When Natalie Bishop told her friends and family she was going on a week long trip to Cairo, Egypt and Petra, Jordan – alone – the responses were universal: "Wow! That's amazing!" Of course, those enthusiastic declarations were also followed by, "You're crazy – that's insane!" or some variants of the words "crazy" and "insane."
But really, it was neither of the above -- more like "bold" and "independent."
Of course traveling solo has its obstacles (and always a real learning experience), but the lack of a travel partner is not a good reason to keep yourself from getting out there and seeing the world.
Despite any challenges you might face, neither Michael Spring, Publisher and Vice President of Frommer's
Travel Guides, nor Rachel Klein, an editor with Fodor's
Travel Guides, recommend against women traveling alone. In fact, they wholeheartedly encourage the XX chromosome set to go out and explore this planet.
You can do it!
"If you have the opportunity to go someplace you haven't been or to experience something new, you should go for it -- even if it means you have to do it alone," says Klein. "The way you experience travel solo is a lot different than when you go with another person or a group. It's a good way to catch up with and learn new things about yourself." (See our 29 Reasons to travel the world on your own here.)
Adds Spring, "It can be dangerous walking out the front door, but we still go outside each day to experience the world, and take joy in it. I don't think travel is any more or less dangerous than staying home."
Stay safe, healthy and happy
So you have decided on your dream destination, booked your flight, and the pages in your guidebooks are all dog-eared. Still a little nervous? Don't be. Here are tips from the travel pros -- including Michael Spring from Frommer's and Rachel Klein at Fodor's -- to help you stay safe and healthy abroad!
Independent, but also intelligent
Don't just disappear
Before you leave on your trip, make plans to check in with family and friends back home on a regular basis, and leave them a copy of your itinerary. And especially if the country you're visiting has any issues that might negatively impact your safety, it would be wise to register with the US Embassy.
Do a little research before
Don't just figure out where the tourist attractions and hotels are -- find out what else is going on in the area where you plan to stay. Will there be any major events or holidays while you're there? What about things like airport renovations, subway closures or taxi strikes? Has there been any terrorist activity or political upheaval? Get some answers by checking both the US State Department web site and newspapers covering the city/country you are visiting.
Consider hiring a tour guide to take you around
You will likely learn more because the guide is a local, and his presence will help ward off any potential trouble. (This is savvy advice for couples, too.)
Don't carry all your valuables in your purse
Keep handy a little bit of cash, a credit card and whatever tickets or documents you need. Stow your passport, money and other valuables either on your person (like in a special hidden neck pouch, security belt or leg stash -- see several examples here).
Try to blend in
No need to go to extremes here, but don't do things like sling your camera around your neck, constantly reference a guidebook as you walk, wear clothing completely unlike that worn by any locals, or talk loudly (that last one is often considered so American). Also take a few minutes to figure out the local currency in your hotel room before you venture out to spend any. The less you stand out, the less you are likely to help fund that hidden part of the tourist trade: pickpockets and thieves.
Particularly if you go shopping, don't weigh yourself down
Doing so will make you more vulnerable to muggers and pickpockets. (This even goes for carrying bags in one hand and an ice cream in the other.)
Watch where you wander
Pay attention to your surroundings, and try not to get into a situation where you are alone in a desolate area -- particularly at night. In old European towns, for example, there are all kinds of tiny streets and alleys -- but they're best left for the local residents. You should probably generally stay on the beaten path unless you have done lots of research or have special knowledge about where you are going and what you can expect to encounter.
ON THE NEXT PAGES: Taking care of your money, cell phone & internet, how to avoid getting sick and tips from the trenches!