I ain’t gonna tell you to quit your job and embark on a long term travel, nor will I tell you to hate your job. I don’t think I have the credibility yet to urge you to do that, unless I am a full-time traveler, blogger, travel writer or entrepreneur maybe. I don’t like to eat my words because sooner or later I may have to go back to work. So I say, don’t curse your work, use your salary to save money for your travels! 😉
When I started posting photos of my solo travel back in 2008 on my Facebook account, I expected some people to raise their eyebrows.
It wasn’t until I started to blog about my solo travels that my family and friends realize that I am not alone. In the context of Philippine society, female solo travel is not well-known, or should I say, considered against the norms. So it doesn’t really surprise me that people usually ask me, “why are you traveling alone?” In our country they find it weird or crazy! I tell you, it can get a bit annoying to answer the same question overtime.
It wasn’t until I embarked on my 1st solo travel outside the Philippines when I learned to take “pride” in being a solo female traveler, thanks to the foreigner solo female travelers I met on the road. There’s just a lot of them out there, and mind you, they don’t travel for days or weeks, but for months or even years! Now if in the Philippines people ask me why I travel alone, outside the country people are surprised as well as to why a poor Filipina, an Asian from a 3rd world country is traveling alone. As we all know, they’re so used to Filipinos going abroad to work but it’s very rare for them to encounter Filipino solo tourists. Sadly, we’re one of the most highly discriminated race, I could attest to that , I’ve experienced it a couple of times whenever I’m entering a foreign border alone. One of my greatest agony is convincing the immigration officers that I am visiting their country as a tourist and not to work there illegally. They should be proud to have Filipinos in their workforce!
I dream that one day, when you type the word “Pinay” or “Filipina” in Google, travel blogs and Philippines travels will come up on the 1st page instead of some porn sites or mail order brides for foreigners. (That said, please keep visiting my site to help me get into Google page 1! haha ) Seriously, I know somewhere out there, under the same sky, there are Filipina girls who wants to travel but are just too scared to go against the society’s norms. I am no solo female travel expert, nor am I a feminist activist, but when I started this blog, my goal is to help encourage and inspire fellow Filipinas to travel and so long as I’m here, I shall stick to that goal.
I’ve had received e-mails, and personal messages about solo female travel, and those messages inspire me to keep on going. Now the usual question is, “how do I start traveling solo, can you give me some tips?”. I’ll attempt to answer this question based on my experience, if you feel like I missed something or you wanna add something that would be of help, please feel free to comment, do leave a mark on this site. I’d highly appreciate your feedbacks. 🙂
Tips on Starting Your First Female Solo Travel:
1. Plan. It’s only one word yet the most powerful when it comes to embarking on your first solo trip. Plan your destination, your budget, how to get there, where you’re staying, etc. I suggest choose a domestic destination, choose Philippines for your 1st solo trip! I am no big fan of planning travels, but looking back at my misadventures, the wasted time and wasted money, it would’ve been avoided if I had done one important thing – and that is pre–plan my travels. And when you plan, please make sure there’s always Plan B!
2. Bring a map. When people ask me what’s my secret in my solo travels, I only have one answer–>I have a map. I’m a big fan of EZ Map for my local travels. I know it’s a bit old school, but I find it safer than consulting Google Earth in your travel gadget. Besides you won’t risk loosing your expensive gadgets to thieves. But of course, it’s all up to you, if you don’t wanna spend Php99 on each province for EZ Maps, they have a bigger book for Php600+ which covers the entire Philippines but if you wanna use Google Earth , go ahead! I find it comprehensive as well. Nowadays, GPS is fast becoming the latest gadget, but since I can’t afford that, I’ll stick with the map for now. But please, when you use your map, be a little discreet if possible, you don’t wanna attract unwanted attention by flaunting your a tourist.
3. Ask the locals. Preferably ask women or girls. Ask 3 or more people, if you get the same answers, then most likely that’s correct!
4. Tell at least one person that you trust (a family member or a friend maybe) about your travel plan, where you are going, your route, your departure and estimated arrival. Write it down and hand it to them, or e-mail it to them, do not display it in public places. Avoid live status updates on social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter for security purposes, unless you wanna be stalked! 😉
5. Keep a mobile phone with you and store important phone numbers like police station #, embassy #, hospitals, etc. This is really helpful during emergencies.
6. Photocopy your passport and other travel documents. Keep the original in your locker at your hostel. That way for when a suspicious person ask you for your ID with the intent of stealing it, your documents are secure.
7. Dress appropriately and wear the right shoes or sandals. Avoid showing off or letting everyone notice you’re a tourists for your own security. Respect differences, research about cultural & religious outfit taboos on your destination.
8. Bring a tripod rather than keep asking strangers to take your photo, be careful, they might run away with your expensive camera! If you badly need someone to take your photo, then ask a fellow tourist, they will most likely understand. What I do when someone asks me to take their photo (usually couples or family), I use it as an opportunity to ask them to take my photo as well.
10. As humanly as possible, pack light. Remember you’ll carry your backpack or luggage on your own. Recently I stayed in a mixed dorms and most women complain, “I have a lot of stuff! I don’t know why?”. One of them even sent 5 KG of her luggage back home but still she’s got like 15 KG with her! So, do bring only the essential stuff, leave your jewelry at home to avoid attracting unwanted attention.
11. Keep your money in a security waist wallet or secret body wallet. Hide them in separate places. Always count your money when making transactions at money exchange centers and ask for receipt.
12. Trust your instinct! If you think you’ll be in trouble or you think you’re talking with a suspicious stranger, then leave! Avoid dark places or walking alone in remote places at night. Avoid drinking booze or juices or whatever drinks offered by strangers.
13. Bring a whistle to attract attention when you’re in trouble or a pepper spray (take note though that some countries like Singapore prohibit bringing in pepper spray).
14. Promote the Philippines. As a Filipina, be a good example. So start traveling in our country so you can brag how beautiful the Philippines is when you start traveling abroad. I just noticed that some Filipino travelers get too ecstatic traveling the world but has forgotten to explore their own country, so when the foreign tourists asks them about the best destinations in the Philippines, they don’t know what to say. There’s nothing wrong in exploring the world but please never forget your roots.
15. Avoid disclosing your alone and not married. I usually say, I’ll meet my friends there or someone is waiting for me. If a suspicious guy asks if your married, say yes to avoid unwanted attention. You can buy a fake ring to flaunt as your wedding ring. 😉
16. Lastly, bring an open mind and a big heart! 🙂
Nothing is as hard as it first appears, same goes with embarking on your 1st solo travel. I have one favor though..if you happen to push through with your 1st solo travel, please let me know by leaving a mark on this post. I don’t mean to be ethnocentric or gender centric in this post, but there’s a lot of solo female travel sites out there mainly concentrated to the Western female solo travelers, I’ll leave it to the experts. I wanna write something for the Filipinas from the point of view of a local, that’s the least I can do to show my sincere appreciation for nurturing my desire to keep on exploring despite all the uncertainty.