There is nothing more liberating, exhilarating, and enticing than strapping on a 20kg backpack and a pair of Tevas, jumping on a plane, and experiencing the world on one’s own. As a female, it can be intimidating to go travelling by yourself. There are sleazy men (heck, even sleazy women!) to worry about, the threat of being preyed upon because of your smaller stature, and above all that, many women love having a pal around to chat with.
Make no mistake: it’s usually safer to have a travel partner. But hey, rules were made to be broken, and breaking this one to go it alone is often worth the leap.
Southeast Asia is a region most conducive to solo female travel. Why? Well, first of all, and most importantly, Southeast Asia is one of the safest places in the world to travel. Sure, there are crimes in this part of the world, but they are no where near as prominent as other places, even in the first world. I’ve often said that I feel far safer in Bangkok than I do in Vancouver. A good portion of Southeast Asians practice Buddhism as their religion, which teaches them to be mindful, calm, and totally non-aggressive. The Muslims in Indonesia are known as the most moderate Muslims in the world, and if you’ve ever met a Filipino, you probably don’t need to be told how kind and generous they are.
Though in the countryside, you may get some confused glances from those not used to seeing a woman traveling alone, in the cities and touristy places, it’s becoming increasingly common for women to sit down for a cup of coffee with the sole company of a good book. Of course, it’s important to take precautions – don’t walk down dark alleys, etc. – use your common sense.
Here are some steadfast tips for solo female travel in Southeast Asia:
- Someone who cares about you should always know where you are. Make an agreement with your family/friends back home that if they don’t hear from you every four days (or so), they should start to worry, and by the fifth day, they should alert the authorities (just make sure you remember to keep in touch with them every other day!).
- Know where the pressure points are. You probably won’t, but just in case you do get attacked, it’s good to know how to quickly and easily cause pain to your attacker so you can get out of there fast.
- Get off your computer/phone. Relish your surroundings. For once you aren’t pestered by having to make conversation, and can truly take in everything that makes this new city/town so fabulous.
- Be sure to ask your guesthouse if they have any specials for single travelers. They just might have a single room for a few dollars less than the double.
- CouchSurfing.org is your friend! CouchSurfing is a project that allows users to create a profile and look up people all over the world, offering their couch (or spare bed, whatever) for free. Single women have the easiest time finding free places to stay using this site, and it’s possible to check your potential host’s references to make sure others had a good experience with them as well. Plus it’s an amazing way to meet new friends and have them introduce you to sights in the city that you’d never find with the Lonely Planet.
All travel is personal
I backpacked for 10 months in Southeast Asia, and was traveling solo for 1/3 of that time. I was amazed at how strong, independent, and mindful I became when traveling on my own, and at the kindness of strangers who saw a lost, lone girl and did everything they could to help me out. Three months in, a high school friend came to travel with me, and together we saw and did more things in half a year than most people see in their entire lives. It truly changed how I look at life for the better. I was amazed at how well people treated us, and that despite having nearly $1,000 worth of gear in my backpack, and hardly ever using a safe, I never once had anything stolen from me. That’s Asia.
All of these factors connected in my mind, and inspired me to take a leap of faith, and move to Bangkok without a job, friend, or even very much money. I’ve now been here for a year and a half, and have made some of the best friends I’ve ever had, and am almost sickeningly happy with my life. Living as a female expat in Asia is similar to traveling it, but at the same time, a totally different, perhaps even more fulfilling experience.
I have been fortunate in life to have had the opportunity to do this, and in turn, I feel it is my duty to pass on the wisdom I have picked up. It’s simple, if you have the means to travel, why aren’t you? Time is no excuse. Do it now! Create memories of a lifetime by taking a degree in cultural experiences. Hey, if you’re anything like the myriad of women who now live in Asia, you might just end up staying!
Kaila Krayewski, a writer and longtime Thailand resident, explains the transformational power of traveling alone