To celebrate International Women's Day, big-time travel blogger Alice Teacake talks about the rapid rise of solo female travelling
Watch out world! There are beautiful, bold creatures brewing on the planet’s horizon. They’re learning what capabilities they truly hold, discovering the kindness of others, unravelling the pleasures of other cultures and they’re doing it all by themselves. Say hello to the rise of the solo female traveller.
Statistically, solo female travel is spreading like wildfire amongst curious women looking for their next adventure in life. According to the Travel Industry Association, an estimated 32 million single American women travelled at least once in 2015, and about three in 10 made tracks five times or more. They’re not just single, 20-something women either.
Wives, mothers, teens (and even 91-year-old Norma) was at it; diving into challenging jungles and deserts, beach escapes and riveting cruises. It doesn’t matter where you are in life or what tickles your fancy; if you have the passion within you to travel…seize it, pack up and go! If you’re a woman reading this, don’t you dare doubt yourself. You can go solo if you so desire and guys, you should encourage the women in your life to do it.
“The question isn’t who’s going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me” - Ayn Rand
This is me, Alice Teacake, a solo female traveller and blogger
Why Solo Travel?
Everyone has their personal reasons. To whet your appetite, here’s some solo travel benefits known to make people incredibly happy and fulfilled: independence, training in essential decision-making skills, the gift of time and space to reflect on and nurture yourself and a heartfelt sense of achievement once you decide to return. Not bad eh?
“Success breeds confidence” - Beryl Markham
I used to be one of those women who didn’t think I could travel. I thought it was too expensive. I wondered how on earth I would even manage by myself and how I would be able to get from A to B without causing utter chaos. With anything in life, you need to just do the thing you fear to find out.
“Fear is inevitable, I have to accept that, but I cannot allow it to paralyze me” - Isabel Allende
Fear is your best friend. It may not feel that way if you’ve found yourself thinking about taking your first solo trip, but fear is your lifeline. Fear is an essential evolutionary gift lovingly placed within your core for your own survival. Fear gave our ancestors the energy to fight if they accidentally became acquainted with a dinosaur. If that dinosaur was a T-Rex, fear granted them the fuel to run like the wind!
The problem in today’s world is that fear can arrive from all kinds of sources including family, friends and the media (thankfully not dinosaurs) but most of these ‘concerns’ aren’t life-threatening at all.
“Mindless fear is greater than mindful fear” - Idowu Koyenikan
‘You’ll be lonely”. “You won’t be able to speak their language”. “You won’t know what to do in that situation”. “No-one will help you if you get in trouble”. All these thoughts are stressful but realistically, I assure you that you can cope and people out there do want to help. The truth is that you don’t know how powerful, resourceful and adaptable you really are. Friends and family voiced the above fears to me, before I finally had the courage to high-kick these thoughts out of my life and leave for my travel dreams.
Start Small. Become Big.
I quit my job, donated my belongings, put my life into a backpack and decided to fly to South Korea to teach English in 2010. That was my first step to independence. Whilst I was there, I wondered if I could take a trip entirely by myself for a week to Seoul. Turns out I could.
I went where I wished. Ate when I wanted. Slept in hostels I chose. I dilly dallied in temples and hiked up and down mountains as enthusiastically or snail-like as I liked. I meticulously took pictures of delicate, fulfilling details and devoured vast sunset landscapes, as the city’s buzzing neon signs gently throbbed across the skyline. My time. My adventure. Me.
Courage is a muscle you need to keep exercising to make it stronger and stronger, so I decided to keep taking my adventures one step further. In the last 7 years, I’ve travelled solo in Bangladesh, driven 30,000 miles from the UK to Mongolia and back for charity, studied Jiu Jitsu in China, been a burlesque dancer in Shanghai and it turns out…I’m not a mess at all. I’m a fully capable woman who loves life, loves a challenge and believes solo female travel is by far the best thing that has ever happened to me.
Exploring a temple in Bangladesh
The World Is Good
I’ve experienced nothing but love, kindness, enthusiasm and support from locals and travellers alike on my adventures. The world is good and I can assure you that human compassion and help is abundantly alive and well. Fear of the unknown is a powerful force to reckon with, but you need to draw the line on what is mindless fear and what genuinely could be a problem on your travels. And for those problems, some simple planning and preparation will serve you well.
“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed” ― Maya Angelou
There are many things you can plan. One of them is your accommodation. The beauty of solo travel is that you don’t have to be alone if you don’t want to be. By booking ahead at a St Christopher’s Inns hostel, people will be expecting you and there’s plenty of people to hang out with. You’ll be able to swap travel tips, share inspirational stories and team up for the next day’s adventure together. I’ve met travellers who’ve taught me new languages, how to surf, where to find a secret local waterfall, how to ride a motorbike and so much more, including how to travel safely as a woman.
3 Essential Solo Travel Tips
Here’s some tips and tricks to get you started!
1) Walk with intention – a confident walk and a head held high shows you’re in control (even if you feel you aren’t!)
2) Carry a scarf to protect your skin, cover up respectfully for cultures that require it and hide your valuables.
3) Keep your hostel’s address in your wallet, in your phone and in your pocket. If you need help or get lost, having this address will get you back to a safe place.
The Time Is Now
The rise of the solo female traveller isn’t stopping. Now, more than ever, budding explorers are grabbing life by the horns and starting to listen to what they really want and need. Ask yourself if you’re one of them. Are you in?
Article and photos by Alice Teacake. Alice Teacake is a kickass girl, who believes in women facing their fears and pushing their boundaries to reach their full potential through solo adventure travel! Follow her for travel advice and inspiration, so you can go forth and challenge yourself to reach your own personal goals!
Check out her blog Alice Teacake Travels
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