I looked up the tall stone staircase leading to the train tracks. Finally! I positioned myself to lug my heavy suitcase up one step at a time. I didn’t get very far when an Italian man raced down the stairs offering to take my suitcase for me. I relented as I felt the sting of tears in my eyes. His kindness was a salve after the negative experience with the hotel manager.
At the top, I waited with him and several other people. I became quickly acquainted with a young Italian couple visiting Florence for an Ed Sheeran concert. I asked them how to get to the Florence train station, and they ended up guiding me along the way. I was desperate: alone, no cash, a dead cellphone, and trying to find the town I was to spend the next two weeks in was something I couldn’t do by myself. I was the ideal target, but the good in people is much more common. An hour later, they left me in much better spirits with a wallet full of Euros and a train ticket for my destination.
Traveling solo as a woman does not have to be scary or daunting. Whether traveling domestically or internationally, there are ways to have a fun and safe experience in a new place. For the best solo travel experience, there are three things to do: Prepare, Be Present and Reflect.
- Write down your “why” for going on a solo trip and what you want to get out of this experience.
- Join a Facebook group or traveling app to connect with other women travelers and get advice. You might find someone who will be in the same place as you!
- Research your destination(s): Find local restaurants, hotels (or for more homey stays check out my other blog for ideas), and must-see and lesser-known attractions. Also, understand the culture, read tips from other tourists, look up the weather, and figure out general price points to budget well.
- Figure out your transportation. Are you commuting with local transportation, or will you have a car? Pro tip: Research how far it takes to get to places or other destinations on your list; your transportation might need to change.
- Pack light or use vacuum-sealed bags if you are going for an extended period of time. Find a crossbody purse or cute fanny pack that will carry all you need for your daily excursions and wear classic, comfortable clothes and shoes to help you blend in. Wearing what the locals do will better prevent pickpockets and unsavory people from approaching you.
- Tell your friends and family of your plans and check in with them regularly either through social media, when you are connected to Wi-Fi or through messaging apps, like WhatsApp.
- If you are traveling internationally, let your cell phone company know and select plans or prepaid cards that work best for your needs. Consider how you will get cash and what credit cards you will take. Remember: Discover is not often accepted internationally.
- Take all the photos you can without letting the camera screen get in the way of soaking it in. (It can also make you more of a target.) Ultimately, be purposeful of the photos you take.
- Always be mindful of yourself and your belongings, no matter if you are on a busy street or in an almost empty bar.
- Be kind to people but know your boundaries with street vendors and individuals who try to approach you.
- Enjoy the culture by attending local events, buying local goods, and talking to friendly service people. If you are in another country, learn a couple of greeting words in their language to start the conversation off on the right foot.
- Never give out personal information to people you meet. Keep conversations light and about common interests or tips for the area.
- Trust your instincts, have no regrets, and exude confidence!
- Bring a journal on the trip to keep daily reflections for memory storing and how you want to make tomorrow better.
- After the trip, make a list of what you learned from your solo experience and another list of what you want to do differently next time.
- Share your photos and stories with your friends and family. You might inspire another woman to go on her own solo adventure!
- Look back at your “why.” Did you accomplish it? Then, without judgment, reflect on the answer and be proud of going on your own adventure.
Through my domestic and international solo travel experiences, I have never felt alone. With an open heart, mindful interactions, and a desire to experience the culture, I felt like there was always a helping hand or a listening ear if I needed one. With some preparation, practicing presence, and mindful reflection, you can have your own solo adventure, too.
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