Travelling solo as a woman is something many of us dream about. Some of us summon up the courage to do so and for some it remains out of reach for now. As a woman, you should never say never to exciting opportunities to broaden your horizons. With this in mind, I am delighted to share the experiences of Janice B Gordon who kindly also share some useful tips for travelling solo as a woman because one day you are going to do it, right?
“I have been travelling Solo for over 30 years, I have had many adventures and highlights with a few close shaves. However, I gained more profound cultural experiences and friendships travelling alone. When you travel alone more people both tourists and locals will talk to you. Couples are self-contained, and groups are intimidating to break into.
I remember in Kenya in the 1990’s I was invited to a village wedding as a guest of a waiter I met at my hotel. They were not many solo black women travelling solo in the 1990 so this gave me an honoured status in black countries. Kenya has a historic blend of Indian and African traditions. Having spent my English school holiday in Antigua, I was used to outdoor latrines and the killing and cooking of a celebratory goat or cow to feed the villagers. Antigua is a small Caribbean Island so when I say village the guest list must have counted over 400 well-wishers. The music, the colours, henna hands and feet, the food operation and the cultural explosion was an experience I will never forget.
I remember visiting Egypt.I stayed in Sharm El Sheik with many English and European tourists. Some would look at me as I came down for dinner. It can be uncomfortable, you get either ‘poor woman, she is on her own, come sit here,” or “he is my property, stay away” Remember this is about their fears, not yours.
I am in my mid fifties. If you are fit and healthy, age is less a barrier than confidence. However, the more solo trips you do, the more confidence you build. Local people are generally respectful and generous. Of course, if you speak the language it helps, but I only have basic French and fluent English, and it has not stopped me.
When I was age 19, I planned a trip to Barcelona travelling with my Mother and twin younger brothers. Since then, I appear to have built up a reputation as the Gordon family independent travel agent. Planning a recent 10-day tour of Ireland, I hired a 9 seater minibus staying in Airbnb’s with 4 generations of the Gordons half of which came in from the US. I do not like organised tours and like to do my own research and decide where I want to stay and what I want to see. This is easier now that it has ever been as everything is online.
I have just returned from Agadir, Morocco and the highlight was hiring a car and driving through the Atlas Mountains on the road that was cut into the mountain by the French army in 1920. Driving on worn dirt and tarmac roads often with no barrier up hairpin and corkscrew bends but the most spectacular views of the Atlas mountain range made a 200KM 8 hour drive amazing.
The first time you do anything it can be scary. Here are my tips for the first time solo traveller whatever your age:
• Research and plan your trip listing your top 10 things to do
• Travel light and wear layers
• Take a first aid kit and necessary medication (this stays in my travel bag)
• Get a travel credit card (cheaper withdrawal and exchange rates)
• Look-up local salutations (good morning/evening, thank you, how much? which way? put on a post-it and carry in your purse)
• Smile a lot, it gets you into and out of situations
• Take your phone and if unlocked get a local sim depending on where and how long you are staying
• Always use Google maps, and the translator apps are useful
• Always obey the speed limits (try to avoid police interaction)
• Always trust your gut and stay safe
• Ensure the hotel or host know where you are touring and your expected return date
• Be super polite, it is not always tipping that gets you the best treatments
• Get out of the hotels and experience the culture. Go off the beaten track but be street smart
• If you have an attitude that you have no rights and are a guest in someone else’s country, you will be OK
• Take a selfie stick- so you get in on your own photos
If you do not like your own company at home, then this might not be your cup of tea.
I love solo travel as there is no one to negotiate with but yourself. You have the time and space to think and do as you please, this is freedom. It is never too late to try it!”