The Downsides of Solo Female Travel

So you’ve decided to finally take the brave step of packing that backpack (or two) with a few months worth of necessities, ready to take off into the scary unknown despite all your friends warnings of “Are you f*cking insane?! You’re gonna get killed out there and no one will ever find you!” or “Won’t it be lonely traveling all by yourself?” or “Someone is gonna drug your drink and sell you into a human trafficking ring!” Now it’s time to overcome all of your fears and intrusive thoughts of doom, and go against the grain and what everyone else tells you and just do it!

Once you’ve overcome the fear of traveling a lone as a female, especially if you choose a remote, exotic destination that’s a stark contrast to the culture you know (Say, an American traveling to India or SE Asia), you’ve already done most of the psychological preparation it takes to backpack by yourself. There’s nothing that will build your self-confidence and definition of who you are as a woman than traveling solo! And by that I mean truly traveling solo (Not with your boyfriend/husband/fling taking photos of you and tailing you the whole time you’re out there) I mean being truly ALONE while traveling.

Indeed, solo female travel, and in particular backpacking holds with it many inherent downsides.

 

Harrassment

As a solo female traveler, especially in areas of the East where it’s seen as weird and even sometimes offensive for a woman to be independent and to travel all on her own, I was harassed on an almost constant basis while backpacking in India, and it didn’t stop with just the intense staring. I was groped in public, elbowed in inappropriate places, bombarded with harrassive, asked offensive questions in the streets about my sexuality and if I’m a virgin or not, stereotyped as “easy white prey” in the minds of some Indian males who had nothing but ill intentions towards me, and had to slap people and defend myself on a routine basis. I was cat-called, offered “help” when I really didn’t need any and was only being used as an excuse to get me to engage. It felt like just existing as a separate, living breathing human capable of my own free will and thoughts was like a major offense when traveling solo in parts of Asia, especially India. I always ended up making up some lame excuse just  to protect myself, by saying my Indian husband was right around the corner so you’d better f*ck off, etc. I always had to be mindful of what I was wearing, especially in more conservative places like India. I could go wrong with even wearing long shorts which could be misconstrued as me tempting men on purpose.

It also didn’t make matters any better when meeting other men while traveling. It seemed most of them look at you traveling solo as you must be ready to jump into bed with anyone, which is a really nasty stereotype and one I think we should work on challenging. People just don’t want to accept the reality that there are plenty of strong women capable of traveling on their own without any fears of what others will think.

Ladies, I’m sure you can relate to what I’m saying. We all have to face harassment on a consistent basis even in our home cities, but it’s even more difficult to deal with when you’re in a totally foreign world.

 

Amber Fort, India

 

Sexism

There is always a heaping amount of sexism thrown your way if you decide to travel solo as a woman. People think surely you can’t be all on your own, you have to be traveling with a boyfriend or group of friends. Our society still views women as weak minded and dependent on others for validation. While traveling throughout SE Asia I was constantly judged and ridiculed just for my gender.

In India when walking it felt like everyone looked down on me for not always having a male by my side, as if without a male I’m not a whole human being on my own. Middle fingers to that noise!! When I was trekking solo in Nepal, no one thought I should be up there by myself. I was warned about trying to make the trek solo, told there would be dangers along the way and that I might not have the stamina to make it on my own. It couldn’t be because I’m a woman, now could it?

Well, you can be damn sure I made it to base camp, and in pretty good time, too (8 days). And this is having come from a completely flat land of sprawling swamps (Florida). Seeing the sign for ABC base camp lit a fire inside, made me feel accomplished and like I could do anything. It was a defining moment staggering up to that sign, after feeling like I was dying due to lack of oxygen and food, due to not having brought enough money with me while I was up there and having to live off of the same pack of noodles for days on end. In that moment all the comments and the “You shouldn’t be doing this” faded and I quickly realized how we shouldn’t listen to anyone else for validation.

 

 

Stand tall and proud amongst the haters

People Just Can’t Handle You (The Outsider)

 

I remember how sometimes I would mingle with fellow travelers in the hostels and guesthouses I would stay in, and sometimes I would feel like a total outsider. Part of that was as much as I shared a lot of common interests with the new people I met, I also hadn’t met many solo female travelers at all and finding one was extremely rare, so it was difficult to find someone as determined and enthusiastic about traveling for the sake of traveling as I was. A lot of other Western travelers were only interested in one thing and that was to drink their way across the SE Asia triangle. For me it was about the experience and getting to know the culture, not boozing it up all day and pretending to be interested in the locals. Unfortunately it’s not so much easy to meet like-minded travelers on the backpacker’s trail who feel the same spark, since that spark is usually alcohol induced.

As a serious traveler I had no time for games or unnecessary socializing and drinking, I was on the road and jumping from sight to sight to truly observe and absorb it all!

 

Solo sunsets

 

Trust Issues

Being a solo female traveler means you are a prime target for all kinds of predators and con artists, whether that be someone trying to rip you off on a tuk tuk ride, to someone coming up to you love bombing you for a fake narcissistic relationship. Ladies, always trust your gut and listen to that little voice inside telling you when that person is shady or there’s something off about the situation you’re in.

Being a solo female also meant I was constantly being bombarded by rickshaw drivers in India trying to rip me off and I always had to fight just to get a fair price. In India, stubbornness and standing your ground really goes a long way! Being a female traveling solo, you will unfortunately always be a target for sleazeballs and scammers-whether it’s to sell you fake gold or a fake relationship.

You have to develop strong boundaries and be able to say “No” when necessary. Traveling solo definitely hardened me to be able to stand up to anyone if they were mistreating me or trying to pull one over on me.

 

Jama Masjid mosque, Delhi, India

Money Problems

Let’s face it, if you’re traveling solo and especially if you’re not in touch with anyone, it can be downright stressful when you run into money problems. There were times during my travels where I ran into some major issues such as when I was trekking in Nepal, and there were no ATMs past a certain point when beginning the treks and I hadn’t brought enough cash with me. At that point, I ended up living off of the same noodles for days on end just to stretch it out, and on top of that doing strenuous uphill and downhill trekking which really taxed me. On top of that not having enough food to eat, let’s just say I really lost a lot of weight on that trek! Another incident occurred in Myanmar when none of the ATMs would recognize my card, and since everything runs on cash there I was stuck for weeks living off the free toast and coffee in my hostel; there’s cheap traveling and then there are just nightmares you don’t want to remember ever again!

 

When you have only yourself to rely on you really have to be super good with managing your money and being able to budget, otherwise you may not have anyone to turn to when the going gets tough except yourself.

 

Surprises

 

It always amazed me how at the end of the day, there are always good people in this world who are willing to help if they see you in a precarious situation. There were times when people would go out of their way to help me get to where I needed to be when traveling by train in India, and some would even give up their seats for me. Families would offer me food and would always be looking out for me with the eyes of a collective society. Strange men would walk up and genuinely try and comfort me if they saw me looking lost or upset. It always surprised me how willing people were to help a total stranger!

Ladies, you should be proud of yourselves at the end of the day for having taken on such a challenge, a big shout out to all my independent travelers! At the end of the day, we might be traveling alone but it doesn’t mean we are lonely..

 

Sleepy Koh Rong Samloeum island, Cambodia

 

Your thoughts? I hope you enjoyed reading this! Let me know what you think in the comments or by liking and sharing my article with the social media links. I’d love to keep giving you tips and advice so feel free to Follow Me by clicking the Follow box on the right. And don’t forget you can Follow Me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

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