one for me. Before I left two of my closest friends had recently had babies and another had one just the other week whilst I was in Bali. Not to mention three other besties who are getting married whilst I’m away. Basically, I’ve picked a slightly tricky time to leave and the FOMO is real.
The unfortunate truth though is that there’ll never be an ideal time to leave. You’re always going to have to miss out on something. Ultimately, the choice comes down to weighing up what you’re going to miss against what you’re going to see and experience. I knew that if I didn’t go travelling now that this trip may never happen, so I had to take the plunge. Yes, I’m sad to miss things but my friends know that it’s nothing personal and I’d be there for all their big events if I could, and they’re all supporting me in this big adventure that they understand my need for.
I’m incredibly close to my family and friends and the fear of going potentially years without seeing my mumma was a tough one to get over. There’s no escaping the fact that you will be homesick at some points during your travels. The first time I FaceTimed my mum I got sad after hanging up. There have been times that I’ve been not feeling too well (okay hungover) or had an unexpected disappointment (looking at you unreliable Malaysian buses!) and I’ve felt a bit fed up and low. In those times it’s natural to miss the people you love. But then just as quickly as it comes, something awesome will happen, your mood will change and thoughts of home will get pushed to the back of your mind again.
Thankfully we live in an age where it’s so easy to stay super connected. I chat to my friends and family over WhatsApp pretty much daily. If you’re worried about homesickness then try scheduling in a regular FaceTime/Skype date to make sure you’re keeping in touch. Just remember that with travel, like anything else, there are highs and lows but the highs are oh so worth it!
I guess one of the things this long winded post (sorry) is trying to say is that fears are natural. We all have them and a fear of solo female travel is perfectly valid and understandable. But that doesn’t mean it should hold you back. I’d encourage anyone who’s thinking of travelling solo to do a bit of research and decide whether, for them, the pros outweigh the cons. I’m only 6 weeks into my first solo adventure and I can safely say that it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. 🙂
Have any of you been solo travelling, or do you have fears holding you back too? Let’s chat in the comments.
Love, Sarah x