Our small VAWAA team is made up of solo travelers. From Indonesia to Lithuania to Gran Canaria, we’ve traveled the world by ourselves, mastering the knowledge and confidence to become solo traveling experts. The first thing this experience has taught us? Anyone can be a solo traveler. The second? You can travel by yourself just about anywhere.
Judith (United States) practicing landscape photography in Canary Islands, Spain. Courtesy of Tomás.
Which means there is nothing stopping you from spinning the globe, planting your finger, and taking off on your own. You may be nervous, or unsure, but trust us: you can do this.
To help you prepare, we’ve compiled some of the most common questions we hear from solo female travelers and the answers we always give. We hope this helps you in your travels, but if you ever have questions, you can always reach out and ask. We’d be happy to help you set off on a solo adventure.
How does VAWAA make trips safe for a solo female traveler?
When you book a VAWAA, we’re with you every step of the way. From planning your trip to arriving at the studio to saying goodbye to your artist, you’ve got the VAWAA team behind you. We provide directions and guidance to get to your VAWAA and put you in touch with the artist beforehand. In addition, we’re ready to provide anything more, including accommodation suggestions, information about the city you’re visiting, transportation tips, etc.
During a VAWAA, you’re also in the company of a vetted master artist who’s well known locally and ready to connect you with their community, so you can meet locals easily and safely. Depending on the artist, you can even choose to stay with them, providing safe, vetted accommodation. It’s an immersive, authentic experience that also comes with a team of travel experts to help you along the way.
Lina (United States) making friends while solo traveling during her VAWAA master Gigio and fellow theater and improv students in Bogotá, Colombia. Courtesy of Lina Fedirko.
Which countries do you suggest for solo travel? Or, which countries would you advise to stay away from?
As it turns out, just about every country is perfectly safe to visit on your own. We promise! With a few common sense exceptions (i.e. anywhere with an active violent conflict), there’s not actually a single country we would advise you to stay away from. The main thing is to do your research before traveling. Much of our fear just comes from the unknown. If you’re a little uncertain before visiting a country, simply read about it—learn its customs, its politics, its religious practices. Try to understand what’s going on. If there’s political unrest that makes you nervous, know this doesn’t actually concern you as a traveler. If it’s something cultural, do your reading to understand cultural norms and how they may affect you.
We firmly believe that the world is generous and people are good, no matter what country you’re in. So don’t avoid a country simply because you don’t understand it. If you do your research and use common sense when you arrive, you’ll find you can travel to almost any country in the world.
How do you meet other people while traveling alone?
You may not instantly befriend someone on the street corner, but with a little effort you can meet new people and make friends. It starts with being social. Remember, a warm smile goes a long way. Strike up a conversation with a fellow passenger on public transportation. Ask for directions, or for their favorite local spots. A little hesitant? Here’s a great script: “Hi, my name is X, and I’m from X country. I’m visiting Y country for the first time, do you have any recommendations for me?” Guaranteed success.
Hostels, in particular, are great to meet other travelers. Usually they offer walking tours, a meetup at a bar, or community breakfast. And whether you’re in a hostel or a hotel, you can always introduce yourself to people in the lobby or common area. Ask if they’d like to get a drink or visit a local site, and just like that, you have a travel buddy.
Guests from India with VAWAA master Silvia in front of Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, Turkey. Courtesy of Swati Agrawal.
Another way to meet people is through solo female travel networks online, which often organize group meetups or have a Facebook group where you can connect with other travelers. One of our favorites is Travel Meetups, a Facebook group by the Solo Female Traveler Network.
And of course, during a VAWAA you’ll be in the company of a vetted master artist who can introduce you to their community. Through them, you’ll meet other locals and become engaged in their artistic scene.
Candy (Philippines) with a Nung woman during her natural textile dyeing VAWAA in Cao Bang, Vietnam. Courtesy of Candy Reyes Alipio.
How do you stay safe during solo trips?
This is a common concern for women interested in traveling alone, because it can be intimidating. Much of the fear, however, is in our heads—walking the streets of a foreign city alone usually isn’t that different from walking at home. Still, any new place can be overwhelming, and taking steps to prioritize your safety can help you relax and enjoy your travels more. Here’s a list of suggestions and tips to help you:
- Be confident. When you project confidence in public, you’re much less likely to be bothered. Hold your head high, look people in the eye, and walk with a purpose. And if you don’t feel confident, just remember—fake it ‘till you make it.
- Research the city beforehand. You can identify which areas are rougher, and which areas you’ll feel more safe in.
- Use common sense, take note of your surroundings, and be aware when out and about.
- Take a walking tour to get a feel for the city and learn from a local guide. It’ll also help you feel more confident wandering on your own.
- If you wind up in a place you’re unsure of, get lost, or feel like someone is following you, pop into the nearest hotel or cafe. You can take a taxi from there.
- Plan your travels so you don’t arrive in a city at night. It’s disconcerting, hard to find transportation, and there are fewer people around to help you out.
- In many countries (including most of Europe), pepper spray or mace are illegal. Instead, you can carry mosquito spray or hairspray, which will also hurt someone’s eyes. There’s little chance you’ll actually need it, but it’s nice to know it’s there.
- Wherever your destination, educate yourself on the cultural norms for dressing. Respect the culture you’re in, and people will respect you back.
All those tips are great, but what about if you do face harassment, or you find yourself in a position where you don’t feel safe?
Although situations like these are very rare (and maybe just as likely to happen back home), you may find yourself uncomfortable or even harassed. The most common incidents are catcalling. As bothersome as it is, these instances are harmless, and the best way to deal is to ignore them.
Another common occurrence is inappropriate touching on the street or public transportation. One of the best ways to deal with this is to speak up. Loudly call the person out on it. Use the local language if you’re able so others understand. Make it a big deal, and he’ll be embarrassed and chastised.
If the worst happens and you are forced, coerced or drugged into performing sexual activities without consent, here is what you should do (according to Matador Network):
- Get yourself to a safe place.
- Try to preserve evidence of assault: do not bathe, douche, brush teeth, etc. If you cannot seek help immediately, take photos of bruises or wounds and write down all details you can recall.
- Seek medical and legal assistance: Call a doctor, embassy or local police. Decide whether to file a report. Your country’s consulate can provide help in translation, seeking medical aid, reporting the crime, and providing legal aid and counseling services. Some countries even provide emergency loans for travel home.
- Contact friends or family at home for emotional support or to make travel arrangements if needed.
- After the incident, seek counseling or therapy. Sexual assault is a traumatic experience and requires professional help in overcoming.
Doesn’t it get boring traveling by yourself? Who do you even talk to? And what about eating alone?!
This is a common misconception about solo traveling—it’s too lonely. And to be honest, there are some moments when it does get a little lonely, and you’ll wish you had someone there to share this super cool experience with. But most of the time, it’s an exhilarating, liberating experience. You’ll surprise yourself by how amazing it is to discover new things alone, like you’re opening up your own private world. You can do what you want, when you want, whether it’s eating lunch at 11am, visiting the same museum two days in a row, or joining a drum circle.
And don’t think twice about eating alone. If you really want to avoid it, you can always eat street food or take a sandwich to the park, but don’t let that deter you from a nice meal out. Take a book, don’t worry about people staring at you (they’re not, we promise), and make a night for yourself. You’ll be surprised how much you enjoy it.
Written by Rossi Anastopoulo
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