Whenever I say I’m travelling alone the first question almost everybody asks is “isn’t that dangerous”, or “aren’t you scared”. The answer to both is “No, no more so than staying home and living a quiet life.”
I’m also a member of a number of groups for women who travel solo, and the most often raised issue among them is safety. Women are always hyper aware of safety, particularly personal safety. For some women the thought of being unsafe, or of not know what to do if something happens is enough to put them off travel. Which is a shame.
A while ago I did a quick survey of some of the groups I’m a member of to find out what it was that women were afraid of, and what they want to be able to help them get out there. I’m working on some tips for solo women travellers in response to these, as well as some videos. I’ll put them online as they’re completed. I’m not a mechanic or a safety and security expert, and all these tips are written from my perspective as somebody who is out there experiencing it.
If you do have any other questions you want answered or topics for videos, drop me a quick note via my contact page.
In the meantime, here a few quick tips for solo women travellers (or anybody really)
Trust your gut
If something is telling you it’s not safe, listen. Move on. Generally there’s a reason we get that feeling even if we can’t pinpoint why at the time.
Even if it is the safest place on earth, the fact you feel uncomfortable means you won’t enjoy your time there anyway. Don’t stay.
Communication is key
If you want mobile phone coverage outside major cities, Telstra really is the only option. Things are changing, but very slowly. William Creek on the Oodnadatta Track only has Optus coverage (or did last time I was there), and there are a few other places that also have Optus, but generally if you’re going outback you will need Telstra.
If you are going really remote you need a satellite phone. You can hire satphones, but if you’re going to do a fair bit of travelling it’s worth investing in one of your own. They are expensive, but worth every penny for the peace of mind if you’re in an area with no mobile coverage.
A personal location beacon (PLB) is also a good idea, but for life and death emergencies only. If you get really lost and have no other options, trigger the PLB for an emergency rescue. A signal is sent to a satellite, then down to an emergency response station – possibly the military.
Have a communications plan
Make a plan with somebody at home about when/how often you’ll call to let them know you’re ok. Then stick to it. The plan should also include what they should do if you miss a check in, and when they should start worrying. You don’t want them sending out a rescue service just because you decided to stay for one more sunset!
Know your equipment
One of the best pieces of advice I got from Doc was “Check over your car every day. You might not know what you’re looking at, but you’ll notice when something changes. That’s when you fix it, or get help.” This has been invaluable for me, and also taught me a lot about the car so I can fix minor things on the go, like when the car started leaking water in the Simpson and I was able to find the problem and fix the hose.
Put together a toolbox of things that you’ll need to do repairs on the run, and learn how to use all the tools. Include essential spare parts, not just for the engine but for other parts of your set up. I will be doing more on what tools you should carry, and how to use them.
Do your own research
There are always people to tell you “it’s too dangerous”, or “it’s not very interesting, don’t go there”. If I listened to everything people told me I’d never go anywhere or do anything exciting! Do your own research. Find out about the place/s you want to go: what is there to see/do, where can you stay, do other travellers go there, what are the roads like, etc. Then make up your own mind. Sure, you might be disappointed by some experiences, but, as they say, you’ll never, never know if you never, never go.
Learn how to meet people
Loneliness can be an issue when you’re travelling solo, even for the most introverted of us. You need to be able to push yourself out of your comfort zone and take the first step in approaching and meeting people. If you’re approaching a couple or mixed group, start speaking with the woman first. Stupid as it sounds, some women do think you are trying to chat up their partner (and some men think you are trying to chat them up). Those people are best avoided, but you probably won’t know which they are until you start talking with them. That said, most people are very happy to have a chat, and share a campfire or even a meal. But you often do have to make the first move. More on this in “Gaining confidence”.
Perhaps the most important of all. Don’t get so hung up on trying not to do anything stupid that you forget to have fun. After all, that’s why you’re out there travelling! And we all do stupid things, I know I’ve done a lot. They might even become the most interesting parts of your stories about your travels when you get home again.