Alex Warnken worried about the usual when she traveled alone for the first time eight years ago: flying on the plane, having enough money and running into gypsies.
“My grandparents gave me a pouch to keep my money in and said, ‘Don’t let those gypsies get you!’” Warnken said. She was leaving her hometown of Lake Charles, Louisiana, to visit her best friend, a foreign exchange student living in Germany. While this journey was gypsy-free, it sparked her love of solo travel. Now 25, Warnken has followed in the footsteps of famous solo women explorers like Nellie Bly and Mary Kingsley. She’s visited Ukraine, France, New Zealand and the Czech Republic on her own, to name a few.
Robin Hershberger, travel agent for Prestige Travel in Cincinnati, Ohio, has worked with women like Warnken who want a solo adventure. “People are more willing to get out and do something even when they can’t find someone to do what they want to do,” Hershberger said.
Twenty-four percent of people traveled alone for their most recent adventure, according to the 2015 Visa Global Travel Intentions Study. Of those solo travelers, 40 percent were women like Warnken, and 37 percent were 25 to 34 years old. Why travel without company as a woman? You can experience a new, exciting place without compromising on what you want to do. What’s more, you can meet other lone travelers along the way. If you’re a single woman, here are three ways to make the most of your solo adventure.
Do what scares you.
Debbie Isom, owner of Travel Leaders in Bloomington, Indiana, has traveled to England and Jamaica on her own. She said that these millennial women and their “camaraderie of womankind” impress her. “They’re adventurous,” Isom said. “They’ll just take off with a backpack and sleeping bag.”
Nora Mauri, 31, of San Antonio, Texas, went on a different kind of adventure. A member of the Bahá’í faith, she spent one year in Honduras teaching second-graders in a bilingual, one-room schoolhouse. Before her service, Mauri barely spoke the local language. “I was on the plane there, literally, looking up words in Spanish,” she said.
In addition to the language barrier, Mauri said that the 2009 Honduran coup d’état challenged her while she was teaching. “I knew it was going to be a struggle, but I had a higher purpose for going,” she said.
If the thought of immersing yourself in an unfamiliar culture terrifies you, do it anyway. Traveling solo lets you face those fears and see the people around you in a different light. “There are aspects of humanity you don’t know until you unplug and see it for yourself,” Mauri said.
Do what you want to do.
Hershberger said that at 21, she was a cautious introvert, but journeyed to Athens, Greece, by herself anyway and ended up loving it. For the past 40 years, she has found joy in helping others explore their own love of adventure.
Jaime Scherr, 35, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, said that she appreciates the freedom of traveling on her own. “I get to do what I want,” she said. “If I want to stay somewhere for two nights, I can. If I want to stay for five nights, I can.”
Scherr is traveling in New Zealand for 18 months and intends to explore as much as possible. “I have no regrets,” she said. “When I die, I’ll have been to 60 countries and not say, ‘Oh, I wish I would’ve done that.’”
Mauri didn’t let the Honduran coup stop her from exploring and having fun. Despite the government-imposed curfew, she came home after dancing late one night to find the gate locked. “I had to climb over in my dress and heels,” Mauri said. “But I was a crazy college kid back then, so I could.”
While you’re traveling alone, do what you’ve always wanted to do: go boating off an island, or take a nature walk to watch the sunrise. You’re on nobody else’s time, so let yourself enjoy the ride.
Reach out to other solo travelers.
Although traveling alone gives you freedom, Warnken said that just one interaction with others can lead to enjoyable future connections. She recalled meeting someone and dancing with him at a party in the Czech Republic. Warnken soon traveled to England, where they connected again.
“He worked in Belgium, but he just took off and met me in London,” Warnken said. “People are just more passionate, more spontaneous over there.”
Isom cited safety concerns as the main reason that women hesitate to travel alone. “We usually think of safety in numbers, we can get through this together,” Isom said. If you’re fearful of solo travel, take the time to make new connections like Warnken did. This can help you find other women traveling on their own, and you can explore together.
Scherr often stays in hostels with other solo women, and she said that attending meet-ups or connecting with others online helps her make friends. Mobile phone apps like TravBuddy, ePenpal and Skout can help you meet other travelers like Scherr did. Use these apps and meet-up websites like BeWelcome, and you’ll have connections before you even begin your journey.
Mauri would encourage young women to take a chance and leave their comfort zone behind by adventuring alone. “You don’t know what you don’t know until you travel the world,” she said. “It’s hard when you’re young and broke, but it’s worth it.”