Traveling alone as an introverted woman may seem intimidating, but there are ways to do so successfully.
Like many introverts, I enjoy doing things alone — more so than your average woman my age, I would say. While in my younger (college) years, I suppressed this lone wolf side of me by constantly surrounding myself with people, but in the years since graduating, I’ve learned to embrace it. This tendency of mine found a natural home for itself in solo traveling.
My travels have included bus treks across South America, dining at a restaurant inside a cave outside of Mexico City, and road trips up the Pacific coast, among others. Earlier this year, I came face-to-face with adorable yellow-bellied marmots on a solo excursion to Shoshone Falls in Idaho. These adorable creatures sauntered up to me with the inquisitiveness of puppies and the jerky stop-motion quality of a squirrel’s walk.
There Are Many Benefits to Traveling Alone
I, for one, love the freedom of being able to make all the decisions. I also love the spontaneity that solo travel allows for. Put simply, I get a lot out of traveling when I embark on it on my own. As my friend Go Takei wrote, solo traveling is a “perfect thing for people like me who prefer to be the master of their itineraries and be on their own schedules during their travels.”
Yet society seems to be skeptical of women going on a trip alone, in part because of the safety concerns that we confront in this crime-ridden, patriarchal world.
Though I’ve definitely exposed myself to a certain level of risk, solo traveling is still worth it to me. If you’re an introverted woman who also enjoys venturing out on her own, here are some tips — both safety-wise and more generally — for making the most of the experience.
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7 Travel Tips for Introverted Women
1. Consider staying with friends or using Couchsurfing.com to cut back on costs.
One undeniable drawback of solo traveling is the expense component. The cost of lodging and taking taxis or rideshare services from bus stations — which would be halved were another person be added to the mix — can add up significantly.
If there are no friends to stay with at your travel destination, I recommend using Couchsurfing.com, which is free. Just make sure the person you’re staying with is legit and has experience with hosting people. Past reviews written by travelers who can vouch for them are a promising sign. Any profile that’s ambiguous, doesn’t have reviews, or arouses any doubt in me, I dismiss.
Jeff was one Couchsurf host I remember fondly. The night I arrived at his place, we drank tea in his living room and talked about our travels and his work with homeless youth. He reflected the home of a traveler, a person who was often on the go — or who perhaps found home more in the various activities and small moments of his day than inside the physical structure of a house. Among the other people who hosted me were a civil rights attorney, a woman who self-identified as a gypsy, and a guy I cooked latkes with.
2. Take safety precautions, like keeping your luggage to a minimum so you are not bogged down.
As women, the unfortunate truth is that we are more likely to be robbed, sexually assaulted, harassed, or made uncomfortable in some kind of way.
Anywhere we go, we must do so with a watchfulness. Introverts may be more prone to wandering alone or with a small group, which means less protection against thieves or people who wish to harm us.
A friend once shared a story with me about a group of criminals who stirred together a concoction resembling fake bird poop. These crooks would then drop it onto tourists’ heads before sending a complicit older lady to approach them, lamenting that she, too, had been hit. While the tourists were distracted commiserating with her, the robbers would blitz by and grab their belongings.
That said, try not to carry multiple bags, no matter where you are traveling in the city. Though this is unavoidable at times — for instance, if you’re relocating from the bus station to your hotel or hostel — in general, maneuvering with added possessions increases the need for vigilance of your surroundings.
Wearing your backpack in front of you is also a good idea, especially when you’re taking public transportation or walking through other crowded areas where people are tightly packed together. I learned this lesson the hard way when someone stole my phone from my backpack’s front pocket as I rode the subway my first day in Buenos Aires.
So, during your excursions, be prepared and develop a close bond with your perhaps formerly hug-deprived bag. Consider carrying it in front of you like it’s your baby koala bear whom you must embrace in order to protect.
3. Write down memorable moments, like small details you’d like to remember.
One thing I love about solo travel is how, absent the distraction of other people, you can pay close attention to small details. Introverts are generally observant, so this practice should be right up your alley.
On my travels, I savored details. In Boise, I took note of all the flowers flaunting themselves in front lawns, as well as the colorful houses of varying styles on streets shaded by voluminous trees.
In Reno, I paid attention to how the energy was flashy, yet not bustling. Picture a more subdued and toned-down version of Vegas, I wrote in my journal. Inside San Diego’s Rip Current Brewery, I wrote: Flights of beer inside tiny surfboards rest against (also) surfboard tables while oceanic murals beautify every wall and soporific surf tunes drift through the air at a leisurely pace.
Some people say they don’t like to travel solo because they don’t have anyone to share things with. Yet for me (and many other introverts), I didn’t feel alone when experiencing them. Rather, I felt connected to myself.
As Matt Haig wrote in his book The Midnight Library: “Solitude took on a different character. It became in itself a kind of connection. A connection between herself and the world. And between her and herself.”
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4. Seek out communal places of aloneness, like cafes or chapels.
Often, introverts like being alone (perhaps with a book) while still in the company of others (without necessarily engaging in social interaction). In my travels, I found plenty of places where other people were doing the same thing.
In Mexico, I read on the pews inside public chapels beneath majestic portraits of Mexican gods and brass awnings. Ornate paintings, and an air of quiet reverence, surrounded me. From high atop the Torre Latino, I looked down at pedestrians who moved about like colorful ants. Cafes, too, were great communal spaces of aloneness, from the Asheville Coffee Bus in North Carolina to Temple Coffee in Sacramento.
On your own travels, seek out any cozy introvert-friendly spots that might be available.
5. Chat up the locals — they can offer interesting perspectives about the place you’re visiting. (Plus, you can control the length of the conversation.)
Depending on where you travel, many locals are happy to engage. In 2013 when I lived in Uruguay, I didn’t arrive with an automatic community of friends accompanying me, so I was faced with finding my own. This didn’t come naturally to me given my introverted personality, but luckily, the locals were friendly and willing to include me. Many greeted me with warm reception.
When I spent time at the beach in Punta del Este, for example, I met a group of young people whom I ended up drinking maté and sand-boarding with. Later, we ate pizza at one of their homes while watching The Simpsons in Spanish, teaching each other tongue twisters (trabalenguas) in our respective languages.
This tip may be somewhat outside of an introvert’s comfort zone, but locals can also offer interesting perspectives on the places you’re visiting. When I drove for Lyft in Walnut Grove, California, for instance, a passenger shared his thoughts on the differences between growing up next to a river vs. on a lake or by the ocean. He said: “You see all these things pass by, and so there’s this feeling of continuity, of being a small part of something bigger.”
6. Rent a bike (for fun and safety).
In my college town of Davis, California, people rode bikes almost everywhere — to class, parties, and the local farmers’ market. In Uruguay, I rode my red bike from one student’s house to the next, often utilizing the Rambla (or “bike freeway”) alongside the actual one. When I lived in San Francisco, biking came with the added thrill of diverse topography and varying inclines.
I liked the control that having a bike afforded me in each of these places.Walking is a great way to familiarize yourself with the distinct vibe of each neighborhood, but you can also get a feel for this when on a bike. Plus, bikes have the added bonus of getting you to places more quickly than walking does.
The safety component of this piece of advice: Thieves can’t catch you as quickly when you’re on wheels! If a questionable person and I were ever alone on a street together, I could pedal swiftly by them within seconds.
Biking can also be a calming and solitary activity for introverts, without totally isolating you from the world around you (similar to the cafe experience).
7. Look for resources geared toward solo female travelers.
In companies such as WHOA Travel (Women High On Adventure), team members are trained in mountain rescue, first aid, and combating wildfires. The company provides women travelers with a local guide and “company ambassador.”
Depending on the city or country you’re traveling to, there may also be Meetup groups that can connect you with other solo travelers. Plus, you can chat with some of them online first if that’s more comfortable for you as an introvert.
You might like:
- How to Travel Alone as an Introvert
- 8 Things I Learned on My 1,000-Mile, Introvert-Friendly Road Trip
- Why Do Introverts Love Being Alone? Here’s the Science
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