A simple Google search for “solo female travel” delivers over 300 million results. A search for posts like “solo male travel on the rise” is pretty much non-existent. Why does #solofemaletravel have hundreds of thousands mentions on Instagram? And is solo female travel so different from solo male travel?
Talking about solo “female” travel positions travel as a male activity. #Solomaletravel doesn’t need its own hashtag because it’s the default.
Traveling solo as a woman shouldn’t be so different from traveling solo as a man, yet it is.
Unfortunately we live in a world where women face more discrimination and concerns surrounding their safety than men do. These include verbal harassment, unequal treatment in the workplace, and sexual violence. Men who travel alone do face safety issues but women have more to worry about when it comes to traveling to places where cultures feel oppressive.
Beyond the safety debate, there isn’t much difference between male and female solo travel. After all, when I’m traveling alone, I don’t wake up thinking, “what am I going to do today as a solo female traveler?“
It is important to discuss women’s vulnerabilities, but only to the extent that it informs women and doesn’t make them more afraid. The internet gives voice to biases and negativities about women traveling alone if you look hard enough. For the most part, however, I’ve found that the online community of “solo female travel” empowers women to travel alone and doesn’t bombard or intimidate with negative ideas.
In some spheres I hate when we use the term “female.” When we talk about “female” positions in the workforce or a “female’s” place in the home, it undermines women’s choice, power, and influence. I am glad that most discussion around “solo female travel” does the opposite. It empowers, supports, and creates a camaraderie and a sisterhood.
“Solo female travel” is a space to voice concerns about traveling alone as a woman and to support those who might be hesitant to venture abroad on their own. Many female bloggers encourage other women by saying that they only travel alone. Solo travel is easier to plan, more adventurous, and gives room to meet many people from different cultures all over the world.
It’s exciting to see that traveling alone as a woman is more common today than traveling alone as a man.
It is much more common for me to see young women traveling alone in hostels. And the evidence shows this isn’t just perception, it’s a fact. I think that this movement has contributed to the fact that these days, more women travel alone than men. Perhaps it’s about individualism, “discovering who you are,” or “doing your own thing.” It might be a reaction against traditional gender roles that confined women to the home for so long. Perhaps feminist movements in the mid-1960s inspired confidence, independence and freedom that is empowering women in a different way over 50 years later.
When I travel alone I certainly have interactions that are a result of deeply engrained gender biases. People might ask “what are you doing alone?” or “aren’t you scared to travel by yourself? Your so small!” Sometimes people say they feel sorry for me, or tell me that I am so brave. I usually politely tell people that I have chosen to do travel alone because of the opportunities, adventures, and freedom it gives me.
Traveling alone is my choice, not my Plan B.
I don’t feel bad about traveling alone – I have consciously made the choice to travel by myself because in this space I feel more to learn, meet interesting people, and have unexpected adventures. I don’t want to be thought of as a brave woman traveling on her own, I just want to be an awesome person whose chosen to travel alone.
When we talk about a “female” CEO or “female” entrepreneur it comes from place of lacking. She is an anomaly. But what’s even better than being a “female” CEO? Being recognized simply as a someone who is a successful and capable leader, regardless of their gender.
In this situation, Yes: The gendered discussion of “solo female travel” is empowering and okay.
By highlighting the fact that men and women’s travel experiences are different highlights the differences positively. When we talk about solo female travel it raises women up to address and discuss shared experiences, recommendations, and concerns. It gives women room to talk about fear of getting robbed while traveling, feeling judged for being alone, and feeling lonely. Until you’ve spent 15 minutes scrutinizing your outfit in the mirror wondering if the length of your skirt or the height of your heels will cause you to get cat-called on the street, this space is not for you.
Being defined as a “female” can be divisive in the workforce. Men and women are perceived differently for doing and saying the exact same things in their jobs. Female managers are less likely to be taken seriously by the people who work for her. But the phrase “solo female travel” acts as a uniting force, not a divisive one.
Women underestimate their own abilities, over and over again.
Why? Because we grow up in a society where girls are not encouraged to be assertive, ambitious, or independent. Women need to step up to the plate and not let fear of rejection or uncertainty stop us from asking for a promotion or traveling alone. We must take on this issues head on, in our jobs, our relationships, and our adventures. Travel happens to be one of the easiest arenas to make that happen.
Whether you are taking a day trip to the mountains or backpacking around the world for a year, I encourage every woman to travel alone at some point in their lives.
Of course women should travel, and only travel alone if that sounds intriguing to you. For me, traveling solo as a woman without a doubt one of the most rewarding experiences in the world. It is a lesson in adaptability, self-reliance, and self-reflection. Do it for the people, the places, the beauty, the dreams, the confidence, the challenges. Don’t let newspaper headlines or horror stories stop you from traveling alone as a woman. And also every woman and human being should travel (or not) as they wish, whether they are solo or not.
Want more tips on traveling alone as a woman?
Never let fear stop you from pursuing something you want to do!