Travelling Alone as a Woman

When I left for my semester abroad, it was my first time boarding a plane without my parents. Although I had been living alone before the trip began, I had hardly ever travelled alone. The adjustments I had to make forced me to learn travel safety quickly, while also learning so much about the world around me. 

One of the first reactions I always get when I tell people about my travel plans is telling me to be careful. People call me brave and adventurous but really, I’m not doing anything too extreme. Of course, there are inherent dangers and people’s warnings are very relevant. Being aware of what is going on and the risks is crucial but it is also important to acknowledge the extent of these risks should have on your plans and behaviour.

When travelling, people are so vulnerable. At that moment, the only thing making sure I stay healthy and am safe is me. I could technically call someone or go to an embassy if need be but all of this starts with me. That means I have to make choices about my behaviour very independently, taking necessary precautions, and sometimes making split second decisions about when to run and when to just breathe. 

Women are constantly taught that we need to make adjustments, whether through not staying out too late, wearing less provocative clothing, or keeping away from specific people or areas. We should not have to live in this world filtered by staying out of harm's way, or away from these people. As I said above, travels makes people solely responsible for their safety. It’s even more important and pertinent while travelling for women to make adjustment, making the effects of gender on behaviour more evident.

I cannot understate the importance of gender in travel safety. Being an exchange student, I am constantly swapping stories with my friends about our latest travels. My guy friends went to Dublin and left a bar late at night, finding themselves back to their hostels without any wi-fi. I certainly wouldn’t recommend this to anyone and since then, these guys have invested in some better data plans. When I went to Dublin, we ran back to our hostel from the same bar area several hours earlier than they had and considered buying an uber, even though the walk would’ve been ten minutes maximum. We also experienced excessive catcalling from guys in our hostel. When we tell stories like these, a lot of people come to realize that the way I think and what I do while travelling really is impacted by my gender.

To explain, I’m coming from a place where I’ve been travelling only in Europe but I don’t know if I would be writing the same article if I had been travelling in a more developing area. Gender also affects what cities and countries we travel to, friends of mine have told me that being a women makes them more fearful to travel to less populated areas and more developed countries and they feel that, if they were a man, this fear would be significantly less. This article is more about the impacts gender has rather than actual tips for female travel. If you look online, there are countless articles giving women tips like stay in female only hostels or don’t drink too much. All of this is great and I definitely recommend reading a couple, even if it’s only to calm some nerves. I will say, however, that a lot of my fears about travelling alone as a female have been diminished just through experience. 

The experiences I have gained through travel are priceless. I’ve also found that travelling alone really suits me, it allows me to be introspective and really take in everything. It is important to be aware of risks and take necessary precautions but those things should not dictate decisions. The only real way to know the difference between actual risks and just fear is through experience- so if you need a sign to book your ticket for some solo female travel, here it is.

Words & Photos by Kate Elizabeth