Why we need the term “solo female traveller”

Female TravelLifestyleSolo TravelTravel Tips

7 travel bloggers weigh in on why representation is so important.

Why being a solo female traveller matters

On Tuesday night, Girl vs Globe blogger Sabina posted the article: “Why I’m Not A Solo Female Traveller”. In the article she panned solo female travel bloggers for “highlighting not only how they travel but also what’s between their legs while they do it.” Kudos to her for graphically getting her point across – gosh darn, now we’re all thinking about vaginas! – but I thought the debate deserved a little more than that.

The article opened with some valid points. Calling women “brave” for travelling solo is unnecessary and women excelling in their field should be recognised “without making it a gender issue”. Amen! I could side with that. But that’s where it stopped making sense to me.

Sabina is a blogger who has beautifully carved out a brand for herself by focusing on female travellers. She admits she “pretty much exclusively writes for women.” So why was she writing an article to negate solo female travel bloggers?

It’s an irony she is at least quick to acknowledge, “[my] blog is literally called Girl vs Globe”. Yet she goes on to mention that solo female travel articles have a tendency to be written in the pursuit of more web traffic, which can be said about any topic.

Blogging is by nature the publication of ideas on a platform that can be readily and widely read. If we were writing without the goal of it being read we might as well be scribbling on the back of toilet doors. Plus the web traffic claim is extra ironic considering her article title is pretty clickbaity.

Sabina’s main case is that while our female experiences make us feel like a “different breed of traveller”, we’re no different to male solo travellers. She argues that solo female travel bloggers reinforce “an unhealthy stereotype”.

That I can understand. I wish we lived in a world where gender was not a defining feature and a limiting one at that. But we don’t. That being the case, I don’t think the bloggers in question are pigeonholing solo female travellers. Tailoring content to females isn’t playing into a stereotype, it’s working to tear it down. It’s motivating women to do something they’ve constantly been told they can’t do.

Serena Coady, Bali sunset - Solo female traveller

There are plenty of historically and societally formed misconceptions working to deter women from travelling alone. If you Google “Solo Female Traveller” today, the top articles are “7 uncomfortable truths about travelling solo as a woman” and others warning of the dangers female travellers face.

And it’s a sad reality. The rate of sexual assault is higher for women, the danger of kidnap is far more real. You don’t need to watch all eighteen Taken films to know that. Despite these aats, I believe the positives of solo female travel far outweigh the negatives.

Of course, all solo travellers – regardless of gender – face obstacles wherever they go. It’s just different for a solo man. I won’t budge on that one. Solo females are constantly hit up for their motivations to travel alone. More often than not, they’re required to defend their choice about seeing the world solo. No one blinks an eye at a dude getting his wanderlust on.

One of my favourite comics, Louis C.K., said: “There is no greater threat to women than men…Globally and historically, we’re the number one cause of injury and mayhem to women. You know what our number one threat is? Heart disease.” Needless to say, this is relevant in the realm of travel.

I believe my travels have been a uniquely female experience. I’ve had to learn critical life lessons just to be safe on the road, lessons which men can probably skip.

In Paris, I got rid of a stalker by telling him my family was waiting for me at The Louvre. They weren’t, I didn’t know where the heck they were. In Bali, I lied and told most of my drivers I was alone because my then-boyfriend was sick in a Canggu hotel and not home in another country. The old food poisoning fakeout: diarrhoea lies save lives.

Near misses aside, I’ve been screwed over by one too many accommodation scams in Southeast Asia and I was once assaulted on a train in The Philippines. These experiences were devastating for me. At times I wanted to give in to my mother’s advice and just go home.

However, speaking from the other side, the positives of solo female travel eclipse the negatives. That has been my experience. As for my ordeals, I can also say there are f*ckwits everywhere. Truly, you’ll find them at home and abroad.

Travelling solo as a woman has immeasurably taught me what I’d never have learned in my everyday life: the art of perseverance and the pioneering spirit of self-reliance. It’s led me to new friends. It’s given me memories to look back on when I need to be reminded of the wonderfully absurd beauty of life.

Serena Coady, Boracay sunset - Solo female traveller

While I’ve seen the worst of folks, travelling solo has also taught me the innate kindness of people; a poor woman who put teenage me on a motorbike home when I lost my debit card in Bangkok, a young Chinese man who told me my $8 haircut didn’t look “that bad”. To carry on with my Blanche DuBois sentiment, travelling as a solo female taught me to put a bit more trust in the world.

I’ve also been able to see firsthand the perks of being a lady on the road. May every day be ladies night! *glasses clink, silk scarves are helicoptered in the air* There’s the opportunity to leap to new lands and ventures without having to check in with a travel buddy. Fellow travellers and locals are naturally more trusting of you because you’re a lassie and you seem less threatening than a male. Again, sad but true.

Despite the title of her article, I know Sabina isn’t discrediting solo female travel itself, but the representation of it, the trend of female bloggers gearing their content to this specific market. But for the reasons I’ve mentioned, the risky part and the rewarding part, it’s critical that informative and empowering resources geared to solo female travellers exist. Not just to explain the risks and how best to avoid them, but to inspire women to get out in the world.

Serena Coady, Byron Bay - Solo female traveller

I know I’m not the only one who sees the importance of this kind of content. The other night, after Sabina shared her article in a female travel blogging group I’m in – the group she also runs – many were quick to voice their opinions on the matter.

Cara

‘Representation matters. It matters to young people who want to look up to someone of their gender accomplishing something they want to do when society is saying it isn’t for them, simply because of their gender.

If I search the terminology that you [Girl vs Globe] don’t like, I instantly find many articles about solo women travellers and I find my community, my representation. Without the terminology, we don’t have representation.’

Jennifer, girlfliessolo.com

‘I do feel like I have to deal with things as a woman that men just don’t. While I don’t feel that it limits me, it does often alter my experience in a way that’s unique to my gender.’

Sammi

‘I disagree [with the Girl vs Globe article]. Not because it shouldn’t matter what’s between our legs, but because we live in a world where it still does. No matter what your ideology may be. It’s not even in places as far flung as Iraq or India or Morocco, but Eastern Europe that still thinks of women as inferior. You know why? Politics. Religion. Places being left to (rightly so) evolve at their own speed.

I have a Romanian friend who sees me as the best thing since the end of communism because she watches my travels and wants to do the same. She doesn’t feel like she can because of where she’s from. I am a female solo traveller because it gives hope to other people who want to do the same but aren’t quite in that position yet.’

Romy, brunetteatsunset.com

‘If someone were to tell me that I’m brave for a girl that would definitely piss me off, but I do feel like we need the term solo female traveller. I wish it wasn’t the case, but my experience travelling is completely different than the experiences of my male friends. I have to be more careful.

That is no reason for me not to travel, I just travelled all of Southern Africa on my own. But being able to read about obstacles women faced on their travels makes my life and that of other girls easier.’

Nathalie, charmedtraveler.com

‘‪I think it helps inspire more women to go out and travel when they can read pieces that are made for them. Women do sometimes face certain obstacles that men simply don’t (which infuriates me), so it’s important to write about it so that others know what to expect and how to deal with it.’

Madeline, madelinefayephotography.com

‪‘The main reason I love seeing “solo female traveller” is because it really is rarer. I hear from older women, “In my day, women were never doing these things. I love that you are so adventurous and following your dreams.” I don’t equivalate “solo female traveller” to “being brave, for a girl”’.

Why being a solo female traveller matters

Serena Coady - Solo Female Traveller

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29 Comments

  • Reply
    Nadine | The Sweetness of Traveling
    March 23, 2017 at 3:18 am

    I agree with you. Traveling is often different for solo girl travelers but yes, it’s so rewarding and teaches you invaluable lessons, makes you stronger. Well written

  • Reply
    JoAnnah
    March 24, 2017 at 7:04 am

    Nice post! You and I have similar sentiments also being a female traveler who travels solo from time to time. People go coo coo when they hear a female traveling alone when all you have to do is be smart. Nicely written.

  • Reply
    Carola
    March 24, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    If we talk about online content – a quick Google search for “male solo travel” and “female solo travel” comes up with almost the same number of results (last week it was just now it was 57m vs. 61m). It might seem like women have carved out a niche of the “solo travel” segment that doesn’t exist for men because the male segment has been around forever and therefore isn’t a novelty represented in bigger media outlets. The truth is: Guys do the same, have always done the same, had their “male solo travel” pages before us. So that kills the argument against creating content for female travelers.
    As for the term itself. Do I cringe when people tell me I was brave to backpack Africa solo — or to travel solo outside Italy and France and Germany at all? H*** yeah! But I have learned to accept a compliment: Unfortunately, even in this day and age, it isn’t normal for a woman to do what she decides is right for her. Unfortunately, in this day and age, too many women still let men decide what they can and can’t do. So yeah, it takes courage to be among the first to break the mold. But there are more and more of us, and eventually, the mold will have been crumpled to dust, and we won’t be called “Brave for traveling alone.” anymore.

    Happy continued travels, travelers – regardless of how you decide to spend them!
    C

  • Reply
    Natalie @ A Tiny Traveler Blog
    March 24, 2017 at 11:56 pm

    Love this post! I’m a female traveler and while not every trip is solo, there are times when I’ve been out of the country by myself and had to deal with harassment and getting out of weird situations that I was only in because I’m a woman. I love what you said, “Travelling solo as a woman has immeasurably taught me what I’d never have learned in my everyday life: the art of perseverance and the pioneering spirit of self-reliance.” Thank you for writing this piece!

  • Reply
    Katie
    March 25, 2017 at 1:15 am

    Great response Serena… and beautiful blog. You have a new follower 🙂

  • Reply
    Therese
    March 25, 2017 at 3:15 pm

    Really loved reading this article – although nothing happened when I traveled by myself in Thailand – a lot of people were asking if I was by myself – I never thought to lie that I came with a friend or partner. Fortunately nothing happened!

    xo, Therese
    http://www.mayreese.com

  • Reply
    Sara
    March 25, 2017 at 3:26 pm

    THIS POST! Thank you for writing this post as it is so important for the travel community to understand. I will definitely be reading more of your posts!

  • Reply
    Jo ~ Beyond the Lamp Post
    March 25, 2017 at 3:39 pm

    I’ve used the term as shorthand before – because it’s an identifiable phrase that explained me just doing my thing. But in a lot of ways it doesn’t fit with how I see myself. If I really think about it, I should just call myself a solo traveller (or former solo traveller now) because, for me, my gender doesn’t come into it. I may have had experiences (good and bad) that male travellers would not (and almost definitely have) but it’s never really been something I have reflected on. Those experiences happen and I have enjoyed them, learned from them, told people about them, but just as stories, not stories because I am female. It’s an interesting debate though, certainly.

  • Reply
    Lori
    March 25, 2017 at 3:59 pm

    I also wish we lived in a world where we didn’t have to distinguish male from female, black from white, but we do. Because there’s so much more to say. Thoughtful dialogue like this helps get us past it. Nice job and lovely blog!

  • Reply
    Vinuta
    March 25, 2017 at 8:17 pm

    Topic closer to my heart. Loved every word you spoke about solo travel. It is fun traveling alone. My story teller spirit becomes active when I travel alone, I cook up lot of stories just like you ;-). Everywhere a new story pops up. I have met many people who were worried about me more than me worrying about myself. The freedom outweighs everything else. Keep exploring solo, come to India anytime. Beautifully framed sunset photo.

  • Reply
    adventureinyou Faustino
    March 25, 2017 at 8:46 pm

    In love with your blog…and your writing! I agree with you, that was slightly unnecessary, but I do get some of her points. However, I am with you that travel has made me a stronger and more self-reliant person. I am also braver, more compassionate, and a lot more resourceful than I have ever been…I guess that’s what 3 years on the road does to you!

  • Reply
    Ambuj Saxena
    March 25, 2017 at 10:55 pm

    This is the first blog post I read because I have heard that females are scared of coming to India alone. But your spirit to fight and travel is undeniably powerful and inspiring! In India, there are many Bed and Breakfast rooms in India that are registered by the Government. They are safe to stay put! I help people stay in those BnB’s and would be happy to assist you to make your trip to my country wonderful!
    Thanks for the blog post.

  • Reply
    Anita
    March 26, 2017 at 2:46 am

    I think people are courageous all on their own, it doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a man. I completely agree with your thoughts and this article. We shouldn’t, as women, be treated differently and thought as courageous for travelling alone because we’re women but we should also proud of ourselves because, in a society that praises men, we are striving to be on top and seen, respected and adventurous. We are living for ourselves and should be recognised.

  • Reply
    Sebrin
    March 26, 2017 at 3:19 am

    Such a strong post girl! You’re ability to share your critical thinking in a way that matters to travelers (of ALL genders :P) is refreshing and enlightening. Love it!

  • Reply
    Kathi
    March 26, 2017 at 11:15 am

    Very well put! I really enjoyed your post and perspective on the matter. I think it is important to keep the emphasis on the ‘female’ aspect, until it is normal for women to travel all over the world!

  • Reply
    Julie
    March 26, 2017 at 11:47 am

    I am an older woman who has come from strong feminist stock (my grandmother’s experience is studied by students of women’s studies and won an Order of Australia Medal for her work with the advancement of women). I myself made it to the top of a very masculine industry during my career (while maintaining my femininity). When we travel alone out in the world we are often visiting countries where women are viewed as inferior to men. Because of this our experiences travelling solo are very different from that experienced by men. I started my blog out of the frustration of finding solo travel tips that I could relate to as an older woman out in the world. Personnally, I’d rather read stories and tips written by women for women as I often don’t relate to the things that men get up to on their travels. One thing I have realised over the years is that yes we have a long way to go as women to be seen and treated as equals, but we should never forget that we are different from men and thank goodness for that! We like different things and experience the world through a different lens. Thank goodness for the women of the world who are travelling alone and sharing their stories.

  • Reply
    How Not To Travel Like A Basic Bitch
    March 26, 2017 at 11:49 am

    Agreed! Negating the term female is negating a part of your experience!

  • Reply
    Cherene Saradar
    March 26, 2017 at 1:10 pm

    I don’t agree with Sabina. She was just looking for click bait which is kind of hypocritical but we are brave. In the travel blogging world it’s easy to think that because we see so many solo female travellers that it is normal…but it’s not that common really. We have very different experiences from men and that in itself is a challenge. We ARE brave to do it. I have had to make up so many stories….especially in the Phillipines where they can’t wrap their head around somebody my age travelling alone, unmarried and not wanting children. I made up a husband working in Manila, friends I was meeting in El Nido and lied and said I couldn’t physically have children just because I was tired of getting these questions and looks…like I’m a weirdo. What annoys me about solo female travellers is the ones who claim they are yet you see that on every trip they have their bestie with them. I do both kinds of travel which is why I don’t market myself as only a solo female traveller. I think it would be disingenuous to do so. Overall, we should focus on what makes us different so we can inspire and help others to be equally brave.

  • Reply
    Sapnas
    March 26, 2017 at 5:27 pm

    Loved your post. I traveled solo few times and relate to your post.
    Here many people don’t understand or digest the idea of solo female traveler. So, I don’t publicize my solo traveling and only my family or couple of friends know about it. There are positives and negatives of it, but surely it’s a learning experience.

  • Reply
    Sandy N Vyjay
    March 26, 2017 at 6:15 pm

    This was a wonderful read and I was riveted till the last word. Traveling solo has its own share of challenges for females, however the rewards at the end of the day are really worth it. Of course the risks can be minimized by ensuring safety precautions are taken and not acting rashly.

  • Reply
    Hannah
    March 26, 2017 at 6:57 pm

    I loved this! I definitely agree with you using the term is so important. And I think it’s inspiring and amazing that despite everything that may have happened on your travels you still have trust in people.

  • Reply
    Stéphanie LANGLET
    March 26, 2017 at 8:23 pm

    Well, like everything it depends on the intent. The example is a “famous” Canadian travel blogger who jumped into the solo female traveller topic because she noticed how it was selling. She openly admitted it two years ago on a forum. Now, she’s involved in responsible travel in India and guess what: she had never written about the topic before. But now it’s trendy so… Traffic is not everything and I’ll never lose my credibility by jumping into a trendy topic only for traffic purpose.
    On the other hand, I often travel in Asia and we all know how it’s still more important there to show how women are able to do the same than guys and should have the same rights and privileges.

  • Reply
    Rhiannon
    March 26, 2017 at 8:48 pm

    I absolutely love this article!! I haven’t read Sabina’s yet but will totally have to do so now! Travelling solo as a female is so SO different to as a male! Obviously I don’t have any experience with the latter, but as a female I have been sexually assaulted and “kidnapped” while travelling – 2 things which my male travelling friends really don’t have to worry about as much. There are certain safety precautions in many countries that we, as women, unfortunately still need to take, and so to take away the female part of the phrase would, in a way, do the opposite of highlight the differences. Men don’t have to cover their shoulders or knees for decency purposes (most of the time). Men don’t have to lie about their partners being sick in the hotel, as you did. Men don’t have to have their father/husband/brother’s permission to visit some places. Men don’t have to worry about sexual assault as much as women. It’s different, SO different.
    I hate being called brave for traveling solo. Because that’s like calling me brave for walking to my local supermarket and buying some milk – it’s just something I do. But I am female, and I do travel solo, so I am a “solo female traveller” and will always refer to myself as such! Until I get a husband or wife or friend or dog or something haha.
    Thank you so much for your eloquent way of writing this. All the gold stars for you!

  • Reply
    Lula
    March 26, 2017 at 10:59 pm

    Really well written Luna! Interesting too, didn’t know about the Google search thing, that’s a real shame, but not surprising. You’ve definitely reminded me of the importance of using the term “solo female traveller” when blogging. Thank you!

  • Reply
    MICHAEL SORIANO
    March 28, 2017 at 4:01 pm

    I love that sunset picture! 🙂 It is very simple, elegant, and colorful! 🙂 You have an eye for photography.

  • Reply
    Suruchi
    March 28, 2017 at 8:06 pm

    I loved every word of your blog. It is making so much sense. Why there is a need to define the world solo female traveler? I agree that solo traveling for women is really different from that of man. You have to undergo so many challenges but at the end of a day, it makes you much stronger human. I loved your spirits for taking those risks and acting smartly. Your pictures are really awesome.

  • Reply
    Justine
    April 6, 2017 at 5:01 pm

    Great article! I love how you explained what solo female travel is and it’s a shame that we can’t travel as freely as our counterparts. It is a scary experience at times but is something girls should be able to do and not have fears. Hopefully the world will evolve and women will be treated equally.

    Justine
    http://www.theiridescentwings.com

  • Reply
    Bell
    April 8, 2017 at 2:46 pm

    You have some really great articles and I believe I would be a good asset. I’d absolutely love to write some material for your blog in exchange for a link back to mine. Please blast me an e-mail if interested. Regards!

  • Reply
    Clifford
    April 11, 2017 at 4:49 am

    I appreciate, cause I found just what I was looking for. You’ve ended my four day long hunt! God Bless you man. Have a great day. Bye

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