Adventurous. Alone. Attacked.
That’s the title of a recent New York Times article on stories of death and violence against women amidst the rise of females traveling the world alone.
The article states:
Recent headlines about the deadly violence inflicted on women traveling alone have raised questions about how the world is greeting the documented rise in female solo travelers and about the role of social media in promoting the idea that far-off lands are easily accessible and safe.
They have also shined a light on the enduring nature of gender violence worldwide and laid bare how a lone foreign traveler’s cultural and social expectations do not always comport with local views about a woman’s place in the world — and whether she should travel at all.
As I read the terrifying stories of what happened to these women during their travels, I couldn’t help but feel incredible sadness on their behalf, anger that this happened to them and slight fear for myself. After all, I fall into the same category as these women. I’ve traveled to many places by myself and will travel to more in the future.
I definitely sometimes get nervous thinking about the crazy things that can happen to a woman while she travels, or quite frankly, as one person stated in the comments section, while she goes about her day-to-day life, no matter where that is.
With the recent reports of women being killed or attacked while traveling alone, it makes you wonder whether it’s safe to be a solo female traveler. Or, at the very least, how does one stay safe when traveling alone as a woman?
In terms of whether it’s safe to travel alone, I can only speak in regards to my personal experiences. In general, I have usually felt safe traveling by myself. I can’t say I’ve felt that way all the time, but most of the time. In those moments when I have not felt safe, I’ve tried to remove myself from the situation as quickly as possible.
Regarding how to stay safe, there are a number of things I do when traveling by myself for my own mental well-being and because safety is always at the forefront of my mind during these times:
1. I stay in hotels
I love home-sharing companies like Airbnb, particularly when traveling with a group of people, but I will never stay in an Airbnb by myself. Even if it’s renting the entire apartment to myself, I just don’t feel as safe there as I would in a well-reviewed hotel. Of course, things can happen in hotels as well, but for me, I feel more peace of mind in a hotel, so that’s what I book.
2. I usually pay for tours versus going off on my own
Some may say this is overly cautious of me, but again, this is for my peace of mind. I recently went to Iceland by myself on a solo birthday adventure and could have easily rented a car and took off around the country alone, but 1. I’m a terrible driver, so not happening, and 2. I wouldn’t feel safe doing that. Instead I chose to pay for tours, which certainly cost more, but I felt safer and I met some interesting people along the way.
3. I don’t travel to certain destinations alone
There are several places I would LOVE to travel to, but I know I will absolutely not go there alone. And that’s for a variety of reasons like cultural norms, the role of women in that particular society, and so on. It’s frustrating to think that there are some places women shouldn’t go by themselves, and I wish that were not the case, but sadly it is.
4. I’m mindful of where I walk and who’s walking near me
This applies to me whether I’m traveling alone or with someone else, or if I’m even walking home from the train in my neighborhood. Anytime someone gets too close to me or walks directly behind me or towards me, I move or take a different direction. Again, some may see this as overkill but better safe than sorry.
5. I give my family my itinerary before I leave and I check in with them every day
I communicate with my family all the time anyway, but in particular I’m diligent about checking in with them when I’m off on my own, and I always give them an itinerary of my travels. In fact, if I’m silent for too long, they will let me know when it’s not okay. During my work trip to Mexico in January, I was in all-day meetings and didn’t contact my family until very late that night. Did they like that? No. Did they let me know? Absolutely.
6. I research the destination beforehand to see how it would be for a solo female
Sometimes I get a bit nervous about going to a destination by myself, so I try to understand how a place is for solo females by reading through posts on TripAdvisor forums. For example, before going to the Atacama Desert in Chile, I browsed posts on the subject to get a sense for how common it is for solo females to go there and what their experiences were like.
7. I’m very careful about where I go at night
This is so important! In general, you have to be careful about what you do and where you go when traveling as a solo female, but this is even more crucial at night. I love going out to dinner and experiencing a city at night, but I know I can’t just do whatever I want wherever I want, so I’m careful. I may go out to eat in a busy area or even do a tour if it makes sense (like the live music tour I did in Austin and the nighttime tour and dinner I did in Lisbon).
8. I lie when I need to
I have no qualms about lying when I feel it’s for my own good and safety. By that I mean, I may tell someone that I’m on my way to meet a friend or my friend is back at our hotel and didn’t want to join... things along that nature. I also have friends who wear wedding bands when they travel to deter any assumptions or questions about them being on their own. Ultimately, I think we do or say what we have to in order to feel safer.
If you haven’t already, I definitely encourage everyone (men and women) to read the article. Travel aside, it’s a sad reminder of the gender-based violence that happens so much in our world, and for those who are interested in traveling alone, there are some much-needed important takeaways.
Do you have any tips for traveling safely as a solo female?