What’s solo travel as a woman really like? Writer Tracy King shares her tips for female solo travel, after travelling alone for the first time to Las Vegas
The first time I travelled long distance on my own was in my late twenties. I flew to Las Vegas from England for a meeting. I’d travelled alone for work plenty of times before, but never out of the country, and certainly not to a party city most notable for its gambling and nightlife. It was an odd situation, and I thought I’d be nervous.
But I wasn’t nervous. Although I don’t entirely enjoy flying, I found myself way less antsy than usual, oddly because I didn’t have anyone’s hand to hold. I just sort of had to deal with nerves myself, and it turns out that’s very liberating.
I very quickly started to like the autonomy that comes with travelling solo. I only had my own passport and bag to worry about, and I didn’t feel obligated to keep anyone else entertained.
I didn’t have to make the small talk about whether I was going to choose the chicken or the pasta, or what film I would watch. I didn’t even have to share my sweets (OK I did offer some sweets to the nice lady sitting next to me but she didn’t eat half the bag like my partner would).
The flight began to feel like a mini-break, and by the time I landed I was pretty relaxed. Border control didn’t bat an eyelid at a woman travelling alone, although I was rather hoping they’d ask if I was a poker ace in town for a tournament.
It was only when I got outside into the baking Las Vegas heat and had to decide between the shuttle bus to my hotel on the Strip or a cab that I started to feel uneasy about my solo status. Was either option safe for a woman alone, I started to wonder.
In the end I went for the cab – not because I thought it safer, but because I didn’t know where the bus stop was and I didn’t want to stand out as a foreigner by asking for directions.
These fears were, of course, unfounded. Neither the bus nor the cabs of Las Vegas are any less safe than their equivalents in England, where I wouldn’t hesitate for a second.
The same rules and safety tips apply for a woman travelling alone overseas as they do at home: be situationally aware; don’t wander around late at night in strange or poorly-lit areas; don’t wave your bag or mobile phone around, that sort of thing. The standard safety stuff that many people do automatically.
Once I’d checked into the hotel and started to get my bearings, I realised that travelling alone is genuinely liberating. It’s wonderful to feel self-sufficient, and the head space you access by not having to talk to a partner can be filled by all sorts of lovely things.
When I travel alone, I write short stories and poems, keep a travel diary, or watch old romantic movies on my phone.
Solo travel isn’t down-time, it’s me-time. I can use the silence to watch what I want, sleep and eat to no particular schedule (3am room service in Vegas is everything you would hope), have a long bubble bath with a face mask on or take a nap without guilt that I’m making someone else miss something.
Sure, you can do these things with a partner too, but in my experience other people have their own ideas about what they want to see and do, and as a couple, you try and compromise, or overdo it fitting everything in. When you travel alone you can optimise your tourism.
Since that Vegas trip, I’ve travelled solo to several countries and absolutely love it. If I feel lonely (which is rare), I like to ask people if I can join them at their table for lunch, or I strike up a conversation in a museum. I’ve met amazing people that way, from locals who can give great tips about where to visit, to other women travelling alone who share my worldview.
My advice to women who are unsure about travelling alone overseas is this. Check out the area you’re travelling to well in advance, so you minimise chances of getting lost (you can download offline maps to most phones); pack light and keep valuables hidden; keep a travel diary so you’re not just relying on your own memory years later; and most of all, take a deep breath and just do it.
The entire world is open and waiting, and once you get your solo bearings you will find yourself doing and seeing things you would never have dreamed of. It’s true that travel broadens the mind. But solo travel also focuses the mind, in a truly liberating way. Once I took my first solo steps onto that plane, I never looked back.
Solo travel ideas
3 solo traveller holidays for women travelling alone
Savour the sweet life in Sicily
With its sun-kissed streets and golden beaches, the Italian island of Sicily is a beacon for wanderlusters the world over. Join a small group of fellow solo travellers as you learn how to conjure up a fleet of Sicilian treats in a Palermo cooking class, body-raft through the wild and beautiful Alcantara Gorges, and tackle Mount Etna in a fleet of 4x4s. Not to mention wine-tasting in a remote Sicilian vineyard.
Stretch your limits in Jordan
Jaw-dropping Jordan is a delight to discover, and if you’re a woman travelling alone, a group trip is a great way in. Get a real feel for Middle Eastern culture by hiking through the Dana Nature Reserve, canyoning in the desert and stargazing at a unique off-grid lodge. You’ll also get to smash your comfort zone with a day’s worth of canyoning in the Wadi Mujib, along with a candlelit adventure in the rose-red city of Petra and floating in the mineral-rich Dead Sea.
Explore the mighty landscapes of Chile
Steaming geysers, ethereal desert valleys, snow-capped peaks: an adventure to Chile is the gift that keeps on giving. Jump on-board with your fellow solo travellers as you visit a family-run winery in the Casablanca hills, followed by sundowners in the Atacama Desert. We’ll also be white-water rafting, sailing between glaciers on a speedboat and hiking the spectacular terrain of the Torres del Paine National Park. We defy you not to be starstruck.
Images: Flash Pack, Shutterstock, Juliana Malta and Nicola Tolin on Unsplash