Solo travelling as a female can be daunting, but it shouldn’t be! Travelling on your own can be a fantastic experience. After all, you’re your own boss! Read all about the experience of Ashleigh.
Introduce yourself 🙂 Who are you? and which country do you come from or call home?
Hello 🙂 My name is Ashleigh, and I’m from the United States. I served in the Navy as a ship driver for 6 years, and now I’m waiting to start school as a midwife in August this year.
Where have you been?
So I grew up abroad as a child, but the countries I’ve travelled to alone thus far are Bali; Cartagena, Colombia; Livingstone, Zambia and Victoria Falls Zimbabwe; Windhoek, Namibia; Chobe, Botswana; Johannesburg, SA; Spain, Morocco, Italy, France, Tanzania, and The Netherlands.
What has inspired you to start travelling solo?
My mom travelled abroad when I was growing up. She was a single parent, so I didn’t really think of it as solo travelling at the time. But we lived in Okinawa and Spain so that she would travel around the world by herself with her two kids. Travelling was very normal for us. When I moved back to the States I had a really hard time feeling like I fit in and belonged. I just couldn’t find people who thought as I did, and it made me feel socially awkward. So when another military child started travelling by herself, I talked to her about how she planned her trips. She was really the person who inspired me to solo travel. She’s been to 42 countries now, almost all of them alone. Once I figured out how to do it, I was hooked.
What was your family’s reaction to your travelling idea?
The first time my mom was pretty worried, but the second time she was a lot more understanding. In August 2019, I ended up not being able to start Midwifery school as I had planned, so I had an entire unintentional gap year. It was pretty traumatizing. I decided to spend some money I had saved for school on travelling for a few months, and that’s when I went to Africa and Europe. My mom knew it was what I needed after everything that had happened with my job, so she fully supported it.
Many people are reluctant to travel solo because they feel like they’ll be alone and won’t meet anyone. What’s your experience?
Overall, I would say it was the exact opposite, especially when you’re in a country in which you can speak the language. Full disclosure, I did get very, very lonely on my first solo trip, in Bali. But I‘ve since learned that hostels also conduct tours, so just going to a nearby hostel and doing a city tour or whatever can really help in meeting people.
Since learning how to meet people, solo travel is almost more social than being back at home with all my friends. Travelling creates incredibly tight bonds with people for some reason, so I would hang out with some girls every day for weeks at a time, and still keep in contact with some to this day. Sometimes I even feel like I’ve “over socialised,” and need to take a day off to recharge my batteries.
In how far do you think travelling has changed you and your view of the world?
I don’t think I view the world differently, but I think I’ve changed as a person. I’m learning (it’s an ongoing process) to read myself better. I can ask myself what I need to feel happier. Because I travel solo, I live life for myself at the moment – I don’t have to go on any tours, wake up at a certain time, or do anything I don’t want to do. It’s an awesome opportunity, to be honest with yourself about who you are and who you want to be. I think that’s the most important part about solo travelling – the growth aspect.
The biggest concern for travelling solo as a female is safety. What would you tell women who want to travel solo but worry about their safety?
I’m American, one of the few countries where just about every citizen has a human right of access to a gun. If you can walk around the US and feel safe, you can do it just about anywhere else.
I personally follow travel groups and then go where everyone else is going. We all know that Tulum, Mexico and Bali are safe because literally everyone and their mom goes there. If you’re worried about travelling somewhere that’s not safe, just jump on Instagram and see where all the young 22-year old college students are going. You know that area is just fine.
What should every solo female traveller pack?
A lock for their backpack and a battery charger. I’m not the most organized traveller; I just buy my plane ticket and make sure I have accommodations for the next 3 nights. Then I let Jesus take the wheel from there 🙂
How do you afford your travels, and what tips can you share for keeping costs down while on the road?
I’m a bit of a money nerd, but I’m passionate about this question. Travel is just like everything else – going to the film, going out to eat, getting your nails done, etc. Of course, it’s more expensive, but it’s the same concept. It’s vital to have a firm understanding of financial basics and have fundamental savings stashed away. Crucial. Pivotal.
I had been stashing about 60% of my paycheck away in preparation for midwifery school. I sold my car and rode my bike, I got a roommate, and I even got rid of my place to live while I was in the Navy for a while. I was crazy frugal, but I had to change my lifestyle in order to have money to do the things I wanted, like go to midwifery school and – when that fell through – travel. Money is all about mindset. You allocate your money to the things that are important to you. If travel is important, downsize your house and car and travel. And when I mean downsize, I mean like a 2-3 thousand, 10-year-old car. If it’s not as important, that’s ok too.
Once the basics of finances are covered, you have more money to do stuff that you want to do, like travel. Your emergency savings are taken care of, your retirement fund is on autopilot, then you can allot savings as you want.
What is the one thing you know now that you wish you knew before you started?
I stayed in a name-brand hotel instead of in a hostel. If you’re travelling solo, find a nicer, upscale hostel, and stay there. There are a lot more affordable activities that you have access to than if you stay at an upscale hotel.
Do you ever think to yourself, “Shit, what am I doing? Shouldn’t I be back home now and own an apartment or house or something?”
All the time. I think as women, sometimes we default to comparing ourselves to our peers. We get imposter syndrome, even when there’s nothing to have imposter syndrome over. We compare where we are in our careers, how many countries someone has travelled to, love lives, incomes, everything! I am not immune to it, either.
And sometimes I do struggle with it. I don’t work a 9-5, and I live off the money I saved before I stop working. Sometimes I struggle with feeling like I’m not contributing to a purpose, even though I know I’m going to start midwifery school soon. It’s all part of the beautiful struggle known as life.
I try not to run from those feelings, but journal through them. I ask what is the root cause that’s inciting such an emotion. That’s the cool thing about solo travelling. I have time to work on myself and try to grow into a better person or human. I have all the time in the world.