A Solo Backpacker
Whenever people find out I'm travelling alone, its met with either awe or pity. Awe because they tell me that it's brave of me to be a a lone lady on the road. Pity because they tell me I'm a lone lady on the road (this comment is usually from the locals who can't fathom a woman travelling without a husband or a father).
Travelling alone makes it so much easier to meet people because I'm a lot more approachable than if I was with someone. Whether I'm waiting for a train, sitting next to a stranger on the bus, sharing a bunk bed with another backpacker, or taking a day trip , I've met people from all walks of life. Usually these instant friendships only last for the few days that we are in the same place, but they still make for eye-opening conversations and quality time spent with a person from a different part of the world. That's what I love about travelling; what normally takes ages, speeds up 5 times or more. Friendships form over a breakfast, people fall in love (infatuation?) on an overnight bus. Other backpackers, complete strangers, will come to your rescue if you lose your passport or get pick-pocketed. Things are much quicker and intense.
Travelling alone also lets me do whatever I want, whenever I want. The freedom is liberating.
Admittedly, meeting travel buddies comes in spurts. There are days when I can't meet someone or click with people, no matter how hard I try. During these dry spells, I use the "3 Question" formula given by my buddy Leanna who is the female guru of travelling alone:
1. tell me something i don't know about you.
2. tell me something you like about me.
3. tell me something you think we have in common.
Yea, it sounds cheesy, but it really works!!
There are other times when I can't get any alone time to write in my journal and just collect my thoughts.
The biggest misconception is that it's dangerous for women to travel alone. People--the media, our parents--are too quick to label countries, and even whole areas of the world as "risky." What's more dangerous? Telling an aggressive vendor at a Chinese market that you don't want to buy their bootleg Gucci purse or walking down some parts of (insert any major U.S. city here) at night, even with a group of friends? I'll take the former any day. The fear of guns is very real in America, not Asia. Rape is a factor that women should consider no matter where they are in the world, but in Asia, the fear of "losing face" (not to mention prison time and fines) is enough of a deterrant. The same can't be said back home.
Street smarts and common sense go a long way when travelling solo. As long as a woman practices both, she'll most likely be alright.
My only complaint is that it's a lot harder then I could have ever imagined to meet girls. I don't know if it's because I'm travelling during the low- season (less people), but I'm shocked by how rare it is for girls to travel this part of the world alone. The girls that I have met were backpacking with a big group, a best friend, or--much more common--a boyfriend. What's the deal ladies?! It's 2006 and the world is only getting smaller. If you're a female reading this, and have ever thought about travelling alone--do it!!! You will not regret it. It is a serious adventure!