After some amazing stories from female travellers at the University of Warwick, we interviewed two female solo travellers who had been around the world for our next segment for #InternationalWomensDay.
Firstly we spoke to Hannah Cooper, a former Warwick student who first started travelling solo at the age of 27 after she went to a yoga retreat in the south of Spain, and has since been on a sailing trip in Croatia and even backpacking in South East Asia. She told us about her time on the sailing trip where she met two other female solo travellers.
“It was fun and I gelled well with the other two solo female travellers. It made me realise the value of my alone time as well as the differences between the activities that I enjoyed and those that my friends back home did, which I think made it a good way to ease into solo travel”.
Two years later, she left the UK on a one-way flight alone to Vietnam and had one word to describe it- “liberating”.
“I went to Vietnam then spent eight months backpacking around South East Asia, before heading to New Zealand on a working holiday visa”, she told us.
“I’ve generally had a very safe, wonderful experience travelling solo and I think it’s one of the best things any woman can do. I think any nerves I had about travelling solo can be compared to starting a new job, taking a new evening class, or going on a first date. It’s just new, and exciting. It was more daunting going to Asia alone at first than Europe but never scary, but actually I find it less intimidating than travelling with other people”.
I don’t let being female stop me doing things
On the issue of travelling alone as a woman she did add that women tended to travel differently: ” I take precautions” she said, such as “avoiding arriving really late into new cities when it’s dark”, and “scouring reviews” or “getting advice from other SFTs” before choosing a night bus company, or “booking female dorms”.
“On the other hand, I don’t let being female stop me doing things”.
She added that people often asked her why she was travelling solo but usually more out of curiosity than anything else: “Often when others see lone females they will go out of their way to help and make us feel safe and welcome”.
In fact, she stated her frustration around the issues and the stigma around women travelling alone and told us that “It’s not a reason not to travel – it’s a reason to travel more”.
Next, we spoke to Tabby Farrar whose first big trip was when she was 18 and went to Ghana to volunteer, followed by a multitude of countries from Thailand, Australia, Vietnam and Cambodia. All of these journeys being “life changing” experiences she told us reflecting on her travels.
“I was nervous about being on my own with no familiar faces there to help me if something went wrong and no back up in sticky situations, but I found every destination very welcoming and encouraging of solo female travellers – hostel owners and people at restaurants in both Ghana and Vietnam treated me as something of a novelty, though I’m sure the latter has plenty of solo female travellers, and I was no more worried about walking alone at night or anything like that than I would be at home in the UK”.
It helps you to realise that you’re capable of all these things you might have thought you couldn’t do before
In fact , she added that female solo travellers are “never really alone travelling solo”.
“Every hostel or cafe you visit there’s someone to talk to, someone to go on adventures with, and you’re only alone when you choose to be. I went on a trip to the marble mountains with an American woman I met at breakfast, I took a three day trip to phu quoc with two girls I’d met at a beach hostel”.
“Setting off solo for the first time was definitely both scary and exhilarating” when talking about the language barriers and the feeling of unfamiliarity but “that’s part of the fun”.
“Having that sense of child-like wonder because everything and everyone is new” although might be daunting, it helps you to “realise that you’re capable of all these things you might have thought you couldn’t do before”.
Tabby spoke about other female solo travellers that she met on her journey and how she enjoyed their company: “Often there were women I could share taxis with to certain popular places or things like train and bus stations so we weren’t hopping into cars alone if we were nervous about it”
“Where there was the option of a female-only dorm or sleeper carriage (e.g on an overnight bus) I did take it, but when I was in mixed hostel dorms there was only one time that I found I was sharing space with a man who made me feel uneasy”, she then asked reception and changed her room to handle the situation.
I met all these amazing women who made me realise that you can do whatever you want if you just put your mind to it and take the leap
Finally, she told us that “even though initially, part of me thought it might be crazy to travel to the other side of the world all on my own, it’s definitely the best idea I’ve ever had”.
“You get such a sense of accomplishment from it, and I made some lifelong friends along the way. If anything, as cheesy as this might sound, it did a lot to strengthen my feeling of sisterhood with other women which I didn’t have before.
“I grew up with a brother and three stepbrothers and had always had predominantly male friends, but I met all these amazing women who were doing things like motorbiking across Vietnam solo, ditching the “real world” to take up scuba diving who made me realise that you can do whatever you want if you just put your mind to it and take the leap”.
If you would like to read more about her travels you can also have a look at her blog here.