If you don’t want to wait around to sync schedules with your parents, family or friends, you don’t have to. With technology at their fingertips and transparency among travelers, women are more empowered than ever to travel the world on their own. Moreover, the rewards are a more enriching experience where you have time to self-reflect, meet locals and explore on your own time and terms.
Tuanni Price started traveling abroad once her kids were grown up, wanting to find herself. She booked herself a three-week trip to Spain in 2013 and is now moving to South Africa for her wine tour company. “I loved the fact that I could wake up and roam around randomly, eat when I wanted to and explore the small towns,” she recounts her stay in Barcelona. Price says she prefers to stay at Airbnbs so she can save money and stay longer at a destination. She also uses Airbnb experiences to meet people and share meals. Over a dinner party experience in Barcelona, she met a few singles and they ended up celebrating a fun New Year’s Eve together.
“You have to be careful about your location though,” she points out that she picks her accommodations in busy areas where there is always a security guard or doorman. The only time she felt unsafe was wandering through the streets of Paris late at night. “That is one place I would recommend staying in a nicer hotel or going with a companion,” she says referring to the mixed neighborhoods in bustling big cities.
Price also uses Uber frequently and when she finds a good driver that she feels safe with, she hires them out for the day as it allows her the flexibility to visit several areas such as wineries around Cape Town at a negotiated rate.
At 6-feet tall, social impact consultant Tammy Freeman often stands out in a crowd when traveling abroad. When she first visited Singapore in 2000 for a study abroad program, she had culture shock. “No one told me that I will be stared at all the time like I was on TV. For us in the U.S., that is considered rude, but in some cultures it's acceptable,” she says. She realized that the people didn't mean any harm, so she simply smiled or waved back.
Freeman has been spending 2-3 months out of the year in Rio De Janeiro since 2016 running a social enterprise co-op. She also owns Soul and Story, an online store that offers amazing handmade goods created by women around the world. “Rio gets a bad rap for violence, like any major city, but you need to have your wits about you. It is not the place to wear your fancy shoes and gold jewelry. Just try to blend in, wear casual clothing like shorts, t-shirts, and flip flops so you don’t stand out,” she advises on traveling to Brazil.
Kenya is another country that Freeman recommends visiting for its beaches, nightlife, food and markets. Instead of bars and nightclubs, Freeman prefers hotels, wine festivals, artisanal markets and malls, for they offer a more sophisticated and safe atmosphere for solo females. She also recommends visiting places that have good access to public transportation and are easy to navigate, such as Amsterdam, Istanbul, Cape Town and Amalfi Coast.
Mia Herman is a flight attendant and travel blogger (Travel with Mia) who has lived all over the world and traveled to 30+ countries. Though married, Herman still travels independently to focus on her writing and to meet locals.
“As a person of color, you need to research the political sentiment of the country,” she says and take extra precautions in countries that are politically unstable or where women are not given the highest regard. “Still I have never had a negative experience that has prevented me from traveling.” She notes that she received a lot of male attention in Istanbul, but it was harmless.
Her safety travel tip is to never share your accommodation location with strangers even in a casual conversation with people you know because you don't know who is listening in. Also, never announce specifics about where you will be and at what time publicly.
Herman tries to find humor in every situation and not take offense to people of other cultures. When dining at an authentic restaurant in Kowloon, Herman found herself to be the only black female surrounded by all Asians who started taking pictures of her eating her noodle soup with chopsticks. Without hesitation, she just posed for them.
Herman’s favorite places as a solo traveler are the Czech Republic and Croatia as the “people are incredibly nice and welcoming” she affirms. For women who are traveling alone internationally for the first time, she advises starting with English speaking countries such as the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand or going on a Mediterranean cruise so you don’t have to worry about the language barrier and can navigate more easily.
On my first solo trip, friends had warned me of Morocco's famous con artists. I was on alert during my train ride from Rabat to Fez when someone approached, offering a tour and car service. My inner voice advised me not to book a tour on a moving train but instead, visit their office and verify the company's legitimacy first. Still, I booked it hiding my money in my socks, wrapped a whistle around my wrist and was always ready with plan B.
Female instincts have come in handy more than once while traveling solo through 80 countries since then. Once, there was a sandstorm and I was stranded on the Israel-Jordan border. There was no other option but to take an overnight bus to Tel Aviv to make my flight back to Atlanta. The bus driver made all announcements in Hebrew as he or no one on the bus spoke any English. To make myself feel safer and not be left behind at restroom stops, I sat in the very front row and made sure the driver was aware of my presence.
Every traveler must follow certain rules about carrying little cash, keeping backup batteries, learning a few words of the local language, etc. But when it comes to women, it is even more important to be aware of your surroundings, do your research and always have a plan of where you are going and make sure somebody back home knows about it at all times.