Last Tuesday night, I had the opportunity to go to an event featuring a panel of solo travel experts. The event was held at the Away store in the Gold Coast Neighborhood here in Chicago. The purpose was for the panelists to share their tips for women traveling solo.
The panel included the following women, all of whom have traveled solo extensively and have lots of fun stories and recommendations to share.
- Lori Rackl, a travel editor for the Chicago Tribune who moderated the discussion
- Leanna Lee and Sofia Martin from Wanderful
- Natalya Grabavoy, a Copywriter and Digital Strategist
- Kehinde Smith, a Travel and Lifestyle Influencer.
I didn’t really know what to expect but the discussion was interesting and I learned a few things along the way. There were three items from the discussion that really resonated with me as a solo traveler. I thought I would share them with you here.
Three Tips for Women Traveling Solo
- Travel with a door stop so you can stop doors from the inside. I do not stay in AirBnBs or VRBOs often when I travel solo because I always wonder who else has keys to the unit I am staying in. Staying in hotels with room doors that do not have a chain or deadbolt on the door also makes me nervous. I had never considered bringing a door stop so I could easily block the door from the inside until it was mentioned at this event. It would solve the problems for all of the above so I think this is a brilliant idea! A small rubber doorstop like this are easy to throw into a suitcase. They are cheap too! I know there are things to consider with this – like what if there is a fire and I need to escape quickly? But I think the risk of that is small compared to the risk of someone unwelcome entering the unit. I plan to use this the next time I travel because I think it will be a great way to ease my mind.
- When staying at a hotel, make friends with hotel staff. Do the same with wait staff at restaurants. This is something else I hadn’t considered. I usually try to stay anonymous and incognito when I travel (and in Chicago too, likely the result of growing up in a small Iowa town where everyone knew me). But after listening to the conversation about this, I realize I have it all wrong. Making myself known to the hotel staff means they are more likely to look out for me. This could be especially helpful in places I may not be as comfortable in. They are likely to remember me going in and out. They also applied this getting to know people idea to the wait staff at restaurants. If you are approached by strangers (particularly creepy men), they can step in and help shoo them away if needed.
- Experiencing moments of loneliness when traveling solo is normal. This happens to me from time to time for sure, especially when I am traveling on my own for more than three or four days. The key to getting past it is understanding that it is a temporary state that can probably be easily resolved. Things that I do to resolve it include:
- Going for a walk outside, preferable along the beach if I am in a location with a beach nearby
- Finding a bar or a restaurant with a bar in it and having a drink or some food. Food is a social event and sitting at a bar can be an easy way to find folks to talk to
- Calling/FaceTiming my mom and dad or sister
- Watching a show or listening to music that has fond memories associated with it
The moderator finished the panel part of the evening by asking the panelists what benefits they get out of traveling solo. I discussed the benefits from my perspective in a previous post but I liked some of their answers so I thought I would share some of them as well.
Benefits of Traveling Solo
- Traveling solo highlights your strengths and it can also strengthen your weaknesses. Often when we travel in groups, we fall into roles – the navigator, the planner, the driver, the foodie who picks where everyone eats. When traveling solo, you have to assume all of those roles, even if you are not very good at them. It is a great way to practice and improve those skills.
- Solo travel increases your confidence and you gain a sense of empowerment. This is one I also mentioned in my previous post about the benefits of traveling solo but I think it the most important benefit so I am mentioning it here too. I love knowing that I can analyze and think my way out of unplanned or difficult situations. I know I can make good decisions alone, even when under pressure.
- Anxiety is common before leaving for a trip (this is a big issue for me) but once you get to your location, it all seems to fall away. There are sights to be seen, food to be eaten and people to meet. There is no time for anxiety to hold you back!
- There are no apologies necessary. You have no one else to please or think about. You can choose to get a local experience or you can do all of the touristy stuff. Both are good options and you don’t have to worry about what anyone else wants or thinks.
As you can see, I learned several good tips for women traveling solo at this event. It was worth my time and I hope to attend more like it soon! Maybe someday, I can even be a panelist at one! If you travel solo (for work or leisure), what would be one tip you would give for women traveling solo? Tell me in the comments below!
Note 1: If you don’t know about Away bags, they are a great brand of suitcases. The suitcases come in lots of fun colors (see the photo below). I have the bigger carry on with the removable battery in violet and I love it! I know there is some confusion about these batteries on planes. I have to remove the battery from the suitcase before boarding. I put it in my backpack that goes under the seat in front of me and have not had any issues.
Note 2: I was recently featured in a post about female solo travelers on the blog A Not So Young Woman Abroad. You can find the post here! The article features other solo female travelers that you should check out as well!