I’ve travelled alone before but this particular week in San Francisco last year was really my first vacation from start to finish where I had no one but myself to count on for a a bit more than a week. San Francisco is quite a big city that’s not particularly unsafe and known for being very fun and interesting. So when I had the opportunity on going, I took it. And it just happened that I was going on my own and this was no problem at all.
However, to my surprise, this isn’t the first thought most people had when I told them I was travelling alone - especially as a woman. Family, friends, strangers, both men and women, were quite curious and interrogative on my solo vacation. How come as a woman I would like to travel alone? Did I not feel scared? Isn’t it dangerous? Wouldn’t I feel alone and bored?
Here are 5 things I’ve learnt during my first solo vacation as a woman and why you should totally go travel alone too - whatever your gender is.
1. It gives you a feeling of freedom
I already knew that going on a holiday alone, I would be able to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. But I didn’t realise just how free you would feel all the time. Want to wake up at 11am and take your time in the morning before visiting? Go for it. Want to spend 2 hours getting that picture you really wanted? Go for it. Want to spoil yourself with endless sushis for dinner? Go, go and go for it!
And the good news is that if you screw up something or miss a connecting flight or train, well there’s only yourself you can blame. But in the end you don’t care and you’ll probably just laugh at yourself because you know what? It’s your own holiday.
2. You will actually not feel that alone
This is the one thing I didn’t really expect. In 2017, we are so into our virtual lives, we barely talk to strangers. Yet when travelling, it all feels like this feeling is mysteriously disappearing. Travelling alone doesn’t mean you cut yourself from all forms of social life - unless you are deliberately leaving for a deserted island.
I am not a shy person and chat quickly to people so making friends is quite easy for me. However, I’ve had people come talk to me all the time during this trip in San Francisco and during my little detour to Yosemite Park. There’s not one day I felt alone during my trip. In the plane, at my Airbnb, while waiting for coffee, in a shop, at a walking tour… So many possibilities to meet new people. If you’re looking for some serious solo time, you might even get annoyed at it!
3. Either people don’t give a damn about you or totally stare at you
This is a weird one. I definitely think as a woman you get more stares, questions and people approaching you but when I travelled during that week in SF, it was really one or the other. Either people would barely notice me, either people would stare and sometimes approach me as to what I was up to, why I was alone etc. It was never threatening and if I felt like I didn’t want to hang around, I was just saying “sorry I gotta go” but most of the time people never noticed.
4. You will have lot of me time and that’s so relaxing
Travelling solo also mean you’ll have a lot of me-time and time to think with yourself, which is, I think, quite pleasant! You’ll discover more about yourself, what you like to do, what are your travel and adventure boundaries.
This one I think is one of the most important things you learn when travelling alone, especially if you are not familiar with travelling in general. We all know we are a little bit bolder and crazier when travelling, so just be the new you and surprise yourself!
5. It might be more expensive unless you plan wisely!
OK, there is a downside of travelling solo: it is quite more expensive. The main difference of course is about accommodation. I couldn’t help myself thinking “if I was sharing this room with my partner, I would save that much”.
But fact is, there are ways for you to still go on travelling solo and not ruin yourself. The solo travel industry is booming and there are many many ways to plan for it. Maybe don’t look at hotels but look instead for Airbnbs and live the local experience. Book at a bed in a hostel and meet many new people. Don’t stay right in the main neighbourhood but explore off the beaten path…
And in the end, just treat yourself. Spending on holidays and experiences, even solo, is always more valuable than buying that brand new bag or shiny watch you-don’t-really-need.
6. It is safe to wander alone as a woman and totally worth it
Believe it or not, even if solo travelling is becoming more and more popular now, there is still a lot of stigma around women travelling alone. I really didn’t expect people around me would be so surprised and asking so many questions about my choice to travel solo on that week but they did.
Truth is I’ve never felt unsafe even going through what is said the least safe neighbourhood in San Francisco. As in any other situation or city, you just have to be careful. Sure, be prepared for people staring at you and asking you questions as I said earlier but you can also choose to continue to go your own way and ignore or politely (and firmly) respond those questions and then leave.
Now, why do I think everyone should travel alone - especially as a woman - at least once in their life?
Because you’ll push the boundaries of your travelling habits, you’ll know who you are and what you like and mostly, you’ll meet people or encounter situations you wouldn’t have before.
And there’s no way because you are a woman that it should stop you from travelling alone. There are so many ways and safe places to visit that it’s a shame to not encourage more women to travel alone nowadays. Mostly, ignore the stupid comments and reply why it’s important to you and those questions would certainly not be asked to your male counterparts.
I can assure you it will be nothing but fun, you’ll feel empowered to do more and to travel solo again.
So as they say, go your own way! I already can’t wait to plan my next solo trip!
Want to know more about my actual trip in San Francisco? Read my full itinerary of San Francisco with photographs here!
Disclaimer: this is my experience of only one trip and my opinion only and I'm sure everyone has had different experiences in different countries. Also I met a friend for the last two days of the trip but was still flying solo most of the time :)