Thanks again to everyone who took part in our survey for solo women travelers – you’ve been fantastic! To show our appreciation, a copy of Chelsea Duke’s excellent guidebook ‘High Heels and a Head Torch’ is on its way to two lucky participants, Caity Hodgson and Delia Harrington.
Our readers have also kindly shared some top tips for backpacking girls from their experiences on the road… here’s their insiders’ guide to traveling solo as a woman:
From Erica Johansson…
(author of travel journal, Travel Blissful.)
- Pack half of what you think you’ll need!
- Make an effort to learn the language (before and during your journey)
- Travel partly without plans
- Go with the flow
- Dare to go off the beaten path
- Have faith in yourself
- Trust locals and fellow travelers but listen to your gut instinct if something feels wrong
- Bring a notebook and a pen wherever you go (you’ll thank yourself for it afterwards)
- Take photos of people and not merely places
- Move out of your comfort zone every day
- Treasure the little things as much as the incredible experiences (the ‘wow’ moments of your trip)
- Keep a positive attitude no matter what happens, view mistakes as valuable lessons
- Learn to appreciate all types of weather, because you’ll never know what the next day may bring…
From Sara Bell…
1. Do not do anything away from home, that you would not do at home.
2. Be adventurous, only regret what you have done and not what you have not done!
3. Have no expectations of places you visit, be content in being surprised.
From Sarah Hash…
1) Dress accoring to the culture. For example, it may be okay to travel in Dubai in shorts but you need to wear covered clothes (or Abaya) if you plan to visit Saudi Arabia.
2) Its always best to take small disposable bottles of shampoo, toothpaste and soap. They are cheap and can be thrown away easily once they finish.
3) Get a plus converter before you leave! Different countries have different switches, so your camera charger may work in Canada but not in England.
From Carolyn Gindein…
1. Become an actress – sign language & acting skills are a must for communicating in a foreign language you don’t speak. A little language (phrase book) so you can work out signage and ask for the basics helps but don’t be afraid to add your acting skills when in doubt.
2. As long as your accommodation is as clean as any eighteen year old boy would keep it, it’s probably ok. I soon realised my standards were a little high so I judged by my adult son’s housekeeping style!
3. It’s ok to talk to strangers – forget your parents’ rules and strike up conversations with strangers, sometimes in spite of first impressions. Asking the locals is the best source of information and surprises. Some of my best experiences of hospitality and new friendships sprang from asking a stranger a question or commenting on their town.
4. Be flexible – don’t worry if plans change, flights are delayed or other seeming obstacles occur. You’ll get to your destination eventually and getting upset changes nothing but your stress level so carry a book and an Ipod and enjoy the downtime.
5. Make contact within a week of exchanging contact details – just like workplace networking, making contact shortly after the exchange means you’re serious about staying in touch and resulted in some fantastic opportunities for home-stays and outings that I never would have had if I hadn’t followed up on those contacts.
6. Accept hospitality graciously – initially I felt I should pay my way and not burden people. After some wise words from one host I understood that if they offer, people are genuinely happy providing accommodation or meals and are pleasantly surprised by exchanges of housework or other assistance (use your skills, fix pc’s, a pedicure etc) as thanks.
7. Be sensible not scared – in places reputed to be risky visit during the daylight hours rather than after dark and look as if you know what you’re doing/where you’re going, even if you’re sightseeing (you know this is working when people start asking you for directions).
8. Stay in touch with people at home – stick to the habit of emailing, texting or calling weekly to at least one regular contact & let them know if for some reason you’ll be out of touch. That way they know you’re safe and you’ll know someone will notice if you don’t get in touch.
9. Be spontaneous – people you meet may offer invitations that conflict with your plans. If your plans are flexible accept the invitation as you never know what other great opportunities will result from doing something with new people. If nothing else you’ll have a good time and still be able to enjoy your original plan another day.
10. Don’t panic. As long as you have a credit card or some cash and phone contact there’s not many situations that can’t be fixed. Remember you’re strong and capable, take control…
…and most of all ENJOY!
Thanks to all our readers who submitted travel tips, and congratulations to Erica and Carolyn – you’ve both won yourself copies of High Heels and a Head Torch as a thank you for all the effort you put into offering advice. Have you got an experience to share? Get in touch, and we’ll publish it here on the blog.