Over the years I’ve heard more women than you could imagine say that they want to travel the world on their own. And yet, many never make it happen.
Perhaps they don’t have the money. Or they can’t take the time off. Or traveling alone sounds dangerous, boring, lonely, or sad. Or they have boyfriends or spouses or pets or kids or parents or contracts or loans or a million and one responsibilities they can’t leave behind. Or they think their dreams are silly and irresponsible and they’ll come back home with nothing. Or quite simply, they don’t think they’re capable of it.
I honor and acknowledge each and every one of those worries, because I know how real they can feel. But I’m willing to bet that most of the time, deep down, they’re excuses rooted in fear.
Fear, not money or boyfriends or safety warnings or responsibility, is what holds us back from pursuing that which our heart desires most. Fear is what holds us back from booking that flight or quitting that job or taking that pilgrimage or going our own way.
And not even fear of failure. Fear of greatness. We’re so afraid of what we’re capable of, that we keep ourselves in boxes so that we’ll never have to find out.
That’s why fear is something that needs to be discussed. It needs to be pulled out of the shadows and brought into the light. Because only when we acknowledge and embrace the fear can we liberate ourselves from it.
If you want to travel the world as a strong, confident woman on her own, fear is where it all begins. Each of us must face our fears so that we can work with them and become the most confident women that we know.
So today I’m asking, “why are so many women afraid to travel alone?”
The Fear: Being a Target for Crime
For women traveling alone, safety is a far greater concern than it is for men. We believe that we’re less equipped to defend ourselves, and we’re therefore more of a target for crime. Would you feel safer walking down a dark alley alone, or with a man by your side?
As women we feel like we’re greater targets for being mugged, harassed, cat called, and worst of all raped. In fact, I’m willing to bet that the number one concern most women have when it comes to traveling alone, is rape.
I’ve felt that fear myself. When I’ve met men who have slept alone in hammocks on deserted islands or couch surfed all over the world or backpacked alone through India. A voice inside of me has said, “I’d love to do that… but I can’t. Because I’m a woman, so I’d probably get raped.” We’re conditioned to believe that there’s a whole list of things that we can’t do as women alone, because we’re targets for rape and other forms of abuse and violence.
Traveling adventurously does not immediately resign you to being a rape victim. I’ve encountered very little crime in four years of solo travel. I’ve experienced some petty theft when I left something on the beach, had my bag stolen off of my bicycle once, and been approached by scammers a few times. My greatest challenge has been dealing with cat calling and sexual harassment from a distance. Read my post What Can a Girl Do About Cat Calling for solutions for that.
There are plenty of things that you can do to make yourself less of a target for crime while traveling. I’ve found that the most important is to trust your intuition as your guide, and always follow it. The times when I’ve been in sketchy situations have always been when I ignored my intuition. I also recommend taking physical defense classes to arm you not only with the ability to defend yourself, but the confidence to carry yourself in a way that repels criminals. For all of my safety tips, read How to Feel Safe as a Woman Traveling Alone.
I would like to emphasize that I place no blame or responsibility on anyone who has been a victim of rape or any other crime. If it has happened to you, it’s not your fault because you didn’t follow a certain protocol. Violence and abuse are symptoms of an illness in the world and our responsibility is to simply love and forgive ourselves even more when faced with it.
The Fear: Disapproval of Family and Friends
People often ask me how my parents feel about my choice to live nomadically and travel to developing countries alone. I feel so fortunate to say that they are one hundred percent supportive. But that hasn’t always been the case. I’ve also had many friends from my “past life” judge my decisions or incessantly question how it’s even possible. Not to mention some very critical comments from strangers on my blog.
This fear of not being accepted by others for making an unconventional choice prevents many women from traveling alone. And the thing is, no matter what you do, the naysayers are always going to be there.
They may project their fears onto you. They may not understand your dreams or decisions. They may tell you that it’s not safe for you to travel on your own. They may tell you that long-term travel is irresponsible. They may plant seeds of self-doubt that make you question what you know in your heart you really want.
People who love you want to see you grow. They want to see you happy. They want to see you free. But even the people who love you aren’t perfect. They’ve got their own shit that can muck up their filter, often their own fear, which can make them less than ideal cheerleaders. If someone judges, questions, or criticizes your dreams, remember that it’s not about you. It’s about whatever your choices are triggering in them.
In the same turn, your insecurity is not about them either. It’s about what their concerns are triggering in you. You don’t need to take on what they feel, and at the same time seize this opportunity to own what you feel. Can you see the criticisms and hesitations of others as helpful opportunities for you to become even surer of what you want?
What if every naysayer was here to help you cultivate more confidence from within, and each positive response you offer in return was here to remind you how powerful you really are?
As I’ve learned to become more secure and confident, the less unsolicited feedback and the more support I’ve received. Because frankly, most people have good intentions and just want the best for you. They want to solve your problems and make sure you’re safe. Reassure them by first reassuring yourself, and watch as little by little even your naysayers become your cheerleaders.
The Fear: Feeling Lonely or Bored
Years ago I never would have imagined myself traveling the world on my own. In fact, I didn’t even have the desire. Not because I was afraid of being mugged or raped. Not because I was worried what my parents might think. Because I thought that traveling alone was sad and pathetic.
Consequently, I was always waiting around for the perfect scenario to work out with friends. But who wants to spend their life waiting for other people to join them in following their dreams?
The irony is, once I started traveling alone, I realized that I actually prefer it to traveling with others. Traveling alone gives me the freedom to travel in the way that feels best to me without compromising with others. I learn more lessons, feel more alive, and actually meet more people and make more friends when I’m alone.
That said, yes I’ve had times where I felt lonely or bored. Though they’ve been few and far between, and are often the moments when I’m forced to look inside at what truly needs my attention. Loneliness and boredom can be amazing teachers when we listen.
If you’re just getting your feet wet, there are ways to travel alone and guarantee that you’ll have instant friends. Spending time with like-minded people and having activities already organized is one of the main advantages of group tours and travel retreats. In my Jungle Bliss Women’s Retreats in Costa Rica, we all stay in a house together and do plenty of bonding activities while also getting free time. By mid week the ladies are already best friends.
Another way is by signing up as a volunteer with an organization or doing work trade. You’re instantly part of a community. I’ve experienced this working as a yoga teacher. When I’ve connected with or worked at different yoga studios across the world I instantly connect with people with similar interests.
Often avoiding boredom or loneliness is a simple choice. Decide to stay in social places like hostels, and there will always be people to meet. Decide to step outside your comfort zone and chat it up with a stranger. Decide to be vulnerable and show your depth and see how much deeper your interactions become. Seize the day and get out there and have experiences and see how quickly boredom drifts away.
The Fear: Entering the Unknown
As intricate and myriad as our fears seem, they are in fact simple and they are in fact one. All fear is simply a resistance to the unknown. A discomfort in something that we don’t understand, can’t see, and can’t predict. This fear controls us, because we don’t know how to not have control.
Though the unknown is where the true magic lies. The unknown is the space where we expand. The unknown is the gateway to greatness.
Take the leap. Surrender to possibility. Trust that the universe has a greater plan than you could even conceive. Accept that you don’t have control, and recognize what a tremendous relief that is.
Stay tuned for much more solo female travel advice in my next eBook The Single Girl’s Guide to Traveling the World! Make sure to sign up for my newsletter to be the first to know when it’s released.
Nice timing for me as I am about to board an airplane to Hawaii to travel for a month! I have been traveling solo as a woman in my 40’s for the last several years. I have witnessed some crime along the way, but have not had personal experience of it. When people express concern for my safety, I point out that being here in the US is the furthest thing from a guarantee of safety! In my own country, I have been the victim of crimes several times in my life. I like to think I have inspired many women to at least consider that traveling might be an option for them.
I love your message Camille! Get in touch with the fear, look at it objectively, take a chance! You won’t regret it!
Wonderful thank you Jules!!! Yes, the only time I’ve been mugged was actually in the USA and right in front of my own apartment building!! Keep spreading the love and following your dreams beauty! And one day I’ll pick your brain on Hawaii, I need to get there 😉
Thank you very much. It is because of you that I started to travel by myself. I used to stand with my nosed pressed up the window watching other people travel; dreaming and wondering when I would ever manage to get someone interested enough to travel with me. I did manage to get a few travel companions but, after a unpleasant experience with a friend, I decided to take the leap and travel by myself. I absolutely love my travel bites; it’s so therapeutic. Yes, I have felt afraid and lonely but those moments have been few and far between. I wonder if you have any idea what a superior blog this is and how much empathy and love shines through from it. I have made a pact with myself that I will come to you and attend one of your retreats. I have a handicapped daughter and it’s hard to find good care for her but, some possibilities are making themselves available rather unexpectedly and it looks, as if finally, I can start living my dreams without feeling guilty about leaving my sweet daughter behind who unfortunately cannot always accompany me because of her handicap. sending you hugs.
Thank you so much 🙂
Awww wow thank you Rozanna I am touched and inspired by your words! You amaze me and are such a beautiful soul. I send you so much love and support, and to your angel as well. I’m sure you continually inspire her as much as she inspires you. xox
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Thank you, very good information, well written and stunning pictures. I really look forward to meeting you soon.
Thank you so much.
Great read. I am a single black female about to embark on world travel in May 2016. I am nervous to go it alone. However, I am seizing the opportunity and jumping in with both feet. I believe my journey around the world is going to be a humbling, hugely freeing and joyous journey. Something to talk abut for the rest of my life. Thanks for this insightful article.
Aw amazing!!! I’m so excited for you and I know that you will not regret it <3 <3 <3 You are a beautiful and powerful woman. xx
For the longest time, it was fear of leaving my job, fear of not having enough money, fear of leaving people behind I cared about, fear of what was beyond that point if I left everything I behind I had worked so hard for. What if I couldn’t pull it off? What if I end up in a worse place/situation than where I am?
What I ultimately realized was that what I had built was a prison wall around myself, and if I didn’t get out I was going to go completely insane from stress or end up with cancer or something. I needed out to save myself. So I made up my mind to jump into the unknown. I saved money like mad, set a date to quit my job, bought a one way ticket to India, and I stuck to it without question. No second guessing, no looking back. When I started telling people my plan, I was amazed that SO many more people completely supported me in my decision than not.
I’ve been in India for two months now, and I am SO ridiculously happy! I’m living my dream of planting myself for at least a month in each location I travel to so I can focus on writing and blogging and enjoying my life. I’m spending this year traveling alone, slowly making my way from India to Nepal to Southeast Asia where I’m going to try to get a job teaching English in Thailand this fall. So far, I have not felt the least bit threatened or unsafe. I’m very mindful of where I travel to and where I stay and who I engage with. I lean into trust, but at the same time, follow my intuition. It has been an amazing experience so far!
And Thank YOU and your blog for being such an inspiration to me back when I started putting this trip together over a year ago!
Wow Sarah that is so so so awesome!!! I’m really excited for you!! And I’ll be consulting your blog for lots of tips when I make my way to India next year 🙂
Thank you 😀 My blog is more personal stories than travel advice/information (though I’m thinking of adding an advice/information section), but please feel free to ask me anything!:D
Thank you I appreciate it!! xx
How dare you inspire me like this?! lol. #teamCamille
Hehe, you’re welcome!
Maybe I can get some advice here. I took a year off for a job in Peru that dissolved after one month, unfortunately. So, here I am with very little money, trying very hard to make it for a year somehow. I’m 49 years old and I don’t get harassed, you know, that way (I see younger girls having this problem). But I feel lonely and confused. I don’t know where to go from here and getting around is not that easy when in a foreign country. To repeat, I had a job for the month of January and for the month of February I did some cleaning, washing, cooking but, gosh, it was such a hard work, I was constantly tired and on the little time off all I wanted was to rest.
I’m sorry if I come across as whiny but I just don’t know what to do with myself for the next 10 months… I don’t feel I have much skills to offer the world and since I have very little money, I hate to be hiding in the hostel eating only one meal a day (it’s been only breakfast at the market so far).
Anybody encountered something similar and has some advice?
A retreat kind of a place would be out of my budget and also, Machu Pichu is very expensive, I’m being told, and it would be something to do for a day or two, anyway…
Hey love, sorry to hear that you’re in a tough place… have you seen this post of mine already?
Thank you, Camille. A lot of them are not possible for me but I could look into house sitting, pet sitting…though, I don’t foresee South America to be big on these.
Maybe I am just sad and discouraged right now but I feel so old for everything, travel included. I love the energy you have and I can relate to it from the time I was younger…
Safe and happy travels!
Wishing you strength and courage christie, I know it’s not easy. Do you meditate? That is always my most profound support and helper.
This is can also be for men 🙂
Good to know! 😉
I am saving. I must come to you in Porto Rico. You are appreciated and loved. Thank you again, for this stunning site. My little escape and motivation.
Thank you Rozanna, I appreciate you <3
I am SO HAPPY that I found you! I want to travel abroad and I’ve been finding so many helpful tips on your blog, thank you so much for doing what you do and doing so fearlessly 🙂
Thank you, I am so honored by your comment!
There is a saying: “Mejor viajar solo que mal acompañado” Cheers, thx for your posts. M
Hahaha, I totally agree!! xoxo
Your forsaken American dream to travel the world and through your posts, you are making us tempted to travel the beautiful world as well 🙂
Thanks for sharing
Hi! Thanks for your great website.
Is it safe for a woman to travel alone in bocas del toro?
What about corn islands? And puerto viejo?
I’m hesitating between the three.
Hi dear, all safe for a woman traveling alone provided you trust yourself, steer clear of buying drugs, and take good care of yourself. Hope you find the perfect space <3 xo
Camille, oh so many thanks for your great blogs!
Love everyone of them.
Sometimes I just hate traveling alone. It is hard for me to take the “first step” of a trip.
But, when I finally get moving things are better.
Read your post and the great comments to it.
No matter how much I read, I still have this initial fear of traveling alone.
Most of my trips I drag a friend along with me. Sometimes this is good. Sometimes not so good.
I guess my question is, why do I hate traveling alone? Am I afraid of something?