7 Tips for the Solo Female Traveler

I recently met up with a friend who commended me for being “brave” enough to travel on my own. I don’t feel especially brave for going on vacations, especially when my options are to either go on solo adventures or stay at home and squander my PTO.

I don’t have a boyfriend (or a girlfriend). I have a ton of friends, but many of them don’t have the time, money or desire to hop around the world as often as I do, and most of them certainly don’t want to do it at the frenetic pace or minimal budget that I do. Therefore, I often end up the solo female traveler.

1891482_10203126214609683_3256353213319452111_o

I’ve traveled alone to more than 15 countries, including Israel, Turkey, France, Italy, and Croatia. There’ve been ups and downs to going it alone on so many adventures, but I’m rarely lonely. Spoiler alert: I always end up making friends during my journeys, and you can too!

Yes, people have devoted many articles and even entire blogs to this specific species of wanderer, but I’m here to give you some of my top tips for making the best of your stag sojourns.

  1. Stay at hostels. The easiest way to save money and make friends is to stay somewhere that’s going to be chock full of other travelers looking to make connections. I’ve come to prefer staying at hostels over Airbnbs or hotels, as you can usually find places with the same amenities for a fraction of the price. Most importantly, hostels are swarming with potential new international BFFs who are also looking to make fast friends to go exploring with. If you hang out in the common spaces, get a drink at the bar or go on one of the free walking tours, you’re sure to pick up some new travel buddies in no time.
  2. Make the first move. If you’re on a quest to make friends, don’t be afraid to start a conversation! It can be as simple as complementing someone on their shirt or accessories—flattery gets you far in this world 🙂 I’ve had great success at hostels asking to sit at a shared table with people, which is a fantastic way to break into conversations and often leads to new pals. In the same vein, the hostel bar is ground zero for picking up potential buddies….or dates! Alcohol is the best social lubricant, it’s much easier to approach someone after having a beer or a glass of wine.
  3. Bring a journal and a book. Although these are probably on every traveler’s packing list, I find it especially important to be armed with supplies for reading and writing when traveling alone. Reading a book is a stellar way to signal to the world that you’re not interested in being approached, be it at a bar, at the beach or on public transit. Having your nose in a book is the international sign for “Don’t bother me.” Similarly, I always have a journal on hand and find it’s a good way to recount my adventures and pass the time when on trains/planes, at a bar/restaurant, or when back at the hostel.
  4. Don’t be afraid to eat alone. One of the hardest things for me when I started traveling was eating by myself. I had never gone to a sit-down meal solo before I started traveling, but now it’s something I quite enjoy. This is a perfect opportunity to reflect on your day/trip/life, and I like to use the time between ordering and the food arriving to write in my journal. Depending on where you’re seated, this is also prime time for people watching! Ask for a seat with a view of the street, or even better, one on the sidewalk outside.
  5. Pack light. The oldest tip in the books, but one that’s especially relevant for the solo female traveler. First off, you need to be able to effortlessly carry all your stuff. If your bag is so heavy that you can’t easily hoist it into the overhead bin or carry it up a few flights of stairs, you need to lighten your load. Second, the less you bring the more space you have to shop! In addition to getting a few souvenirs, I love being able to treat myself to something fun—a campy t-shirt, a vintage jacket, a locally made hand bag—but you need to be able to fit it into your luggage. Pack light so that you never have to worry about whether you can squeeze your new treasures in.
  6. Trust your gut. Your intuition is always correct, and learning to listen to it is an invaluable skill that will help you in every aspect of life, but especially when you’re hitting the road alone. By and large, I believe this world is filled with amazing, generous and honest people, but there are absolutely a few bad apples out there. Use common sense when you’re traveling by yourself: don’t wear flashy things, try to blend in with the locals, don’t carry a ton of cash, skip any alleyways that give you the heebie-jeebies, and if anyone makes you feel uncomfortable, get yourself out of that situation ASAP in whatever means necessary. I’ve ducked into a gelato shop in Rome when I was being followed, and have literally run away from people who were giving me bad vibes. Don’t be afraid about being nice: be more concerned with staying safe.
  7. Ask people to take your picture and embrace the selfie stick. One of the most difficult parts of traveling alone is getting decent pictures of yourself, but this can be easily remedied! Don’t be shy about asking other people to take your photo, especially at tourist hot spots where many others are doing the same. There’s definitely an art to picking the right person to snap a pic for you—look for someone who doesn’t appear to be in a hurry, is also a tourist, and who has a fancy camera (as they’ll hopefully be a decent photographer!). Another option is the the selfie stick. Know these silly devices get a lot of flack, and I used to be one of the people making fun of them and those who used them….until I got one myself. The difference of quality with a selfie stick is astounding, and gives you a much better picture that encapsulates so much more of the background as well as a better angle. Don’t hate until you try it yourself!

Traveling on your own is rarely the lonely or scary process that it’s made out to be. I much prefer solo travel, as you get to choose exactly what you do and when you do it without having to appease a partner or group. That said, it’s always possible to make friends on the road! Whether picking up pals for a few days of adventures or simply connecting with someone in a brief encounter, solo travel does not ever have to equate to solitary.

Now, go find a cheap flight to somewhere you’ve been dreaming about and make it happen! Life is too short to wait for the perfect partner to come around so that you can indulge in your wanderlust.

Kraków: Of Kings, Castles and Pierogi

After a goulash-filled week in Prague, my newfound travel buddy and I decided to make moves.

Three trains, one transportation mishap (we got off one of the trains a stop early, but it worked out!), many cat naps, and seven hours later, Andrée and I made it to Kraków, Poland!

Once the capital of Poland for more than 500 years, Kraków is now a bustling city of nearly 800,000 people and the cultural hub of the country. But Kraków is old—unbelievably old.

Stone tools dating back to 50,000 BCE were found on Wawel Hill, and the city’s name originates from Krakus, a mythical ruler who supposedly slayed the Wawel Dragon. The city was a bustling trade center in 965, and the castle was built in the 1300s.

IMG_4182.JPG

As an American whose country’s oldest buildings date back to the 1700s, this kind of history is hard to wrap my head around! All of Europe (and especially Israel) has been blowing me away with the ancient architecture!

The heart of Kraków is the Stare Miasto, or Old Town. Smack in the middle is Rynek Główny, the largest medieval town square in Europe.

Filled with vendors and local craftspeople, the square is surrounded by historic houses, palaces, towers and churches.

IMG_4005.JPG

Continue reading “Kraków: Of Kings, Castles and Pierogi”

Prague Finale: John Lennon Wall and Charles Bridge

December 8, 1980: Beatles rocker John Lennon was shot to death in the entrance of his New York apartment building.

A pacifist hero in the eyes of many young Czechs during a time of political revolution, Lennon was soon memorialized in Prague. His image was painted on a wall in a secluded square near the Charles Bridge, and political graffiti and Beatles lyrics were soon added.

Despite the best whitewashing efforts of the police and the property owners, the Lennon Wall has been continuously evolving for the past three decades: layer upon layer of lyrics, wishes for peace and sketches of the man whose voice guided a generation.

IMG_3604.JPG

IMG_3626.JPGIMG_3622.JPG

Continue reading “Prague Finale: John Lennon Wall and Charles Bridge”

Prague: Bohemian Wonderland

Though Israel was a sunny paradise, I decided to break the cycle of my Tel Aviv lifestyle (beach all day, party all night) and head into Europe.

The cheapest ticket I could find using Skyscanner, my favorite airfare app, was Prague!

IMG_3567-1.JPG

Two of my favorite Prague buildings are located in Old Town Square: the astronomical clock tower and the Church of Our Lady before Tyn.

Both were built in the 1400s, and are impressive feats. The church is a classic example of gothic architecture and dominates the city skyline. The clock is the oldest functioning astronomical clock in the world. Who cares about the latest iPhone?

IMG_3566-1.JPG

The Prague Castle, Pražský hrad, is officially the world’s largest castle and dates back to the ninth century.

IMG_3757.JPG

This is a breathtakingly beautiful city. Twice the capital of Europe, the historical capital of Bohemia, and now the capital of the Czech Republic, Prague is a city of two million people that feels like the place Belle would call home.

The architecture is an array of styles that span the history of time. Romanesque, baroque, gothic, art nouveau, cubism…it’s everything at once, but it works.

IMG_3633.JPG

IMG_3763.JPG

Continue reading “Prague: Bohemian Wonderland”

Florentine, for One

In order to slowly ease into my solo voyage, I took baby steps in parting from my large and loving Birthright family.

After we said tearful goodbyes to the bulk of the group heading back to the States, the 10 of us remaining rented a killer penthouse apartment blocks from the beach in Tel Aviv on vibrant Ben Yehuda Street.

The view from one of our two balconies!

After a wild night out on the town with the group, three of us girls moved into a cozy Airbnb rental half a block from the crazy and crowded HaCarmel street market.

IMG_3169.JPG

IMG_3176.JPG

It was a much-needed chance to rest, get some girl time and play with Alice, the cat. Feline lovin’ is so therapeutic!

IMG_3362.JPG

When it came time to say goodbye to the girls (Becca was heading home, Teel to work on a Kibbutz), I braved public transportation with my pack and headed to the Florentine Hostel.

Continue reading “Florentine, for One”