So often I meet girls on the road who say things like, “Gosh I wish I was a guy so I could travel alone too” or “How do you travel by yourself? I guess it’s different for you, you’re a guy.”
It upsets me, because I’ve met many female travellers who, with a little street savvy and common sense, travel the world solo and have the time of their life. In my experience, the world is a friendly place to both guys and girls, and travelling it solo seems to bless you with some of the most unique and memorable experiences that you will have in your lifetime.
Obviously female travel is not something I can write with authority on, so as a treat to my female readers, I’m starting an interview series where female globetrotters will share their tips and advice on solo adventuring around the world. Hopefully they can inspire you to break out of your shell, pack a backpack and hit the road on your own.
Today I’m excited to be joined by the lovely Anna from Annzventures.
Introduce yourself! Who are you?
I’m Anna and I’m an adventurer, storyteller and writer at Annzventures.com.
What was the first trip you took abroad by yourself? What was your inspiration?
I’ve always been an adventurer at heart and have always been fascinated by US National Parks. When I was a little girl, I used to just see these natural wonders in books and would day dream of one day seeing them. When I came to America, I said I’ll make my dreams come true. So in 2008, I took a break from work and went for a long weekend of nature adventure to Jackson Hole Wyoming by myself. Nobody believed me until I came back with pictures. To date, it’s still on the top of my most memorable travel experiences.
What is the biggest thing you have learned about yourself while travelling solo?
That I’m always in good company. My solo travels have taught me to really enjoy not only life but also the company of myself. Fun has always been on top of my priorities and it’s something I take with me wherever I go.
The biggest concern for travelling solo as a female is safety. How do you get over that fear? What steps do you take to make sure you stay safe while on the road?
I think every female who has traveled solo, whether short term or long term will always have some fear and each one has a different approach to it.
Here are my tips:
Blend in – I spent a year traveling solo in Asia so I pretty much blended in. I’m naturally fair skinned which is ideal for Asians but I intentionally made myself as tanned as I can be so not to attract too much attention from locals.
Stay present – Try to stay as present and aware of your surroundings wherever you may be. Also, I cannot stress this enough but easy on the alcohol.
Walk tall – Knowing any form of self-defense is something I recommend every woman whether she wants to travel or not. I’ve had self-defense training from my years of practicing martial arts so it’s something I will always have with me. This has given me confidence that I can protect myself if need be.
Final tip – The best way to keep yourself safe is to avoid being seen as a target. Your posture can say so much about you and people can smell weakness from afar. But if someone sees you as a confident and strong woman, your chances of being on the safe side will always be higher. Of course anything can go wrong but knowing some form of self-defense puts you in a much better position.
What tips do you have for packing light as a female?
Dresses! If you’re traveling to warm or hot and humid countries, pack dresses. Not only is it one piece of clothing, it’s also a chic way to feel very feminine wherever you might be traveling.
Many people are reluctant to travel solo because they feel like they’ll be alone and won’t meet anyone. What’s your experience?
The beginning of a solo trip will be the most challenging, added to that the fact that you’re away from your comfort zone. But I always tell people that as long as you’re not traveling to places where no human being lives, chances are you will meet people. The truth is it will only take a few hours before you start meeting people in a similar situation and you will have instant travel friends.
How do you afford your travels, and what tips can you share for keeping costs down while on the road?
I worked in the US for five years saving money before I set off to do long-term travel. I’m also a big travel hacker and have saved a ton of air miles that kept my airfare costs to the minimum. In terms of affording travel, there really is no secret to it, you work, you save then you take off.
For keeping costs down, my number one rule is negotiate. I grew up in the Philippines so it’s something I’m naturally skilled at. But I know a lot of people are not comfortable doing this. They say you can only do it in Asia, but in my experience, I’ve also received better deals while I was traveling in Europe. Like for instance, I got free dinners included in my stay at a hostel in Portugal. Negotiating is simply just asking if they can give you a discount or maybe some freebies.
Next to negotiating is to travel slow. Constantly moving from one place to another is not only exhausting, it’s also more expensive. Staying longer at cities and islands I loved has enabled me to enjoy my travels more and keep my costs down.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve eaten in your travels?
None. Food is probably the only thing that I’m not adventurous with. I’m very picky with what I eat and try to stay as healthy as possible even on the road.
What is one place you have been that was completely different to what you expected it would be?
London. I avoided this city in my trips to Europe for the longest time because I thought it was just too expensive and too cold. Alas, a friend invited me and I was surprised to find out that you can still travel on a budget in this city and despite the erratic weather, it’s one of the most fun cities I’ve ever been to. At first I hated it, then it became one of my favorite cities.
OK, a couple of fun questions – who’s your celebrity crush?
And, which country have you been to that, in your opinion, has the most handsome men?
Ha! I’m answering this one for the ladies. If we’re talking people watching and eye candies, my girlfriends, gay friends and I enjoyed it the most in Spain and England specifically Madrid and London. I can even throw in Portugal and Switzerland for the runner ups. But I’ve always found American men not only handsome but also having the most magnetic personalities even in my travels so my vote actually goes to USA. 😉
Are you a nomad for life? Why? Why not?
A nomad for life, no. If I want to travel forever, I can definitely do it and will for sure find ways in making it possible. But after having traveled for so long, I found myself craving having a home to build and keep my habits. I’m quite an ambitious woman so I tend to think long term. I’m working on different areas of my life and it’s more manageable for me to achieve my personal goals if I have a home base.
For me it’s all about finding your balance, following your bliss and not what other people think you should be doing. I don’t let other people’s ideas, no matter how shiny they might seem, define what my dreams will be. It’s all about creating a life I love and the one that suits me. I found that after leaving New York to see the world, I still find it to be one of the best cities in the world and have been enjoying life back here. Also, geographically speaking, it’s the best place to have a base for my future travels, just like Manila is my base in Asia. I’m very lucky to have the best of both worlds. Nomad for life, not for me. But traveler for life, definitely!
Lastly, for those planning or considering their very first trip alone, what advice do you have for them? And where would you recommend they go?
My advice for them is very simple. Don’t overplan, save as much as you can, book a ticket and just go. For first timers, go to Thailand. But if you can go a little further away from your comfort zone, I’d say Philippines.
Anna is the Chief Adventure Officer of Annzventures.com. She believes that every woman should do solo travel at least once in her life and her blog is all about inspiring women to do so. You can continue to follow her adventures at www.annzventures.com, or connect with her on Twitter at @AnnaZalazar.
What are your experiences with solo female travel? Tips? Questions? Inspirations? Horror stories? We’d love to hear them, write them up in the comments below!
Also be sure to check out her blog over at Annzventures. If you have a question, chances are she has already answered it!
Until next time, travellers.