Wednesday, 17 February 2016

No-one to book that trip with? Do it anyway. Traveling alone as a female is OK

Last year I was lucky enough to start a journey of exploration around the world funded by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust. It was an incredible experience but also a little daunting, as I would be doing it alone. I’m writing this about my experiences to encourage others to take the plunge and book that trip you have always wanted to take.
Traveling has been a favourite way of spending my time for as long as I can remember. It isn’t just about the destination for me: the journey to get there is just as important. I love the space you get from reality as you embark on a journey. I don’t love everything though. I hate flying, but I didn’t want to let that stop me. If I had a choice, the train would always be the top of my list of transport options. Staring out of the window of a train has been the location where I have decided on many things in my life.
Traveling alone can be a daunting experience but I really urge everyone to try it. Even if it is a train journey to a new town. You experience a location in a completely different way to when you travel with a companion. I find you can take more things in and you get to choose what you do all of the time. Want to spend an hour staring at a painting? No problem. You also learn a lot about myself while you are alone (and on occasion talk to yourself).
I’m a fairly relaxed traveller but doing lots of planning before I stepped anywhere near a plane (I hate flying, have I mentioned that?) I made sure I had done plenty of homework to make sure I felt as comfortable as possible. The only time I did get lost was when I couldn’t get out of a 6 floor department store in Tokyo. Not the worst place to get stuck. I had some delays and a few hiccups but could rectify those as I had all the information I needed with me.
Last year I visited China, Japan, the US and Canada. Here’s what I learnt on my journey.
Where to stay?Pick a safe area and choose accommodation close to transport lines. You can use travel blogs, guides and of course online maps to find out all of this information. This is important so you don’t need to walk far, especially if you will be out in the evenings. It’s likely you will want to eat while you are travelling so try and pick accommodation close to places where you can grab food. Sometimes you might feel like you just don’t want to head out far alone and so making sure you have good food options close by is really worth it.
Obviously you can check reviews on Trip Advisor but make sure you select the ‘solo traveller’ reviews. Many lone travellers share how they felt safe/unsafe and share their experiences (and where is good to eat close by). Don’t forget to repay the favour and leave your review when you have left!
I stayed in both hotels and AirBnB and didn’t have any bad experiences. I spent a long time choosing my accomodation. Where you stay is your sanctuary and you want to prioritise feeling safe and secure when alone.
How to get around?Plot out how you are going to get to where you want to visit before you go. This might sound obvious..BUT go beyond only thinking about your flight. How will you travel from the airport to your hotel? Try and book flight and travel times that don’t involve arriving in a new location at midnight when there is likely to be fewer people around and it’s harder to orientate yourself. Load up maps and travel maps before you head out. Don’t rely on being able to access information digitally. I had everything on my phone and written down on paper.
Eating.This gets a section all to itself as eating on your own can be a real problem. I mostly tried to pick where I wanted to eat before heading out. I don’t feel self conscious about eating alone in a restaurant but if you do, try taking a book or at least your phone to mess with. This is the only downside to travelling alone — you can’t steal food from others that you eat with and therefore are limited to only trying the dishes you can eat!
I found when eating alone that people start to talk to you. I was befriended in a resturant by another lone eater, we had a great chat and she gave me some great tips on places to visit and I held a conversation with the guy making my sushi despite a huge language barrier.
No entiendoIf you are traveling somewhere with a language you don’t speak, try and learn a few basic words and customs before you go. In flight entertainment systems usually have some great guides and I always find them really interesting. Google translate and other translation apps are incredibly useful especially if you are faced with a menu you can’t decipher.
What to do if something does go wrong?
Always make sure you have your insurance details and emergency phone numbers with you at all times. Written down and on your phone. Check in with people regularly at home.


In Japan there are designated tourist wifi hotspots so you can access your digital maps and contact people if you need to. Remember coffee shops like Starbucks and others always have wifi too so if you are in a town or city and feeling a bit disorientated head there and take some time out to get your visit back on track. The free wifi in 7/11s in Tokyo was a lifesaver for me!

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