Travelling alone as a female is a rich and rewarding experience, and something recommend every woman does at least once in their life. Being a girl and travelling alone can be daunting, and the more you experience different cultures, the more you realise gender counts. There are many ways you can make your RTW a little more comfortable if you’re a solo female traveller.
Just consider the following as an example:
Booking beds in a female-only dorm
Beds in Female-only dorms are the first to book out, and often it’s far more comfortable to be in a dorm with other girls, as opposed to sharing with a touring rugby club, or a bunch of copulating couples. Often you’ll find other females travelling alone, and it’s easier to team up with other travellers for a day’s sightseeing.
Befriend other travellers
Travelling alone always seems to garner respect, and one of the great things I find is that couples and groups will always warm to you if you are travelling alone. However, you have to make an effort to get to know others and hang out. I’ve made decades-long friendships based on one or two conversations that started along the road. However, I’ve also had people help me out when I’ve been incredibly ill, purely on the basis that I was friendly enough to say hello in the hostel lobby.
Sometimes a little preparation can help you avoid culture shock, so be sure to read up on what you can expect if you are a girl travelling in certain parts of the world. Read up a bit on what is appropriate dress in certain cultures. Wearing a spaghetti strap top in Australia won’t be a problem, but in rural Cambodia it is not the norm, in India it may be considered provocative and in certain parts of Africa and the Middle East, downright offensive and inappropriate.
This can be tricky, as you may find that in some parts of the world you may be discriminated against or treated differently because you a girl. Sometimes it is going to suck, but sometimes you have to roll with it, and accept it as part of the culture. Try not to judge too harshly, and take the good with the bad. Also enjoy the fact that on the flip side, in some cultures you’ll receive incredible privileges and be treated extra specially purely on the basis of your gender. It’s a big world, so take the good with the bad.
David Whitley wrote a great safety guide here. As a general rule, if you don’t feel comfortable somewhere, get out of there. Don’t lose your cool if you are angry- being the screaming foreigner can be a bad look, but feel free to be as loud as possible and draw attention to yourself if you feel compromised or threatened. Violence is never the answer, however it’s good to have a basic knowledge of self-defence before you go. As for your stuff, just forget it. If you need to flee and your backpack is weighing you down, just leave it. Stuff and passports can be replaced. Your life can’t be.
Sex and avoiding…sex
Wearing a fake wedding ring is a time-honoured tradition amongst female solo travellers trying to ward off unwanted admirers, as is the old line “my husband is one business and will join me in a few days”. When it comes to sex, carrying contraception is a no-brainer: STD infection rates are through the roof for backpackers and in certain parts of the world HIV infection is a massive concern - it’s not really worth the risk.
This one is not gender specific, but volunteering is often a fantastic and structured way to travel comfortably as a girl, and you’ll often find other long term travellers interested in meeting up with you down the road. So much of travel can be about taking, but volunteering in the right project can be a great way to get to know local people and connect with a community while having a positive impact. I'd recommend this community project in South Africa - Shamwari Conservation Program
I believe travelling, as a female alone is one of the most important things a young woman can do. That’s not to say I haven’t had my bad times, lonely times and scary times on the road. I’ve had my bum pinched, I’ve wailed about women’s rights, I’ve been refused service and in one unfortunate experience, I even had a guy try to attack me. However, I’ve also been treated like a princess, given preferential treatment, allowed entry into places men can’t go, and met true gentlemen out on the road.
If I’m honest with myself, some of the time I’ve got myself into uncomfortable situations because I was young and naïve about what I should and shouldn’t wear and act in certain cultures. If there is one thing travel has taught me is that a lot of the time there is no right or wrong, just different. At the end of the day, I wouldn’t change any of the experiences I had for the world, and definitely glad I travelled solo.