Traveling alone when you are a woman

On 30 July 2014 by From elephants to kangaroos

“You’re alone? Just one?”. Well yes, just me :)

Many women are apprehensive before going traveling alone. Of unfortunate stories about women who are assaulted or raped at the other end of the world, we then wondered to ourselves a lot of questions about our security. Is this completely foolish to discover the world alone? I’m the first, before leaving, who asked to myself many questions about the fact that I won’t have anyone from my side. Not only for security but also because traveling alone means you have to make everything by yourself every day, dealing with difficulties, fatigue, strokes blues.

Traveling alone does not mean being alone
IMG_4173You never realize how many encounters are throughout your trip before you actually leave. In a transport, hostel, during a trek, in a bar or restaurant, on the street, visiting a monument, every thing you do is a pretext to meet someone. A simple “Can you take a picture of me?” can lead you to share 3 awesome days with someone (true story). Sometimes you will want to share an experience with someone or you just meet someone with whom you feel comfortable and decide to do a long way together. This will also have the advantage to reassure you if you do not feel safe in some places, you can also share a room or the cost of a taxi, which can save you money beyond sharing experience. Unless you want to be alone, you won’t spend one day alone. And loneliness can sometimes be good to refocus yourself, meditate, learn from experience, leave your adventure differently.

Travel alone if you want to
IMG_2602From what I‘ve seen on the road, by some discussions I had and my own experience, I think it is better to go alone if you desire, whether you are a man or a woman for that matter. You should not leave alone just because you have not found someone to accompany you, when you actually want to leave this with someone. This should really be a decision to avoid any regrets when you travel and feel just very lonely. If you think such a trip with 2 people, I think it is better to do then with someone, to wait a little longer to leave and find someone who will want to share this experience with you.
I met 2 women travelers, at 2 different times of my trip, who didn’t enjoy their experience and did not take advantage of their travel or meetings they were doing and it was after much discussion with one and other than I realized, in fact, that each of them had planned to travel with a friend / boyfriend and finally it did not happen like this. However they had decided to leave because they had “planned” to, they had not planned this trip solo and had many fears. One of them told me that after 2 and a half months of travel between Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, she had never met any local to talk to and she met some travelers on the road of course, but not one she had really bound with. Maybe this travel feeling did not come from there, but to have really tried to help them in this time, I think having any thought of traveling with someone and finally have done this alone was not what they wanted and they could not enjoy what they had around them.

Don’t be scared
IMG_8349We know with everything we hear constantly, a single woman must be even more careful when traveling alone. It is good to follow a few simple rules (no, you don’t get in the car of a stranger who offers you to jump in on the side of the road), be full of confidence at least in appearance, and trust your instinct. If you are afraid, people are going to see it in your actions, in your trade, in your travels, what is going to expose you to more troubles.

Follow your instinct
You do not feel safe in this neighborhood? Leave it. You do not like the guesthouse that you booked online in advance? Find another one. You do not do trust this taxi driver? Do not go in it. Maybe your doubts are unfounded but it is important to follow what your instinct tells you. At least it allows you to sleep safely. Do not hesitate to ask upstream travelers you meet, the owners of the guesthouse or local who have a careful look if they have advice, they will tell you if there are places to avoid according time of the day or if they have something to recommend.
I may be lucky until today but nothing happened to me so far. No stealing, no harassment, no one in the street who tries to take advantage of me. I am always on my guard, I do not easily grant my confidence. This is also my instinct that dictated to me before leaving to go to Asia instead of South America as being a solo traveler, I felt more confident to cross Asia. This does not mean that I will not discover South America alone one day, but just that I prefered to make my arms in a peaceful place according to my mind as the first trip.

Learn, look, observe – Useful advices
IMG_4140Before you go into a country, it is always good to learn about the customs and traditions. You can observe at your arrival how local behave, how they dress to see how to react. It is important to understand that these are not others that will adapt to you but you who have to adapt to the country without judging. What seems normal to you may be really provocative for some people. It would be impossible to give you a complete list of behaviors to follow in every country, especially since I do not have all visited, but here are some basic principles that you can adopt in each country, especially in some regions of the world where women have a very specific status.
Clothes : generally speaking, dress conservatively and try to keep the dress style of the country. Cover your shoulders and knees, do not attract too much attention. Do not hesitate to have with you a scarf in your bag, this can be very useful to visit religious places, the beach, or in the street when you feel some persistent eyes on you.
In public transports: never leave your small backpack that holds your most valuable things and keep your passport, credit card and money in a small hidden pocket under your clothes if possible.
To deter men: this is technique often seen, wearing a false alliance / ring. This discourages men who try to dredge the way, and if some insist, you can always say that your husband is waiting for you somewhere, picks you up, is sick and waiting for you at the hotel or about to join you for holidays (you become very imaginative in our romantic relationships when traveling alone!).
Walk with a lot of confidence, pretend to know where you’re going even if this is not the case (unless you’re really lost, on which case it is better to ask for directions!).
If you feel a taxi does not take the right direction, make him understand that you’ve seen it. If you can, try to look a little before the main streets of the city to know a little orientation. I heard a lot in South America, it was good to take pictures of the plates and send them to someone you know. If you have no one to send the picture to, take it and pretend to send it, it may still deter a malicious driver.
Avoid to walk alone at night especially in big cities. I remember one night in Hanoi where I heard about a girl who was robbed the day before but I was not far from my hostel and would not pay for a taxi back. So I walked fastly, taking only the main roads, I had a map in my pocket in case but didn’t want look at it to not show that I was a tourist. I arrived without mishap but I kinda regretted my move then.
Money: try to put it in as many pockets as possible of your pants / jacket / underwears (hell yeah!).
Do not resist if someone tries to rob you. Some travelers encountered walk around with mace in their pocket or a small knife. There are also some who took self-defense classes before leaving. Up to you to decide which solution is best for you. I personally would rather lose money or stuff rather than be hurted or worse, so I take the minimum I need and continue to believe in my lucky star
Record your presence in a foreign country on Ariane, French system that tracks people who are abroad. That way, if something happens in the country where you are, they can contact you and the person you have specified as your contact in France, to ensure that you are well. I was in Kenya when there was the shooting in Nairobi last September and I did not know what was going on, not having access to information. I was in this case in a bus between Nairobi and Kisumu when all this happened. The Ariane system has allowed me to receive text messages information that day and the following days on the progress of threats, they contacted me to make sure I had nothing.

IMG_4820Take your time, time to feel at ease and comfortable. It may take 3 days, 3 weeks or 3 months depending on your personality, the country where you are, what you want to do. But at some point, you’ll want to open naturally.
It took me quite some time before my 1st parties because, whatever the country, I did not want to leave and return to the middle of the night after a few drinks. Maybe nothing would have happened to me but I did not want to try. So it took me several months of travel to get my bearings, my marks as a solo traveler and finally take the step. Similarly, I took a lot of time to overcome my shyness to take pictures of people in the street. Afraid that one of them take it the wrong way, say no, afraid to have my camera (my most valuable asset) in the streets. So I was taking pictures in the evening and in the streets when I was accompanied by a traveler whom I trusted. Until this day in Jodhpur in India where I had a click, where people put me at ease when I walked in and took great pleasure in taking hundreds of photos. And since that day, I can’t stop. This does not mean that some times my fear doesn’t come back, in theses cases, my camera stays in my backpack.

The danger exists in travel, of course. But it also exists down your door at home. It is clear that we must be very careful while traveling, you need to follow certain rules and especially when you are a single woman. But it would be a shame to stop you from traveling if you want it because of this. Follow your instincts, talk with the people around you and the premises are often good advice and very careful, walk head high, smile and have a positive attitude which will bring a lot of sympathy from people around you. Enjoy your trip, have fun, find travelers to share a nice stretch of road (and there are a lot just waiting for that!).

And traveling alone in India then?
IMG_4300There are some countries like India that worries many solo travelers and their families. It is a country that scares seen from the West, because it is so different and confusing, so much the opposite of what one knows where the woman does not have the same status as ours, we never know what to expect. Before going there, I told to myself that if I did not feel well there, I would go earlier than planned in Myanmar, the next destination. In the end, India was a revelation for me and probably the best school to learn to travel solo. I saw poverty, extreme dirt, beggars in the streets, sick and injured people, unbridled circulation, ubiquitous noise, pollution and overcrowding that sometimes gives you the impression that you can not breathe. But I also met people incredibly kind who did not speak a word of English and yet have given me a lot there, I experienced magical moments giving my confidence to a rickshaw driver, I cooked and made ​​chai or shared meals with families. I also learnt to build my confidence in this country because a woman alone can not dine out at night for example. Even though I was all the time accompanied by a man, you nevertheless need a big confidence to face the eyes of dozens of men who stare at you when you sit in a restaurant table. I learnt not to let me deal with 15 drivers rickshaws in a circle around me who speak another language and all trying to rip me off. I learnt patience with over 8 hours of delay in a train with a journey that had lasted 15h normally. I learnt that in India, as they say, the only thing that is impossible: nothing“. So you can find yourself in any situation imaginable because the Indians have no limit, live for today and not tomorrow.
IMG_4780India is a country that you live more than you visit it. Some people hate it, some love it so much that they don’t leave it. As a single woman, you must know, it is an experience in its own that you must be ready to live. I do not deny that my first day of travel after leaving India was very hard, I felt lost, alone, emptied because it was so intense there. It has also been my only day slump during this world tour. In India, I lost all my bearings, I have been shaken, but I also learnt the price of an encounter, a smile, a moment of sharing. I forgot my stress, learnt patience, to live differently, to open myself more easily, enjoy every moment. Leaving that comfort zone that I could have before helped me to learn to abandon myself to live. In summary, India has been the country that has taught me to travel alone.

In concluding this article, I will tell you one thing: if you oo are ready to travel alone, if this is something you want, I can only encourage you. Surely you will experience one of the most beautiful experience of your life…

If you have any testimony or additional information, advice for women who want to travel alone, do not hesitate to post a comment below this article!

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