‘Cause I’m Just a Girl in a World…

But you’re JUST a woman, single, and young! How/Why are you here?

You don’t know HOW many times I heard one of these words with that exact question while I was traveling. It kind of still amazes me that people have such a hard time I could be any of these three AND traveling, let alone all three all together. Maybe it’s my own naiive attitude, but I’m here to tell you, it’s no big deal, and with some basic common sense, you can travel the world too. ALL ON YOUR OWN.

If you are a woman, single, and young, YOU of ALL people should be traveling. I can only speak about my own experience and won’t say yours will be the same, but that’s the beauty of travel. No one experience is ever the same. Even if someone else is experiencing the exact same moment with you. Everyone has their own bias, upbringing, and background. We all experience and see things differently. With that said, I’ve received quite a bit of emails and messages from friends, family, and blog followers that want to know: How did you do it?

Making momos with one of my Tibetan students

Making momos with one of my Tibetan students

How could you afford to travel for over a year?

I say this with all honesty; it doesn’t cost much to travel. I believe the most luxurious must-have in order to travel on the cheap is TIME.. So release yourself of responsibilities.Other than paying my taxes and voting, I didn’t have a care in the world. This might be one of the best things about traveling alone. You and you alone dictate how you choose to spend your time. I quit my job. Never regretted it for a minute.

  • Buying Tickets – There are many ways to search flights but I love Skyscanner.com because you have the option of searching for flights over an entire month and can actually see which day is the cheapest to fly.
    • Travel off-peak: The difference between flying at 12 p.m. on Thursday vs 6 p.m. on Friday could be $100 or more.  Remember the flexible schedule you now have I mentioned above? This is where that comes really handy. If you have to stay a few days longer than planned, think of it as bonus days to where you currently are. As a bonus it’s generally less crowded wherever you are trying to get to.
    • Turn off your cookies: It’s dumb I know, but if you search for flights in “incognito mode” or don’t allow websites to keep your cookies, the prices won’t go up. Meaning, websites use cookies to remember where you are physically searching from (e.g. laptop or phone) AND remember the destinations you are looking for. Once they see you going back and forth, they’ll increase the prices. It’s an easy thing to avoid and helps making your flight search easier.
    • Search in the currency of the country you are traveling to: It’s crazy I know, but quite often, some countries offer cheaper tickets to the locals. So if you select English (dollars or pounds) and traveling to Argentina your tickets may came up 2 or 3 times more than if you searched the web site in Spanish. Seriously, this happened to me. (With that said google-translate only gets your so far)
  • Choosing destinations -This makes all the difference in the amount of money you spend while traveling.
    • Stretch your dollar: If your currency is more valuable than the place you are traveling to, then your dollar goes much further. My favorite place to stretch the US dollar: SE Asia. I spent $700 over a month in Thailand and that was SPLURGING with some nicer accommodations, doing quite a bit of the touristy things, AND flying from one end to another.
    • Follow friends: And I’m not talking about Twitter. Know a local? They can help you get those cheaper tickets I mentioned above since they speak the language. Plus you’ll have a much more authentic stay and possibly cheaper accommodations, depending on how close you are!
    • Don’t know anyone? Check out Couchsurfing or Airbnb, my favorite go to places. Couchsurfing is what is sounds like, crashing on couches (sometimes beds) around the world, but with total strangers. So using common sense is crucial here since safety can be an issue, especially with women. I have not used couchsurfing for sleeping purposes, but my friend Brandon swears by it. I’ve hosted couchsurfers before and its a great way to meet people around the world. More couchsurfing tips below. Airbnb is basically a way to search for bed and breakfasts or rooms in people’s homes or an entire apt or house you can rent for a period of time. I have met some of my FAVORITE people while traveling through Airbnb. Definitely people I hope to have in my own home or visit again in the future.
  • Volunteer/Work while traveling – Here is where the time thing comes in handy again. I spent about 80% of my yearish abroad volunteering. This was a BIG factor in my cost savings. So here’s some reasons why you should.
    • Save money: Many places offer volunteer work in exchange for room and board. I did most of my volunteer work with WWOOF, an organic farming volunteer program that’s really affordable (25 euros for a year long membership) because you do the heavy lifting of finding a matching farm to volunteer at. I should probably write a blog about how WWOOF works…so more on that later.
    • Cultural Immersion: In my opinion you get a MUCH better cultural experience by volunteering or working with locals.
No really, how much did it cost?

I know everyone wants a number to shoot for. So without too much detail, during my 13 months abroad, I spent about $10,000 for flights (international and regional), food, souveniors, trains, buses, and all that jazz. That’s less than what you pay for rent in Seattle over a year. You can almost think about traveling abroad for a year as a way to even SAVE money than living in Seattle. 🙂

But you’re JUST a woman, wasn’t it dangerous?

It was exactly 3 years ago today that I left my home of 25 years and moved to Italy. What I didn’t know was that over the next 13 months, I would end up in Turkey, England, Thailand, and India as well. I spent about 10% of it traveling with a friend, but the other 90% was “on my own”. I say this with quotes because honestly, you’re never alone in this world. You’re surrounded everyday by other human beings that are just waiting for you to get to know. J

I’m not going to lie, there were times traveling alone as a woman was extremely dangerous. I was followed up a narrow empty stairway and groped in broad daylight in England (the guy ended up with a punch to the face and I was shaken but fine). But the scariest time was when I first arrived in India, when shit got REAL. But here are some helpful tips I learned along the way.

  • Self-defense
    India Explorations

    India Explorations

    I took Tae Kwon Do for two years when I was 12, and even though I wouldn’t consider myself anywhere near a pro, I have some sense of how to defend my self if needed. I don’t think punching someone in the face was part of my training, but it was my first instinct when I was attacked, and I think it was a good one. It’s true the guy could have had a weapon and then I would have been in trouble, but I believe the self confidence that was built when I took Tae Kwon Do is what caused me to react the way I did. The punch was followed by me yelling “Are you fucking kidding me?!?!”, which the nice English police officer I filed a report with later remarked with a laugh, “That is SO American.”

  • Study cultural expectations – You would be surprised how many women don’t think about this. For example, generally women in India are well covered, and if you walk in flouncing a lacy white tank top and daisy dukes, you bet your ass you will be harrassed in an already difficult cultural situation. Anyway, it’s just good practice as you want to be respectful to the cultures you are visiting. Don’t let your naiive American feminist ego of “I shouldn’t have to dress different to avoid getting raped” get in the way of your safety. I think you are an ABSOLUTE IDIOT if you think that would fly in some other countries. Don’t be adding to the reasons why everyone else in the world hates Americans.
  • Partner up – whether it is with a male or another female, meet other travelers and keep each other company when you feel is necessary. You’re not the only tourist in the world. I say this with some caution as it can easily lead you away from traveling on your own, but there are pros and cons to traveling alone, in which I wrote in a blog a long time ago here. Meet people in hostels or online. This is where I find couchsurfing to be an amazing place. I met up with another woman traveling from Slovenia through couchsurfing. We met through a travel forum in which I posted I was looking for a travel partner through India. We had similar itineraries and similar travel styles, and so we traveled together for a couple weeks and then I was on on my own again. She was a total blast and that is saying a lot being I don’t have very many female friends.
  • Be brave, even when you don’t want to be – Deciding to stay in India after a horrific first night, was the best decision I’ve ever made. Everything I experienced after that was INCREDIBLE. Some of my very favorite memories took place in India. Everything I experienced after made surviving that one night was worth it. It wasn’t easy, but I got through it. I came out stronger and smarter with a whole new appreciation of safety in the states. And I can’t wait to go back to India. It was truly incredible.
  • Use common sense – Don’t wander down a dark alley in the middle of the night. Use tips your mom gave you. I won’t say don’t talk to strangers, because indeed, the best part of traveling is meeting and talking to strangers. But if they look and are acting like a crackhead, you might wanna back off.
  • Find women-travel focused groups – if you’re still feeling uneasy there are plenty of travel groups created for the sole purpose of encouraging and empowering women to travel. Some I have come across that are great are: Women Who Are Traveling Alone and Go Girls of the World.
  • JUST DO IT. Because you’ll love yourself more and inspire others to too. I was even interviewed once for Women Who Are Traveling Alone. Read it here.
But you’re so young, shouldn’t you be working?

To this, all I have to say is: Work will always be there. Your young spirit and responsibility free lifestyle may not always be. Plus, I did a whole bunch of “work” while I was traveling. Check it.

Attn: Single Ladies!

I can’t reiterate enough how important it is to travel while you are single! It is seriously the best time of your life. You learn so much in love, relationships, self confidence, it’s hard to pinpoint it all. Your approach to dating changes, you don’t get caught up in the “Oh does he like me? Does he want a relationship?” crap. You learn to just enjoy each other’s company, and you’ll bring that back with you, which will make the whole dating scene less stressful and you’ll know when to weed out ones that are not compatible.

Plus all those movie moments you’ve been dreaming of? Yeah…they happen. More than once. And they will be memories you cherish forever. You’ll remember that time in your life when you were happy, confident, and free. 🙂

Most importantly, your heart will grow and be filled with love you never knew existed. It won’t necessarily be romance. It will become filled with the love for humanity and life. It’s cheesy I know, but it’s ever oh so true. 🙂

Good luck, I hope you choose to embark on an amazing journey!

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4 Responses

    • Sandy says:

      You know how I roll Brandon. Always keepin’ it classy and keepin’ it real. Ok maybe just the real part. 🙂

  1. Awesome stuff! I tell that story of you punching the guy in the face when people ask if I think it’s safe for girls to travel alone. Some seriously good tips in here, though, even for guys.

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