How to Travel Alone, According to The Blonde Abroad
We talked to solo female travel expert Kiersten Rich about why it's important for women to travel by themselves, for themselves.
Even the thought of traveling alone can be intimidating, especially if you've never actually gone anywhere on your own. While it can be scary, it's like trying anything new – you've gotta take the leap of faith to reap the benefits. And it helps that with such a rapidly growing niche in the travel community for solo female travelers, now is as good a time as ever to take that leap for the first time.
We talked to solo female travel expert and creator of the popular The Blonde Abroad travel blog, Kiersten Rich, about why it's important for women to travel by themselves, for themselves. After we chatted with Kiersten about her background and the importance of finding yourself through travel, she opened our eyes to several important factors in traveling alone.
We were excited to talk with her about how empowering it is to really understand yourself and stand on your own two feet, even (and especially) in a foreign environment. She gave us some advice for aspiring solo female travelers who haven't yet taken the plunge, as well as:
the biggest mistakes solo female travelers make;
taking baby steps to get yourself there;
the importance of exuding a positive attitude and kind energy;
remembering to trust in people;
overcoming social judgment while traveling alone;
and the fears you might have about traveling on your own, and why you should do it anyway.
Start small, and remember to trust people.
Kiersten told us: Use your gut. Use your best judgment, but don't just assume that people are bad. I think going into a solo trip, and going somewhere and being afraid of people [is a big mistake travelers tend to make].
Start small: Go to a little coffee shop and just talk to somebody; like a barista, somebody that's working. If that makes you feel comfortable, to just kinda get your feet wet, start with that, "This is comfortable, I can do this."
Don't go into it with a negative, fear-based attitude.
If you go into something with a sense of fear, and a closed-off outlook from the get-go, you're only going to attract more negativity that way. If you exude a positive attitude, then chances are the people that you meet and talk to are gonna feel that, and reflect that back to you.
Kiersten told us: A lot of people are like, "You're such a happy person." And I'm like, even if I'm not feeling happy when I'm traveling solo, and I feel like I'm giving off the energy, it is entirely a defense move. I mean, I want people to feel that and know that they can be that way to me, and I'll be receptive of it. Don't confuse ignorance with being positive.
A smile goes a long way. Knowing a few words in [the language] goes a long way. [Other people] wanna help you too. Going into it with a kind energy as well, you definitely receive it.
Take baby steps to overcome social judgment.
I think there's a few steps you can take if you're considering it, and one is to just try it in your hometown. Like you said, going and doing something on your own. Have you ever just said, "You know what, I'm gonna go paragliding by myself tomorrow!" [laughing]
One of the big things is getting over that social judgment. Forget all of that, and get past what other people think, what you're supposed to be, what's expected of you, and do what you want. If you've always wanted to take one of those wine-and-painting classes, don't invite your friends! Just go do it. And that's a really good step into meeting people, and being by yourself. If you can't take yourself to dinner and not be worried what other people are thinking of you... like, baby steps. Just start doing those things on your own, and you'll get excited about that trip. Guaranteed. You'll know immediately if it's meant for you. [Or if you're] like "I hate this, I'm so not over the whole social anxiety of it all."
Take the local Greyhound bus to the next [town over]. Plan a weekend getaway all by yourself, rent an Airbnb or hotel in another state, and just take a bus, and just go. Just try it. Doesn't have to be like, "Oh my god, I booked a flight to Nantucket." Go try something, get your feet wet, and I think from there you almost don't need the guidebook. You'll know. You'll know what you like, you'll know what is a good fit for you, and all those fears will seem a lot smaller.
Get to know yourself.
It's such a beautiful aspiration, because you know you're doing what you want to do. You don't have to worry about what anyone else thinks, once you get past [that fear]. You've just gotta get out of your own head and try it for yourself.
Kiersten told us: As humans, we have the desire to be among people, and part of that community. So [solo female travel] is something that is weird. Many women have never done it. I see some women getting married, and I'm like, "You've never done anything on your own, ever." They won't even recognize it; they don't mind it; they don't think about it.
But [it's like], you've never been alone with yourself for more than a meal. Have you ever just gone and done something for yourself, by yourself, for 48 hours? And 90% of them, probably not. That's a really scary thing to think about, like wow, you're making huge life decisions, and you maybe don't even know yourself.
You should learn what you really like. And I think there's a lot of people who are like, "Oh no, I like these things, I love doing this with my friends." But the idea of doing it by [themselves] doesn't interest them.
Are you actually afraid of what you might find? Maybe you aren't really happy. Maybe this is all a facade. Do you want to live your whole life pretending, or do you wanna just face it now, figure it out, and then mold the rest of your life the way that's really gonna make you happy?
Realize you aren't truly alone – and even if it feels that way, recognize the power in that.
It seems like it comes from a place of fear, especially for women. They're like, What should I do that society is okay with, or that my boyfriend is okay with, or that my parents are okay with?
Kiersten told us: That's why I think [this is] such a hot topic right now, and it is the biggest growing market in travel; female solo travelers, we're figuring it out. This is freaking empowering. I don't ever want to not have this in my life. Because there is that built-in community within the solo travel community, you really aren't ever alone.