11 Shocking Things I Learned About Myself as a Solo Female Traveler

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10 years ago if you would have told me I’d be a solo female traveler one day I’d ask what you were smoking. It never appealed to me.

I’m a Libra. I hate making decisions. I hate doing anything alone.

But here we are. In sunny Mexico, after 4 years in Guatemala, right from Northern Ontario Canada.

And what a journey it’s been!

I realized you learn a lot about yourself when you travel alone. An awful lot. Some of it good, some of it not so good at all.

Wait! Is solo female travel safe?

So of course, before we get started, let’s answer the burning question: is solo female travel safe?

Well. Mostly yes. As with anything, you must use common sense when you’re out and about. Sort of what you do in your own town/city anyway.

Now don’t get me wrong, we’ve all heard horror stories about how some young girl was raped and killed or mugged and beaten. I’m not gonna say it never happens.

I just think it’s really location specific and you really need to be aware of your surroundings. I’ve traveled as a sole female traveler in Central America and South America and never once felt threatened.

Maybe by a dog or scorpion but never by another human being.

So is solo female travel safe?

Like anything else, do your research first. Where are you going? Where will you be staying? Are there any reviews of the city/hostel/neighbourhood you’ll be in.

I love The Lonely Planet Books. So much valuable information!

If you’re ever unsure, just Google. But with that said, don’t go crazy and read a million different stories because then you’ll be overwhelmed and you’ll never leave your house.

That’s no fun either.

Stay informed. Stay alert. But remember to enjoy your journey too!

Another really smart thing to do is find Facebook groups for the town you are going to, join and ask questions. People are always more than happy to help.

They will let you know if you will be in any crazy danger and things like what areas to avoid and identifying real taxis. Stuff like that.

What are the best places for a solo female traveler?

I have to be honest, I’m no travel expert. I could rhyme off one hundred of the best places for a solo female traveler but if you aren’t interested in any of the destinations, then what’s the point?

So many of my friends love Asia and tell me I should go and that’s it great for solo female travelers. Hard pass. Asia never did and most likely never will interest me.

I could tell you that Guatemala is the bomb but if you aren’t interested in Central America, well, you see where I’m going with this?.

I think as a solo female traveler, any place is the best place. No?

So enough with the small talk. Let’s get down to the things I learned as a solo female traveler and some of these things might actually resonate with you or cause you to pause and think about your first solo travel trip.

11 things I learned as a solo female traveler

I share these things with you now because I think knowledge is power. When I ventured off on my solo travels I was absolutely clueless. I didn’t know what I was doing or what to watch out for or how to prepare for things that are, well, different.

Yup. Totally clueless. So these things might give you that “aaah” moment. I hope they won’t stop you from traveling though. That’s not my intention at all. Pack your bags. Go see the world. Go explore. And then you can tell your stories too!

In no particular order of importance, here we go…

I really do hate critters and they continue to scare the poop out of me

I don’t mean little bugs and stuff like that. No, not those cute little guys. We’re talking scorpions and spiders the size of the palm of my hand. Ya, those critters.  

I have all my windows sealed up like Fort Knox. I’ve also sealed up every little slit and crack I could possibly find.

I’m used to earwigs and moths and bees but not these guys. Having to learn how to remove a scorpion from my apartment for the first time, alone, was terrifying.

I’m kind of a pro now though.

Be prepared for critters you’ve never seen in your wildest dreams. Get bug spray.

I’m learning the language quite quickly. I surprise myself

I was honestly a tad intimidated by the fact that not many locals actually speak English and I gotta get my butt in gear and learn their language. Fast. And I am, and I’m pretty proud of myself really.

I never thought in a million years I’d be learning a new language at 53 years young. It’s pretty awesome.

I have a long way to go but I’m getting by pretty good now (in my opinion). I still have yet to be able to read signs and words which gets kinda tricky in a restaurant. Thank God most of them have English translations.

You should try to learn the basic words, especially numbers so you don’t get screwed over trying to buy stuff. But learn enough to be able to ask simple questions.

Duolingo is fantastic and free!

I’m actually rather shy

I bet some of my friends reading this are laughing right now, but really. I find myself feeling very shy and the introvert in me comes out more than I thought it would. It’s taken me quite some time to make the few friends I have made.

I thought I would get down here and have a bunch of friends within a week. Such is not the case. I couldn’t talk to anyone and I kept to myself.

I was actually, and in all honesty, kind of scared. (who wouldn’t be??) I’m getting better though and I’m pretty proud of myself.

Meeting and talking to new people can actually be somewhat intimidating. Unless you are a total extrovert. Kudos to you babe!

I really do like being alone

I mean I always did, but here, I am really alone. No one calling, no one banging on the door or showing up unannounced. They couldn’t anyway ’cause my house is pretty far away from town.

Seems not many want to make the trek.

But I’m really loving my own company. I feel so totally free here. I actually feel like I’m in Heaven some days. That’s not to say that I wouldn’t like some company every now and then, it’s just saying that I feel very free, happy and alive, being alone.

I’m surprised by that. You may find this too. Like suddenly you have a new lease on life and you just want to take it all in. Alone.

I learned how to light a gas stove without burning all my hair off

via GIPHY

Ok this one still freaks me out for the simple reason that I have always been afraid of gas stoves because I have a crippling fear of my hair going up in flames.

That’s the diva/former hairstylist in me that will never die.

So when I had to learn how to light my stove so I could eat to survive, I was actually really frightened of doing so. But I did it, obviously, and I’m pretty proud of myself, once again.

You will have to learn how to work things that are foreign and somewhat terrifying at first. Pull up your big girl panties. You got this.

Contrary to number 4, I find myself lonely at times

Not very often, but every now and then, it hits me and hits me hard. There have been a couple of times I actually thought I should go back home.

But where is home anyway?

I have nothing nowhere. Such freedom! But at the same time, it’s not having that sense of belonging to anything any more that may be igniting that sense of loneliness. 

I’m still not really sure about this one all I know is that every now and then, whammo, I wish I had someone.

If you are used to visitors and friends and a boisterous social life, in the beginning, it may not happen that way. You may get lonely and wonder if you made a mistake.

You didn’t. You’ll be fine. Embrace that time alone.

Becoming a vegetarian sounds good, but a vegetarian who can still eat bacon

So, like a pretend vegetarian. And the only reason why is because I had a really hard time finding decent meat to eat in Guatemala. To me, it all tasted funny.

I have been eating a lot more avocados and chick peas and other fiber and protein fillers and I’m not minding one bit.

You may or may not have a hard time with the food. You may or may not get food poisoning. Sorry if you do. It sucks. A lot.

(speaking of food poisoning, make sure you know where the public health clinic is so you can get there right away)

But if you are a fussy eater be prepared for some struggles. This is where your Facebook groups will come in handy and the people in there will tell you what you can and can’t find.

You may want to bring your own. Or do without. I do without an awful lot of first world food but when family or friends visit from Canada or the US I have a grocery list ready for them.

I never know what day it is any more

I don’t wear a watch any more either, something I would never leave the house without putting on back in Sudbury.

Now?

I couldn’t care less. I wake up when I feel like it, I eat when my tummy tells me it’s time, I go out when I feel like it and come home when I’m tired.

Days of the week don’t really matter much any more. Every day is just a beautiful day. Why do we have to give it a name?

You will soon discover this. It’s rather normal. Days, hours, weeks, months. All irrelevant. And so liberating. Just enjoy life. Period.

I have way more balls than I ever thought any woman could legally have

I mean, I’m doing stuff that I never in a million bajillion years thought I would ever be doing.

From getting in beat up wooden boats to go across one of the deepest lakes in the world to go see villages across the way, to ziplining hundreds of feet in the air.

You’re going to feel compelled to do random crazy stuff. Go do it all. Take it all in. Live on the edge. It’s so friggin amazing. You’ll see.

It blows my mind all the time. I’m actually now even thinking about going paragliding. Now THAT looks ridiculously awesome!!

woman smoking-solo female traveler

I have patience??

I’m not sure where that came from. I’ve always been the most impatient person on the planet but when you are in a different country you learn to adapt to their culture right quick. You won’t be “Freaking out Felicia” anymore.

It took me awhile to get there but I’m here now. Patience times 10. Mind you, I’ll be honest. Every now and then something happens that ruffles my feathers but when you realize no gaf, well, neither will you.

You’ll just be all calm and doing your thing and letting people do their thing and no one cares. And neither will you.

Suddenly you’re a hot babe

Well maybe you already are a hot babe or maybe you’re not but be prepared for men to be all over you. This is flattering and annoying at the same time.

I mean what girl doesn’t love attention right? But when it’s almost creepy. Well ya. Creepy and icky.

So as a foreigner and a solo female traveler be prepared to be hit on, and stared at, an awful lot. But remember that whole common sense thing please.

Don’t go getting into cars with strange men. Nope nope nope. I want you around to read my next blog too! Be street smart.

Tips for everyone-not just a solo female traveler

I get that not all these tips are only for the solo female traveler but, that’s what I am, and that’s what I learned in my last 5 years of solo traveling.

I just found that many of these things are really well, girl related (like the bugs and hot babe ones). If you know someone who has been thinking about going solo, send this to her!

Oh and I can’t forget one final travel tip for you. Don’t pay full price for anything, ever. They will instantly jack up prices when they see a foreigner. They will go high, you go low and meet somewhere in the middle.

Happy trails to you!!

Cheers friends!!

Peace and Love

Iva

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