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10 Things You Need To Know Before Traveling Alone As A Woman

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10 (Sometimes Uncomfortable) Truths About Traveling As A Woman
Self

Traveling as a woman is not all girl power and tropical sunshine.

I’m a 28-year-old woman and I’ve been traveling the world for the last 12 years. I’ve road tripped around the U.S.A, taught English in China, lived out of a van in New Zealand, and backpacked around Europe.

I’ve traveled as a solo female, with my boyfriend, with male friends, and with female friends. Traveling is truly an ‘experience,’ but traveling as a woman is an experience within itself. In fact, it's one that many women fear. The idea of traveling as a woman is surrounded by confusion, anxiety, and trepidation. Is it safe? Can I really pull this off?


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Edinburgh Castle 

Ask any woman who's traveled: the experience is one of the most empowering you can ever have. This is especially true for solo adventurers.

Travel has helped countless women find themselves in a true Eat, Pray, Love style. It has allowed women to trust their ability to navigate a subway system, read a map, and communicate with those who don’t speak their language. Travel has helped women find love, fall in love with themselves, and embark on new careers. It’s empowering, it’s beneficial, and it’s downright fun.


Ubud, Bali

I want more women to travel because I think it can make their lives better and more fulfilling. What I really want is for women to know what traveling as a female is actually like. This way, they can be a little less scared about packing a bag and hopping on a plane. Here are some of the truths that I learned about traveling as a woman, from my own experience:

You will get unwanted attention.

If you’re a woman, this probably happens to you no matter where you are, whether you’re walking through a Moroccan medina or walking into your local Starbucks, you may get catcalled, stared at, or have someone approach you. It’s unfortunate, but it happens everywhere and it shouldn’t be something that holds you back from taking a trip. I’ve been catcalled everywhere from Vietnam and China to New Zealand and Israel. It happens, but I just learned to ignore it.


Seoul, South Korea


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You’ll get lost.

There’s a stereotype that women are awful at directions. For me, this is undeniably true. Maps give me anxiety and even a GPS confuses me. When traveling with my boyfriend, I don’t have to worry about getting lost, but when traveling solo, it’s a huge concern. Honestly, if I let the fear of getting lost scare me, I would have never traveled to Japan, or China, or Israel. And all of those experiences were ones I’m grateful for.


Shanghai, China

You’ll figure it out.

The likelihood of you getting lost in a new city is high. But, the chances that you’ll figure it out are even better. I’ve been helped by the locals when I looked lost in France, and the bus drivers in China let me know when my stop was coming up. A Balinese man once offered me to use his motorbike for the day when mine got a flat tire, and an elderly Japanese man helped me find the Alice and Wonderland restaurant in Osaka. People will help you. If they don’t, you’ll learn to rely on yourself to figure it out.


Rome, Italy 

People will disrespect you.

I’ve been flashed in Shanghai by a man on a park bench while walking with a group of friends. I’ve been told that I was a prostitute by a man in China. Someone forcefully tried to kiss me while at a club in the city where I was teaching English. I’ve been ignored because people thought my boyfriend was the one in charge. Not everyone in every country respects women. It’s certainly not right, but it’s something you’ll have to deal with now and then.  


Xian, China


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You will be propositioned.

Aside from facing disrespect, getting propositioned in foreign countries can be downright scary. I’ve been followed on a hiking trail and then propositioned to have sex by a stalker in China. On a Vietnamese train, I was looking out the window when a man propositioned me to join him and his friend in their sleeper cart. I’ve had men aggressively demand my phone number while shopping for tomatoes in the grocery store.

These situations were awkward, scary, and made me worry about my safety. These things may happen to you to you too, but it doesn’t mean that they definitely will.


Paris, France

You'll get special treatment.

Sometimes, being a woman while traveling can land you special treatment. You may get discounts on drinks or find that strangers are more eager to help you. I’ve been invited into strangers’ home for tea, dinner, and as an alternative to staying in a hotel. Many of these people indicated that they felt more trusting towards me because I’m a female.


Kyoto, Japan 

It'll boost your confidence.

Traveling builds confidence, whether you’re a man or woman. But, for me, I felt that I gained a ton of confidence when it came to things I was bad at. After traveling, I was more confident when reading a map, getting on a subway, navigating an airport, and speaking foreign languages. I learned to trust myself, use my best judgment, and problem solve.


UK

People will ask you to cover up.

This first happened to me in Spain when trying to enter a church in a tank top. While traveling in Asia, this was a daily occurrence when sightseeing. I often was given a long skirt or a shawl to cover up before entering certain buildings. Eventually, I started traveling with a shawl just in case. Because of other cultures and religion, this may happen often to you. Just be aware of it when packing your wardrobe for a trip.


Grand Cayman Island 

You’ll worry more.

I already worry more than the average person. However, women generally have more to worry about than men while traveling. Are my breasts covered up? Is my dress offending anyone? If I get lost, will I end up in a dangerous neighborhood alone? Is my taxi driver going to kidnap me? Women travelers, myself included, often limit their intake at the bar for fear they’ll get too drunk and someone will take advantage of them.

We often have to befriend other travelers so we can roam in packs, and there are some places that we just won’t go. Worrying is necessary, but it doesn’t have to ruin your trip.


Israel

You’ll become an inspiration to other women

Traveling, especially alone, was scary. I’ve suffered my fair share of panic attacks, anxiety-fueled belly aches, and tears. But, to me, it was all worth it because I had incredible experiences and grew as a person. I’ve had countless women, both strangers and people I know, tell me how brave I was. Many women have told me that I was an inspiration to them. This is something I never anticipated but it feels good to know that my travels may have inspired some other woman to take a trip that changed her life.

Traveling as a woman is not all ‘girl power’ and tropical sunshine. It can be scary, unfair, sad, and panic-inducing. These are the realities that every wanderlusting woman should be aware of. But, just as sure as I am that you’ll experience something unpleasant, I’m positive that you’ll experience such mind-blowing, life-changing bliss that you’ll keep booking those trips.

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Shannon is a writer, traveler, and experience junkie. When she's not writing or off on an adventure, she probably has her head buried in a book. You can read more about her travels and find resources to travel more yourself on her blog, Lives Abroad

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