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Fears and Solutions of Solitary Women Travelers

Machu Picchu

In my travels, I have come across single women around the world who say, “I’d like to travel, but I don’t have anyone to go with.” Having traveled alone, I asked what was stopping them. What I found was a mixture of fears and concerns:

Blending in
Amanda Heckart from California shared, “My biggest fear is looking like a tourist because it seems to lend itself to safety issues. Will I get mugged because I look like I don’t belong? If I get lost, will I be able to find someone approachable for help? In my experience, blending in is helpful, but not required. Looking like a backpacker, for example, does not make you a target, as long as you travel modestly, without jewelry and name brand everything. Also, be careful about flashing iPhones, iPads, or other expensive electronics. In certain countries, those devices, if stolen, could feed a family for a year. Don’t tempt them.

Fake it ‘till you make it
If you’re in a big city, looking like you know what you’re doing makes you a hard target. For example, if you are lost, walk as if you aren’t, taking in each sign and landmark. Then, when there is a public servant or someone that you feel is approachable, ask which direction your desired destination is. It’s okay to get lost, it’s how you manage it that is key. More often than not, the train or bus map is simple so no help is needed.

Work Smarter, Not Harder: Know Your Resources
There are a variety of resources to help guide you. Train and bus schedules, travel guidebooks, transportation apps, and online resources. One of the first things I do in a new country is buy a SIM card (called chips in many areas). All you need is an unlocked GSM phone that operates on the correct bandwidth. You can go to websites such as this one and enter your phone into the search engine to see which bandwidth your phone supports, then look up which bandwidths are used in the country desired. Once I have a SIM card, the Google Maps app will track me, providing me the peace of mind that I can always figure out where I am.

Jennifer Lane, from Tennessee, stated her biggest fear would be “Losing my passport and contact information for people back home.” It does happen, on occasion, that people lose their passport. It is a huge inconvenience, but not a danger. You simply need to proceed to the nearest embassy or consulate and apply for a rushed replacement passport. Always have your contact information and copies of your identification in more than one place. Copy your passport, drivers license, insurance card, and credit cards, and place a copy of each in your checked bag and your carry-on. Make sure to back up your contact information on a cloud site like dropbox.com so you can access it from any computer around the world.

Turning Fears into Strengths
Marta Nguyen-Lopez and Michelle Cook Jones expressed concerns of abduction, kidnapping, or other sexual assault. In my experience, this is the most common fear among women. Face the fear rationally. When are you most concerned about sexual assault? Most would answer late at night. Therefore, take care where you choose to venture to after dark. Retire early and start your days early. If you’re a night owl, join couchsurfing.org, and connect with other solo travelers in order to form a group. Hire a cab door to door. Kachina Victoria, from New York, suggested taking a self defense course, so you will be equipped to handle yourself. In addition, research weapons laws to see if it is permitted to carry pepper spray or a similar substance to provide added security and peace of mind.

Choose Best
There are tons of countries in this world to see. If, after researching a country, you are left feeling unsettled or nervous, move onto another one. Read blogs of recent women travelers to your desired country. Find a place that offers the natural assets, activities, and a culture you are comfortable with. Remember, travel is a way to stretch yourself, but you are in control of how extreme you want to make the experience. Traveling from the United States to Cancun is very different from traveling to India. Vinicio Field, from California, currently living in Asia, states, “The local laws against women could pose problems for women travelers in the Middle East and South East Asia.” Make sure you research what you are in for before you purchase your ticket. While travel, in and of itself, will take you outside of your comfort zone, make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew on your first few trips.

Stay Connected
Erica Lagler-Ferrez worries, “I wouldn’t have the comfort of a companion to share the memories with.” I can say that experiences feel more real when they are shared with someone that you care about. The beauty of social media is we can share our experiences with people around the world. On countless occasions, I have entered a cafe to find a European or American on their smart devices Skyping with loved ones. They catch them up on their experiences of the last day or two and show them the panoramic “now” via live feed. With Facebook, Instagram, Skype, travel blogs, and Twitter we’re essentially not alone. While you can’t wrap your arms around another and breathe in the view together (unless you meet someone that you are keen on), social media provides a nice way to share the experience. Create a travel blog for yourself and others. This way, all of your friends can follow your travels. Plus, at the end of your adventures, you will have a record of your experiences to pass on to future generations.

Traveling affords a way, unmatched, to learn about the world and yourself. You have a choice to live in fear, or accomplish your dreams. Work smarter not harder, know your resources, fake it ‘till you make it, choose best, and stay connected!

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