Disclaimer: I am not, nor have I ever been, a woman.
I slept on the bottom bunk, beneath Katie, a solo traveler too afraid to tell her mom that weeks ago, she quit her job as a nanny to a French child who insisted on biting her breasts. Instead of making the call and being ordered to return to the states, she’s using the money she made prior to being bitten to travel the world. After all, who’d choose rural Massachusetts over bunk beds and strange meals in any random European city?
She and I met in London, after her journeys through Bangkok, Barcelona, Vietnam, Monaco, and Amsterdam.
It was my Southern American accent that caught her attention and we talked for hours in the common area of the Hootenanny about things to do in London, her former job, the evil child, and her med school plans in the coming year. I asked, “you aren’t afraid to travel alone?” Not because I thought there was something she should fear, but because every woman I know who doesn’t travel often, says one of the reasons is the danger that exists out there for them. The look on Katie’s face was enough of an answer, but she went on to tell me how she’d miss out on life if she lived in that kind of fear; like her sister, who refuses to leave Massachusetts. She also suffers from the travel condition I hear about so often: “My friends are always putting trips together, and at the very last minute, they drop out one-by-one, leaving me upset. I prefer going alone. Nothing’s gonna happen to me.”
(Juanisha – Dubai, UAE)
I’m an advocate for “most people are good,” but being from America, it’s rare to meet someone who shares that thought. I’ve hitched cross-country rides with strangers-now-friends, slept in houses with no doors in cities not even shown on maps, and eaten mushy foods out off the hands of wanderers. Most people are good.
I hate that most of my women friends don’t believe me when I tell them the world is mostly safe for them too. I don’t leave out the horror stories, but I’m sure to tell them that those stories are exceptions, not rules. I tell them I meet far more women solo travelers than men, and they give me the side eye or call those women stupid. I always finish with, “then a trip to your restroom will suffice.”
In Bogota, I met Amber. She’d been traveling for a year and a half, starting in Asia, moving swiftly through Europe, then Africa, and finishing in South America, crossing boarders in the back of busses, hopping flights when she could sell enough handmade bracelets to purchase a ticket, and eating in the homes of anyone who offered a meal, and she was returning home to Australia in the morning. That depression that comes when travelers return home was setting in already. We walked to the market in the rain, bought some food, and went back to the hostel to cook.
I asked, “Before you leave, not now, but sometime later, can you write down the places you’ve been that you’d recommend other women to go alone?”
We should have named the dish we invented in that hostel kitchen, it was so delicious. Between the itis and the jet lag, I was dog tired, and found my bed, pulled the curtain, and slept for 10 hours. I woke an hour after check-out and Amber was gone, but in my locker, she left the list under a few words:
Thanks for making my last night as great as the first. Thanks for the amazing playlist. How have I never heard of London Grammar? And thanks for letting me help with getting more women out there into the world. Here are the places I’ve loved. Tell them to add on to it:
Thailand – especially Chiang Mai
Indonesia – Especially Bali
France – Especially anywhere in the South
Germany – especially Berlin, Munich, and Cologne
Portugal – especially Lisbon
Senegal – especially Dakar
Spain – especially Madrid
Italy – especially anywhere along the Amalfi Coast
Colombia – especially Cartagena and Cali
Brazil – especially Bahia
Morocco – especially Marrakech
The Netherlands – especially Amsterdam
Denmark – especially Copenhagen
India – especially Rajasthan
And of course, my home. Australia – especially Melbourne
Travel safe, Darnell. Eat the leftovers. You can have my body wash. It’s on locker 15.
(Candrice – London, UK)
So grab that multi-functional backpack, fill it with true necessities, and head out there to discover the world on your time and in your style. Stay open to making friends, believe that most people are good, but remain observant of the BS. You’re going to be fine. Talk to my friends Tiffany Lanette, Zakiyyah Myers, and Rachel Travels, who’re doing it often and encouraging others to do the same. Ask them for tips.
Group trips are amazing, but solo trips are fucking spiritual.