Many of the blogs I subscribe to are about female travelers fearlessly making their way around the world solo. Having never experienced solo travel myself, I was lucky enough to be introduced to Gerda, an experienced solo female traveler, who was kind enough to answer a few questions I had and give me some advice about solo female travel.
How long have you been traveling solo?
For a very long time. I’m not going give away my age so I won’t say how many years, but I’d say since I was maybe 18. Actually, my first real solo trip was when I was 11 or 12 years of age, I traveled by bus from Winnipeg to Calgary and then on to Vancouver to visit family.
What gave you the confidence to travel solo?
There are a few things that gave me confidence…although I don’t think of it in those terms. First and foremost, I love to travel and studied travel and tourism management in college. My father worked for an airline so I had the opportunity to travel (at a discounted rate) when I was younger. This type of travel was standby so sometimes I might have been separated from whoever I was traveling with or stranded in one airport or another. I’m not afraid to travel solo as a result.
Where did you take your first trip?
Although I mentioned my cross country bus trip at the age of 12, my first real legit solo trip was to Club Med in Haiti when I was 18. It was my last chance to travel at a discounted rate as a dependent.
How many countries have you visited on your own?
Only a handful…Haiti, Barbados, Mexico, Cuba, the US and Germany. I wish I had unlimited funds to travel more.
Before you decide to travel to a new destination, what factors do you consider?
It usually comes down to what am I looking to do and do I have the funds.
Is safety ever a consideration?
Yes, safety would be more of a consideration these days, but I can honestly say that I have never felt unsafe.
Where’s the farthest you’ve been on your own?
Hawaii. I’ve always wanted to go to Australia but never had the opportunity.
What do you enjoy about solo travel?
It’s liberating. I enjoy the autonomy, being able to do what you want, when you want and not have to worry about what someone else wants to do (or not do). It sounds self-indulgent but it’s pretty simple. I also enjoy meeting people, learning about different cultures and seeing how other people live.
Anything you dislike?
It would be nice to have someone else carry my luggage. Dining alone can be awkward, but that’s usually when you meet other people who are on their own.
Do you set out hoping to meet new people along the way?
You can’t help but meet new people. Often it’s people that are like you who are travelling alone and I’d have to say it’s usually women who are more apt to travel solo.
Besides going it alone, are there any other differences between traveling solo and traveling with another person or group of people?
The only difference to me is the timetable. I’m pretty easy going and flexible so I have not encountered problems traveling with others. When you travel with other people you consider what they want to do (even if it’s something you have no interest in) and sometimes adhere to their schedule.
Do you ever get bored or lonely? If so, how do you pass the time?
Sometimes I do, especially during dinner. Otherwise I look for different activities to join in on. Yoga, fitness or dance classes. At an all-inclusive there is usually much to do. You just have to embrace it.
What kind of a person does it take to travel solo?
You have to be somewhat adventurous, open to new experiences.
Best solo travel moment?
Jumping on the tap-tap in Haiti, taking a trip into Port-au-Prince and experiencing the culture.
Awkward and enlightening…wandering onto the nude beach area without realizing it until it was too late.
Safest place you’ve visited?
I felt very safe in Cuba, because the country is very protective of the travel industry. That plus other than a bus tour into Havana, I did not venture off the resort.
Roughest place you’ve visited?
Funny enough, this would be the first place I went solo (Haiti) but it wasn’t a consideration at the time because I was going to an all-inclusive resort. I wasn’t planning to leave the resort but had an opportunity to do so with some other people I met there. We took public transit to Port-au-Prince, which was certainly not a bus as we know it in a major city, but an overcrowded pick-up truck (tap-tap) with people hanging off of it everywhere. I felt safe because I was with other people (tourists). It was an interesting and eye opening venture since Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. Seeing how people existed there literally in the gutter right next to a luxury resort has stayed with me ever since.
Any advice for other women who are thinking about traveling solo for the first time?
Just do it. Embrace it.