International Women’s Day was a week ago and, after suddenly finding myself in the middle of a pro-feminine rights demonstration in Colombo, Sri Lanka, I decided to write about women traveling alone.
Thanks to a lot of women who never gave up, today, in 2019, I can have my own bank account, I have access to education, I can have a job, a driving license and I have the opportunity of traveling alone if I want. I feel very privileged to be able to have and do all these rights. And, while I am enjoying my travels, I do not forget that there are millions of women around the world who suffer and struggle.
I started traveling alone not a long time ago… I never thought I would be able to be a solo female traveler until I did my first short trip when I was living in Istanbul. I went by myself to Cappadocia (Turkey) and it was rad! After this, I just felt I wanted to travel alone everywhere. I had a very demanding job which didn’t allow to travel at all, but when I resigned I started again with my short trips. I went to Samothraki (an amazing Greek island), then Bulgaria, Athens… and after those short trips, I felt I wanted more.
Last year I changed completely my life (again) and I decided to start traveling around Asia by myself, first landing in India. I visited this country in 2014 and I felt totally in love with it… so, obviously, I had to go back seeking for more adventures.
In September 2018 I arrived in Dharamsala for attending a Yoga Teacher Training Course and, once finished, I started traveling around India and Nepal. Now, in March 2019, I have been on the road for 5 and a half months and, I am currently traveling around Sri Lanka. Until today, I came across a great number of people (both men and women) who asked me a lot of questions, like:
– Why are you traveling alone? Does no one want to join you?
– Aren’t you scared to be by yourself?
– Don’t you get bored traveling alone?
– Don’t you feel very lonely all the time?
– Don’t you have any male friends to come with you? (yes, the “male” word is in the question)
– Nothing bad happened to you?
The interrogatory could be much longer, but I believe we all get the point. I don’t think the same people who asked me these questions, would have asked a guy if he is scared of traveling by himself or if he has any “male” friends waiting for him somewhere or traveling with him. Of course, any solo traveler who is around India or Nepal will get a lot of questions about his or her life by local people, out of curiosity. But, in my case, not all those questions were asked by locals. Some of them, by other travelers, like me.
Women who travel alone are not bored, are not scared, are not lonely, they do have friends and, maybe even they have lived bad experiences, they are solo female travelers because they want and can. Maybe some women travel alone in order to get rid of fear, others (like me) because it makes you feel good, it allows you to discover new places, new cultures, new people, new cuisines and, it allows you to discover your true self and grow as a person.
I think everything I said would work for both men and women who travel alone, don’t you? So, I still can’t understand why women who travel alone are seen different from men who do the same.
Of course, I am not forgetting that there are a lot of women in the world who can’t go to school, can’t decide who they will get married, can’t have a proper job or they can’t own any property, among much more injustices they are living. As I wrote in the beginning, I am a very lucky person, I am living my own life and doing something I have been dreaming for so long.
If we, as women, don’t stand up to prove we can travel alone, we can be entrepreneurs, we can be artists, we can be politicians, we can decide about our bodies, we can be whatever we want… no one else will do it. The power to change the world is only in our hands.
In order to answer the question “Why are women traveling alone?” I could answer this with a simple: because yes. Because we can. Because we want. Because the ones we have this beautiful opportunity, we will take it.
In India, I haven’t met many other women traveling alone like me, which is a shame. I can imagine it is a country which frightens a lot because and, I know, it can be quite intense sometimes. But, in my opinion, India is an amazing place on earth where you will grow so much and you will live experiences like nowhere else in the world.
Some tips for traveling alone as a woman
I think the best tip anyone can give you is to follow your heart and instincts. You do not have to be in a place where you do not want to, or you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. I have been reading a lot of articles about this topic and I have found tips like: carry a doorstop, always book things in advance or have a whistle inside your pocket.
Would an article about solo male travelers give the same advice? I don’t think so. I don’t carry a doorstop, I don’t book things in advance and I don’t have a whistle inside my pocket (what is more, I don’t even have trousers with pockets). I have been traveling more than 5 months for now plus other shorter trips and I never felt I needed these things. If we start telling each other we need this extra stuff in order to be saved, we will think we are in danger all the time.
I think each person should find the best way to travel and enjoy the experience. What works for me, doesn’t have to work for you. What frightens me, doesn’t have to frighten you and opposite.
To me, what makes traveling such a rich experience, is to hang out with locals, to find the weirdest place to stay, to escape from the tourist spots, to meet the most interesting and crazy people I could ever imagine and, to live experiences I couldn’t in my hometown.
Of course, I enjoy my travels without putting myself in dangerous and uncomfortable situations and, even sometimes I went through negative moments, overall I take them as life lessons. I have to add that most of the times these “bad situations” became fun anecdotes now I am able to share with friends and family.
For example, in Nepal, me and my friend we arguing in a restaurant and, because of that, we got to stay for free in a resort in Chitwan! Isn’t it crazy? I was having a really stressful and hard time with the argument and, in the end, this is one of the most unbelievable memories I have from Nepal.
Some women who travel alone and I admire
I have some friends who also travel alone and have been an example to me, in a lot of levels. I would like to talk about them, as they deserve to be in this article.
María is a strong, beautiful, feminist, smart and fun girl from Madrid, who I met in Istanbul. She was studying her master’s degree in International Relations at Bilgi University and we ended up living together, along with another super amazing woman, Alexandra, for almost a year. María traveled alone in India, Iran, around Turkey… The stories of her travels made me feel very curious, especially about India and, thanks to her, I made the last step of coming alone to such an amazing country. The way she sees life is an example to me, as she always stands for all the underprivileged individuals’ rights.
Another of my friends who travels alone is Maribel, a primary school teacher from Santpedor (Barcelona). I know her for about 10 years and we used to hang out a lot when we were still both living in our hometowns, complaining all the time about the boring life we had in there. I remember very well one of her solo trips: from India to Nepal. At that moment, I thought she was very brave (and crazy!). After doing the same just a few months ago, I admire her even more, as her experience gave me the strength to do it. I know she will never stop exploring the world and I love this!
Beve is a tattoo artist from Parets del Vallès (Barcelona) who I met this year in Goa, India. What I really like from her is the way she travels: she makes tattoos in order to fund her trips. She used to travel with her van around Spain and Europe, but it happened that I met her in a similar situation than mine: her first long solo-trip around Asia, and she was in India, at the same moment and same place where I was. I love the way she approaches life and I adore how she travels: she seeks inspiration for her art and tattoos while meeting local people, like the gypsy women in Gujarat.
Finally, I would like to talk about Vildan, a Turkish-French girl I met while we were both working in a school in Istanbul. During the year we worked together, we became good friends. Suddenly, not long time ago, she messaged me because she was thinking about going to Athens by herself, one of my favorite cities in Europe. This was going to be her first solo trip and I couldn’t be more excited and happy for her! Of course, she made the correct decision and she visited the capital of Greece by herself, where she had an amazing time. After this trip, she also went to Rome all alone. I know she will continue traveling by herself and, who knows, maybe one day she will do a long-term trip around the world!
I had to stop myself of talking about women traveling alone who are my friends and I also admire, as the article would be 10 pages long… I just expect from them to keep enjoying their travels and being strong as they are!