People will treat you like a kid, even when you’re an adult.
Every solo female traveler has experienced the “helping a lost child cross the street” voice that people will use with you when you ask for help with something. People will ask if you’re traveling alone, and be surprised that you are, and generally act like you need your hand held through every minor activity. We all still have a strange mentality about women not “knowing how” to travel alone, and you’ll constantly be proving them wrong.
Street harassment exists everywhere.
It’s easy to imagine that your country of destination is going to be a magical land of respect and gender equality and no street harassment whatsoever, but this is never the case. It will come in different forms—and some, like in Southern France and Spain, will be unbearably in-your-face—but it will always be there. It’s an unfortunate reality about the world we live in, and though it will be in different languages, catcalling will be a reliable part of your international traveling experience.
Love exists everywhere, too.
While the harassment will be there, so will the potential of a thrilling love story on every corner. One of the great things about traveling alone is that anything can happen, romantically speaking, and literally just meeting someone randomly on a street corner or in a cafe is not a rare occurrence. There is something about traveling that puts you in the “whatever happens, happens” mentality, in terms of flirting, and you are 40 percent more likely to fall in love with your tour guide and end up spending a week with them before moving onto your next country. It’s not that the point of travel is to fall in love, it’s just a great byproduct.
Other female travelers are your best friends.
Solo female travelers form something of a secret society, where an unspoken code of trust and confidence bonds us as temporary sisters. Some of my best “travel romances” have been falling in with a group of girls for a night and going on a pub crawl with them. If you are ever in need—of a good recommendation, of help finding something, of someone to complain to—female travelers are there for you. They get your struggle and aren’t going to judge you (or catcall you from across the street), and they may prove to be lifelong friends.
Purses can be a liability.
People will try to pull them off your shoulder, or sneak something out of it, or just grab it and run away. I’ve been mugged while traveling, and even though there was (luckily) nothing really of value in my purse, it was big and easy to grab. This isn’t to say that you should defer to wearing some unforgivable fanny pack everywhere, but being aware of your purse is essential to not having all your shit stolen. (And this goes double for the kinds of purses that hang open and are easy to just reach in and grab something from. Those are the worst.)
Your best moments will be alone.
By far the best individual moments you will experience will come as a result of being alone, not in spite of it. You’ll find yourself wandering an unknown street, or sitting by a river, or in front of a cafe, and everything will feel so different than it has before. It should be scary, in theory, but somehow it’s not at all. You’ll have nowhere pressing to go, and no one to answer to, and can just take immense pleasure in being by yourself. For an hour or so, it’s like you don’t exist at all—you’re just a face in the crowd thinking of where you want to eat dinner that night, and nothing will be able to replace an experience like that.
You can do it.
It’s natural to be anxious about traveling alone. Navigating language, currency, and accommodations in a place you don’t really know is terrifying, and having someone else there to be confused with you provides enormous comfort. But traveling alone is something every woman should experience, if only because it is scary. Because you will have moments of stress and fear and confusion — and will deal with people treating you like a kid — but you will be able to do it. And after that, everything is just a little bit less intimidating, because you already know what you’re capable of.