Zooming down the coastal highway of Eastern Taiwan, I felt so free and alive. I could hear my dad’s voice in my head – “You go girl!” and my mom’s – “Be careful! Pay attention!”
Every twist and turn revealed a new view of the ocean, and green mountains loomed far above.
More spectacular than the scenery was my inner joy at the moment. Here I was, traveling alone, as a woman, in a country where I didn’t speak the language, and having the time of my life – that is what travel is all about. It forces you to step out of your comfort zone and discover that you are capable of anything.
With the right mindset, I believe that any woman, and any person, can travel alone. Traveling alone builds confidence, and will expand your sense of self and attitude towards life once you get home. Here is some advice on how to have fun and stay safe on your journey:
- Get ready to make new friends! It is so easy to make friends when you are traveling alone. People in groups or with a partner tend to cling to the familiar. Travel is all about meeting new people and getting out of your comfort zone, and a good way to do this is to force yourself to be outgoing. Hostels are a great place for this. Often single travelers team up and travel together, which is a great way to make a life-long friend.
- Be cautious but not paranoid. Remain open to spontaneity and new experiences. I was trudging around town, looking for a bed on Catba Island, Vietnam, when a woman on a motorcycle rode up next to me. “Looking for a room? Come see my place!” I looked at her face and decided to trust her. I got on her motorbike and she drove me to her house just two blocks away. I ended up with a private room for a very good price.
- Ask for advice. People are a much better resource than guidebooks! The best way to find out where to go is to ask. Locals are a great resource for finding the less-touristy places; try talking to the people in restaurants, stores, on the streets, or at hostels. Ask for directions, and you will be surprised at the kindness some will show.
- Make an effort to learn the local language. Locals will appreciate a simple “hello” and “thank you” in their native tongue. Speaking a few words in their language will show that you are making an effort to integrate.
- Trust your intuition. If you feel weird about a situation, or a person who has just invited you somewhere, it’s best to say no or ask for help. Stay alert, and be aware of any strange situations. Be especially careful if you want to go out and party at night. Getting wasted in a strange place with unfamiliar people is not always the best idea. Alcohol is probably the greatest risk factor out there, even when you are back home.
- Do what you want, but be safe about it. Some people told me not to do the motorbike trip in Taiwan – too dangerous! – but I was careful, always driving under the speed limit. I also had a cell phone with me at all times, which is important no matter where you are. Of course different regions will pose different risks. It is important to prepare accordingly, research the culture and customs of where you are going. For example it is inappropriate to wear bikinis as many places in Southeast Asia.
As long as you prepare accordingly, exercise caution and trust your intuition, anything is possible.
If you want to, just do it! Don’t let anyone stop you!
Have a great trip!