I’ve had a lot (well, around 4) questions from girls about the intricacies of travelling alone as a female. Naturally, I’m not very well placed to answer these so I went looking for someone who was. Hopefully a lot of your questions were answered last week in the first interview of my Solo Female Travel Series with Anna Zalazar.
This week, I’m back with another female globetrotter to share her travel wisdom. I found this interview particularly interesting; it seems we both travel in rather different ways so it was nice to hear things from a different angle. Hopefully you guys will learn a few things from her as well.
Anyway, here we go! This week I’m excited to welcome to the blog Ashley Fleckenstein from Ashley Abroad.
Introduce yourself! Who are you?
Hi! I’m Ashley, a 23-year old travel blogger, yogi and francophile. I blog over at AshleyAbroad.com about everything from living in France to backpacking solo in Southeast Asia.
What was the first trip you took abroad by yourself? What was your inspiration?
When I was 20 I spent the summer working as an au pair in France. My boss gave me a week off for vacation so I hastily booked tickets to Ireland and England. When I landed in Dublin a girl working at the hostel told me she loved visiting Galway as a little girl so on a whim I booked a bus ticket there. There is truly nothing more freeing than solo travel!
What is the biggest thing you have learned about yourself while travelling solo?
Two main things- that I’m an introvert and I need a community around me.
The biggest concern for solo female travellers is safety. How do you get over that fear? What steps do you take to make sure you stay safe while on the road?
Along with carrying a small can of pepper spray (which I’ve never had to use but gives me peace of mind), I just try to exercise the same caution abroad as I do at home: I don’t wear flashy clothes or jewelry, I avoid rough neighborhoods and I dress somewhat conservatively. I also am willing to pay more for my safety, such as taking a cab home late at night rather than walking.
What tips do you have for packing light as a female?
Don’t pack too light- that was my mistake for years. I not only looked goofy in all of my photos, I also had to wash my clothes every three days and never knew what to wear. Packing too light is just as annoying as packing too much- trust me!
And also, this one applies to both men and women- use packing cubes. They make packing and repacking such a non-issue.
Many people are reluctant to travel solo because they feel like they’ll be alone and won’t meet anyone. What’s your experience?
Well, actually you will be alone sometimes. And that’s fine! Bring an iPod for long train and bus rides.
But you will also meet other people. When I travel I rarely have to day-trip or go out alone as I meet other travelers at the hostel. Being a solo traveler forces you to be outgoing and friendly and definitely improves your social skills.
And I only enjoy solo travel for about two weeks- any longer and I find it really exhausting to meet new people all the time.
How do you afford your travels, and what tips can you share for keeping costs down while on the road?
I actually just wrote a whole post about that! But my biggest tip is to sign up for a Charles Schwab debit card, use Mint.com to track expenses and book your flights really far in advance.
I afford my travels by saving up prior to my trips and then working as a freelance writer and blogger on the road. On the road I usually travel really cheaply: hostels, street food, the works.
But once in a while I splurge on a nice meal or hotel room- it’s necessary after a few weeks in noisy hostels! I also shell out for adventure activities like canyoning, scuba-diving or parasailing.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve eaten in your travels?
Probably lamb heart in Istanbul or civet poo coffee in Bali. And I actually thought both were really tasty, believe it or not!
What is one place you have been that was completely different to what you expected it would be?
Southern Thailand was not what I expected. Instead of an untouched paradise I found flea-bitten dogs, snarls of phone wires and beaches filled with drunk backpackers. Despite my initial disappointment I had an absolute blast.
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?
Fun question! I really like tall men so I’d have to say Germany or Sweden. And I love an Irish accent.
Are you a nomad for life? Why? Why not?
Definitely not. I love having a home base and a community. I’d say I’m much more of an expat than a traveler. Ideally I’d love to be self-employed and spend nine months a year in one place and the other three traveling… but only time will tell!
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?
Western Europe or Southeast Asia. They’re both safe, fascinating and frequented by plenty of other independent travelers. Needless to say Western Europe is much, much more expensive than Southeast Asia.
Ashley Fleckenstein is a baguette-partial freelance writer who moved to Paris at 21 and has been traveling the world ever since. You can read more about her adventures on her blog, ashleyabroad.com. Her ebook The Insider’s Guide To Au Pairing In Europe, which teaches others how to break into au pairing so they can earn an income while travelling the world, is available now.