I’ve written several posts on this over the years, and I’ll quote a few.
In , I wrote:
I have never let my gender stop me from having an adventure. In fact, I’ve always thought that traveling alone is easier for a female than a male.
I mean, come on! Sparking conversations with huge numbers of new people; on-the-fly invitations to helicopter rides, lobster diving outings and other escapades; being welcomed to crash in someone’s house or share a meal with their family… are all things that are more likely to happen if you’re a lady.
Sure, some people see women as targets and sex things. But most see them as non-threatening visitors to the place they call home. People abroad are often just as interested in learning about your country as you are in learning about theirs – but if you are an imposing male, rather than a pretty female, they might be afraid to ask. (Which is why it’s a good idea to bring pictures – of your family, your home, famous landmarks near you, etc. – when you travel. People will want to see them.) Once the conversation starts, there’s no telling what could happen next.
And, yes, some men might also hope to get lucky with you later. That’s why, it’s good to lay down your boundaries and expectations (e.g. “I will sail with you, but nothing sexual will happen;” “I’d love to stay with you, but I can’t take the bed – let me stay on the couch instead;” etc.) when accepting offers and invitations. Which may sound awkward, but it’s really not that hard. Especially when embedded in the silliness of communicating in your (or their) second language.
That’s what I do. It works so well that I’ve often gone weeks on end without ever having to pay (or even ask) for a place to stay. Some days, I would meet a local resident while out exploring. He’d recognize me as foreign, and we’d get to talking about — anything. The weather. The clock tower. Where I’m from. Where I might be going next. Next thing I know, he’s asked where I’m staying, I’ve told him I don’t know yet, and he’s said, “Then you’re welcome to stay with me.”
Meaning that I’ve slept in the homes of countless people I’ve just met – sometimes, even in the same bed. It’s a really cool way experience to the family dynamic in a new culture. Or, if they’re single, to see how young people live and party there. It’s a chance to hear them say what it used to be like, before the war, before the white man came, before they got older. It’s a way to bring the buildings and the cafes outside alive with new richness and meaning.
But, like I said, it’s your responsibility to make your boundaries clear ahead of time, not theirs to read your mind. Men I’ve crashed with have always gone into it knowing that this is not a sexual thing. And it has been a problem exactly zero times. None of these people ever tried to force me, drug me, or guilt me. They’ve only ever expressed gladness to have met me, and mild sadness to say goodbye…
I also talk about how it’s easier to hitch hike while alone (sometimes, there’s only one spot in the car), and how travel is such a precious and rare thing — and having to compromise with a partner or group over what you’re going to do and eat each day sucks. When you’re alone, you have complete freedom over your agenda.
In , I wrote:
You’ll meet tons of new people every day — trust me. (If you’re concerned about yourand/or ability to meet new people, I’d recommend reading before you go. It’ll teach you skills you can use personally and professionally to attract and connect with more people.)
If you’re afraid of being lonely when you travel alone, don’t be! A three-hour friendship with someone you meet while traveling can feel more meaningful than a convenient one you have with coworkers and neighbors.
Leave your phone and computer behind. Devices will only distract you or get you robbed. And don’t use GPS. Go get lost, then ask people for directions. John Steinbeck said it best in (which everyone should read immediately) when he wrote, “The best way to meet new people is to get lost.”
I can’t emphasize enough that when you travel alone, you’re never actually alone. Unless you want to be. This is more true in some places than others. Like, I don’t think you’ll necessarily make a lot of friends going to Napa alone — people go there as couples, or for a wedding or bachelorette party. They’re looking for a certain kind of experience that doesn’t usually involve strangers. But if you’re visiting beautiful sites or camping or hitch hiking across a continent, you’ll meet people just like (and still very different from) you.
Here’s a picture of me traveling “alone” in Peru.
Another day of traveling “alone” in Peru ends up in a liquor store… and then off to salsa dancing!
And here’s a photo of me and Lucasz, a solo traveler I picked up south of Bolinas. He was a Czech traveler, making his way to Oregon by thumb. I We spent two days and a night together in Mendocino, before he continued his journey north.