On my way back from Stockholm last December, I met a lovely old lady at the airport who told me about how excited she was to visit her daughter in New York. Over the course of our chat about how beautiful Stockholm was, she noticed that I was by myself. Taking no time at all, she segued and asked me "Are you here alone?"
The paranoid girl inside me said "stranger danger, play it casual," but I was in the airport waiting at the gate to board my flight back to New York. I took my chances and said yes. She immediately appeared shocked and told me I was brave. She was not the first person I met on my travels to tell me this. Even people my age I met at a pub crawl in Stockholm or friends at home who knew of my trip called me brave. Honestly, that kind of annoyed me. Why does traveling solo as a female have to be something that makes you brave? I wasn't brave for going to college in another state, why should this be different? (Maybe this is apples and oranges.)
It's hard to find someone to travel with exactly when you want. There are so many factors of adult life that you don't really think of until your friends and family start shelling out reasons why they can't go (not enough money, can't take time off, hatred of islands, fear of flying long hours, etc). It's really quite a hassle unless you have a significant other you can drag along and even then, they may be a pain in the butt on the trip.
I'm a firm believer that you can and should be able to travel alone as a female whenever you want -- and no one should make you feel a certain way about it! Having traveled solo both abroad and around the US from the age of 23, I have a couple of ideas I think would be helpful to any female teetering on the edge of buying a ticket to their dream destination.
First things first, select your destination.
The first and most essential thing to consider when traveling by yourself as a female is picking the destination. Do you want to go to an island or a city? Are people friendly there? Is it super religious? Is this a retirement community? If you're dying for sand and surf but are going to a resort, be prepared to spend a lot of quality time with yourself. It's not a bad thing but typically, resorts have limited activities or hours of operation and people tend to be on romantic couple retreats or family vacations. This means you're less likely to run into companions as they're all with their "group". If you pick a city, you're more likely to meet people from all walks of life at any hour. New friends, new beaus, sky's the limit as they say!
Now where should I stay?
My dad always wants me to opt for a hotel (most of which I find via Expedia) but sometimes you don't have that hotel money. Airbnb can be a totally viable option - cheap rates and lots of options that vary from city center locations to countryside cabins. You can also try other money saving alternatives like Overnight (currently available in LA and Austin) which allows you to book last minute stays with local hosts. It's a perfect solution if you happen to find yourself wanting to extend your trip a few extra days after realizing your vacation just shouldn't end.
I'm also becoming a growing fan of hostels. I'm always on hostelworld when I'm planning trips abroad. Not only are they cheap but they are the perfect place to meet other solo travelers, learn about local city hangouts and get ideas on what to do. What I find most useful, stay near city center. The area is always populated and easy to get to so the chances of shady things happening decrease (in my mind).
What do I do? Read My Kindle?
Yes, you can read your kindle but you can also feel free to talk to people you meet on your travels. Just because you're a female doesn't mean you have to be tight lipped and wary of every cad you come across. What makes traveling so fun is seeing how different other people are. That's the beauty of being on a diverse planet.
You should also check out tripadvisor, which sorts different activities into categories so you can get a handle as to what is going on in your city of choice. Take in a few museums, go snorkeling, take a hop on hop off tour (if offered). You're in a new city and who knows when you'll be back! Take advantage of all it has to offer but make sure you also take some time to yourself (traveling is exhausting).
What do I wear? Are short shorts ok?
Honestly, do you. Dress how you want/however you feel comfortable/what makes you feel confident. Of course, it's important be respectful of the city's rules (I wouldn't wear a mini skirt in Dubai) but what it all boils down to is common sense. Traveling by yourself and dressing extra sexy, unfortunately, can draw negative attention so just be smart. Do your research before you pack.
I'm not saying throw caution to the wind when making plans to go to a new city alone but take a chance (just be smart and aware). The worst thing you could do in my book is hold yourself back just because of a "what if." Embrace being a female, venture forth and hopefully these thought starters will help you take the plunge!