"Mom, I'm Fine": Demystifying Solo Female Travel
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"Mom, I'm Fine": Demystifying Solo Female Travel

Traveling alone as a woman can seem daunting, but it can also be the most liberating and empowering experience of your life, especially if you follow these tips.

"Mom, I'm Fine": Demystifying Solo Female Travel
Instagram: @brittharms

In recent years I've witnessed a major trend towards women traveling alone. What once would be considered unimaginable is now a common practice for women around the world. But many are still baffled that a woman would go to faraway places without a companion to keep them company and ensure safety.

In May 2018, one week after college graduation, I donned a 40-liter backpack and took a plane to Lima, Peru. For the next five weeks I bused, flew, hiked, and biked around Peru and Colombia. It was my first ever solo travel adventure, and I was terrified.

On the lumbering, traffic-laden drive to Los Angeles International Airport, I wished I could turn around. I literally wanted to throw away months of saving money, researching, budgeting, and preparing for this trip because I was afraid I would feel lonely, bored, scared, tired, or uncomfortable.

The reason I dreamed about taking this trip was so I could grow and learn by escaping routine and security. And here I was, standing at the edge of my comfort zone, wishing I had never thought of it.

Well, I took the flight, and returned home over a month later.

Overlooking the village and ruins of Ollantaytambo, PeruInstagram: @brittharms

And you know what? I was fine; great, in fact. When I stepped off the plane in Lima, my fears melted and I felt joyful as a new adventure unfolded before me.

As it turns out, I did feel lonely, bored, scared, tired, and uncomfortable... Just not all the time, and certainly not all at once. I also learned that traveling alone is not only empowering and liberating; it can also be as safe as you wish to make it, no matter what older relatives and acquaintances might say.

Before leaving, I did my homework, learning safety tips and doing general research on my desired destinations. Though I didn't plan out every step of my journey, I did enough research to get an idea of where to go and how to stay safe there. Here's what I learned:

  1. Don't take a random taxi from outside the airport. ALWAYS look for an official taxi sign, or book your taxi from inside the baggage claim at an official taxi counter. You don't want to end up like me, sitting awkwardly in the back of an unauthorized taxi while the police ticket your driver on the side of the road.
  2. Look around as you walk. Keep your bag close to your body, zipped, and be constantly aware of your surroundings. This sounds like common sense, but most people aren't used to doing this at home. It takes concerted effort to know what's happening around you, especially in a foreign space.
  3. Research your accommodations before arrival; don't just pick the closest or cheapest hostel, make sure it has good reviews about safety and cleanliness.
  4. If you don't know the language of the country you're traveling to, expect to pay more for a bit of safety. Local buses and public transport are usually cheaper, but a bit more dangerous if you don't know the language. If you aren't confident in the vernacular, consider taking tourist buses and vans. Though more pricey, the staff will definitely know English and are often backed by hostels and travel agencies for legitimacy.
  5. Utilize the internet; it's a bounty of resources about solo travel, destinations, travel tips, budgeting, and more.
  6. Learn some basic self-defense. Though I didn't have to use it on this trip, knowing a few self-defense moves gives me peace of mind in knowing what to do in a dangerous situation.

Coconut stand in Cartagena, ColombiaInstagram: @brittharms

This list is not exhaustive; there are plenty of other measures one can take to increase personal security while traveling alone. The point is that the benefits of solo travel far outweigh the fears and uncertainties we hold on to.

On my first solo trip, I met locals and travelers that shared their stories with me and changed my life. I deepened my knowledge and understanding of the cultures in South America, grew more compassionate towards people who are different than me, and learned to be resourceful and take calculated risks. Not to mention, I had a blast.

So if you're a woman (or man) considering solo travel, think twice before you let fear and doubt keep you at home.

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