Solo Traveling as a Woman

Nicole Howell is a student at University of Colorado – Boulder, and is an ISA Featured Blogger. She is studying abroad with ISA in London, England.

Traveling has been a part of my life ever since I can remember. The first time I boarded a plane I was just 4 months old. In elementary and middle school my family and I mostly traveled domestically, but as I got older, the trips escalated to more international travels, like taking a Mediterranean cruise for three weeks. Once I got to college, my trips were made with friends, such as heading to Mexico for Spring Break. After deciding to study abroad, that created a whole new category of traveling.

I know how I am when it comes to traveling. I like to book excursions ahead of time, create an itinerary days in advance, and want to see as much of a city as possible while I’m there. Knowing not everybody approaches traveling like that, I started wondering what I was going to do when it came to weekend trips during my program. I wasn’t going with any friends to London, and taking a trip with someone you met two weeks ago could potentially be a recipe for disaster.

I thought back to when I was in Vietnam earlier this year on a volunteer trip, and how afterwards one of the other volunteers headed over to Thailand and Cambodia… by herself. I reached out to her later to see how she felt about solo traveling, and she told me that she absolutely loved it. Hearing that from her gave me courage to book a few solo trips throughout Western Europe during my time in the UK.

Hanging out at Trinity College for the afternoon

Not having class on Mondays or Fridays made me realize I have a pretty ideal study abroad schedule, which made my options of where to travel to very open. I choose seven different cities, which I would spend two days in each.

After buying all my tickets, booking hostels, and looking up activities to do in each city, the nervous-excited energy started to kick in. I didn’t quite know what I was up against, but I knew it would be an adventure. I told several people about these future plans of mine and as expected, they mentioned that I should stay safe and not drink too much, but I found that it was mainly men who were freaked out about my solo travels. Most women were surprised, but then jealous of my bravery. Ironically, I met two women separately who both had been traveling Europe for the past four months. They shared their ups and downs with me, but overall said traveling solo is a one in a lifetime experience.

Enjoying the view from Old Town Bridge Tower in Prague
Spontaneous photoshoot outside a Viennese cathedral

I can confidently say now that traveling independently is one of the best and worst decisions you can make, but it would be a shame if you didn’t let yourself experience the opportunity if it arises. The good times are sweeter because you have pride knowing you did it all yourself, but the bad times are harder because you’re alone to persevere through them by yourself. Despite the challenges, what I’ve learned about myself while traveling solo is irreplaceable.

Visiting the Guinness Brewery after a long day of sightseeing in Dublin



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