G’day! I’d like to address some commonly asked questions in regards to solo female travel (and travel in general).
These are the most commonly-asked questions I’ve received for the past 7 years as a solo female traveler. Some links are affiliate links, in which I get a small commission if any products are purchased.
Have you always known that you wanted to travel the world?
No! Like many others, I changed my career goals and aspirations constantly throughout my adolescence. I’m an only child, born and raised in California. My dad is from Hawaii, so my parents took me often back and forth to Maui and road tripped through states when I was younger.
I became obsessed with London at the age of 6, when the first Harry Potter book came out, and then moved on to fantasizing about New Zealand when I saw the first Lord of the Rings film at age 11. As far back as I can remember, these two moments in my childhood solidified that I had an interest in the world because my knowledge about these two regions ended up becoming more than what I knew about my own country.
I dreamed of studying abroad in London at uni, but my mom refused to give in (and I thank her for doing this). “You can travel with your own money after college.”
So that’s exactly what I began working for – just saving money to travel.
How did you get your start traveling?
I used my passport for the first time when I was 22, traveling to Japan with family friends. When I came back from that trip, I applied for the New Zealand working holiday visa (a free, year-long work visa for American citizens, ages 18-30). My university RA inspired me to do this, having done it herself.
This trip prompted me to start my travel blog, “A Hobbit’s Tale,” as a personal online journal. My first post (now archived) was an awful copy-paste conglomeration of the e-mails I sent my parents of my daily recaps in Japan.
I moved abroad without ever having traveled extensively or even living so much as out of my own state before. I struggled a HELL of a lot, but it ended up being the best way for me to grow professionally and personally.
The longer I stayed abroad, the more of the world I yearned to see – it really became an addiction, passion, and all I lived for. I ended up moving to Australia, Japan, Thailand, and then packed up my bags for a life at sea on cruise ships just to continue funding my nomadic ways.
Why do you enjoy traveling so much?
Traveling literally gives me that spark of energy, happiness, and bliss. I travel to challenge and immerse myself in new cultures, try local foods in their respective birthplaces, and to meet fascinating people from all corners of the world.
I strongly believe that every traveler is their own unique storyteller. Not one person has the same stories to tell, exact routes or destinations traveled, and there is no right or wrong way to travel. I love it because it’s such a freeing, exhilarating thing – it can be defined however you want it to be.
Much like Disney, travel is like an escape from reality, except traveling is a reality for everyone. While the future of travel is uncertain right now, all 195 countries around the world aren’t going anywhere. We can always wait to travel.
What is your favourite destination?
Ask any traveler this, and they’ll all respond the same way: Don’t make us choose, they’re all beautiful in their own unique ways!
However, I obviously do have a few favourites. I happen to love expensive countries with the best hiking trails and nature at your fingertips:
- New Zealand (It has my heart since it was the first country I’ve lived in abroad)
- Iceland (Unexplainable beauty beyond all measure)
- Switzerland (Literally the New Zealand of Europe)
What is your least favourite destination?
I do not like beachy, hot, humid countries that are considered “paradise” to some. I do love the ocean (hello, California coastal girl here), but I prefer running on cliffs above it or just seeing it from afar.
Seems ironic that I lived in Thailand and still loved it, huh? Perhaps it’s because I got used to it, but I usually don’t choose to visit warm, dry countries (and definitely not in the summer).
You’ll never find me tanning on the beach – I cannot sit still, and the sun makes me incredibly hangry. While I have far too many photos in beachy locations, I tend to shy away from writing about those areas since they’re not places that I’d want to revisit.
What are the hardest parts of traveling?
The parts that aren’t shown on social media are all the times I’ve been depressed, had breakdowns in random alleys, or just flat-out cried from exhaustion.
I’ve slept in countless airports (and once in the wrong one), made irrational decisions, quit two jobs that I didn’t fully challenge myself to carry out, lost hundreds of dollars in travel mistakes, slept in my car for a week in Iceland (and lived off a loaf of bread and a packet of ham), goofed and planned a 12-hour drive twice in New Zealand, stood in a torrential downpour when I realized I had booked a Swiss hostel on top of a mountain (and missed the last cable car), and internalized a lot of my struggles.
There will always be two sides of travel – the hard and the worthwhile. You need to understand that both components are a package deal – you can’t just get the “worthwhile” package and expect yourself to never deal with anything tough throughout your travels.
The most gratifying feeling is reflecting on your past travels and seeing how far you’ve matured, how much you’ve learned, and how much more you’ve experienced than if you were to have stayed put in your safe “bubble” at home without ever using your passport.
And I want you to know that the hardships of travel are always worth it. Always.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever encountered while traveling?
I’m constantly asked this because of my work on cruise ships. To be honest, I don’t really know – crazy as in ridiculous, or crazy as in unbelievably cool?
Some of the most memorable (and insane) moments of my travel memories include the following:
- WETA Digital holiday party
- Bungy jumping for the first time
- Jungle camping in Thailand (learning to catch, cook, and eat frogs and fish)
What are the best options for living and working abroad?
There are countless ways to live and work abroad successfully. I’ve done a combo of working holiday visas, teaching English, and working on cruise ships. Through these jobs, I’ve managed to fund all my big trips.
Truthfully, you can probably work and live abroad more comfortably than if you were working and living back in your home country:
- Use a working holiday visa (for certain countries; ages 18-30)
- Teach English (abroad or online)
- Get seasonal work (ski resorts, campgrounds, etc.)
- Be a freelancer online
- Remote work (transcribing, reading audio books, etc.)
- Au pair
- Work-stay: WWOF, GET Peace Boat, work in a hostel, housesit
- Get certified to be a scuba diving instructor
- Work on a cruise ship or yacht
Do you ever get lonely or scared traveling alone?
Lonely? Sometimes, but it’s up to you to fight those feelings of loneliness. You either choose to stay alone or you can easily go up to a stranger in a hostel, a local in a shop, or even a dog down the street and strike up a conversation. It’s a skill you learn to master when traveling alone.
I’ve been raised as an only child, so I’ve never felt “alone” while traveling. It helps to keep in touch with your closest friends and family virtually, but I’ve never felt homesick. I also love animals, so 9 times out of 10, if I’m having a bad day, I’ll find some adorable animals to pet and my sadness washes away.
Scared? No. Humans are internally wired to feel the emotion of fear, but it’s more about facing that fear when you take your first solo trip. If fear is holding you back from traveling, that’s something you need to address personally.
However, much like everything else in life, how will you know if you love it or not if you don’t even give yourself the chance to try?
I’ve never once felt scared being on my own, “even as a female” (I hate when people always say THAT). I usually stay out extremely late, sometimes past midnight, in new countries. It’s important to note that you should always use caution when exploring new places alone, obviously – common sense is something you should just have in your gut.
How do you take your own pictures if you travel by yourself?
Back when I first started traveling, I had a selfie-stick (the horror) and a GoPro. Now, the internet is teeming with photo options:
- Hire a photographer through Airbnb or sites like this
- Use a sturdy tripod
- Carry a portable tripod like this one (my go-to for everything)
- Use your water bottle to prop up your phone – I did this in Iceland, back when I didn’t even think to own a small tripod!
Have you ever faced hardships on the road or wanted to give up?
Anyone will undoubtedly face hardships on the road, YES! My closest friends have seen and heard me struggle so many times throughout the past 7 years.
Have I ever wanted to give up and just fly home? Yes. I even did that once (and never wrote about it or told anyone due to shame). It was the worst decision I ever made, but I needed to experience that in order to realize that I’m unequivocally at my happiest when I’m out in the world.
If you’re going through a rough patch in life, just remember that travel won’t necessarily “cure” or “heal” you. There are many success stories, but everyone is different – if you try to run away from your problems back home (no matter the scale), they’ll still be waiting for you when you need to return.
Travel doesn’t make you invincible, but it does equip you with a necessary skillset to face issues head-on (it did for me, at least).
Have you ever faced racism on the road?
Either I’m too naive or dumb to realize it if I am, but I’ve actually never been mistreated (yet). This article sums it up perfectly in regards to being an Asian-American female travel blogger.
However, with the complications of COVID-19, it’s important to address this issue. I follow a handful of successful Asian-American figures, all of whom have talked about increased violence and hate crimes being committed against Asians (with no help from our shithead of a president). It’s absolutely disgraceful and deplorable to realize how some people in our human race have so much hatred in their blood.
I’ve struggled with my fourth-generation Japanese roots primarily in Asia. I didn’t feel welcome in Vietnam, South Korea, or even some places in Japan (especially since I’m clearly a Japanese girl who only knows how to say, “I don’t understand, I’m sorry but my Japanese is not good” on repeat).
I used to do everything in my power to run away from being Asian, even so much as saying that I hated Japanese food when growing up. I wanted so much to be white, to not be “different.”
It wasn’t until 2014 when I moved to Japan that I began appreciating my Japanese heritage and wanted to learn more about it. Whether or not I face hardships on the road because of the way I look should have nothing to do with who I am as a person. You learn to craft an incredibly tough skin while traveling (you have to, there isn’t a choice).
Do you ever fear running out of money while on the road?
Of course. We say that money can’t buy happiness, but you do need some money in order to keep yourself alive!
I’ve been fortunate enough to always have my mom monitoring my bank account closely just in case I can’t check depleting funds. I’ve never had a growing amount of savings because I’ve usually just booked a trip or am working to pay off a past trip where I’ve blown every single penny (trust me, when I went to San Francisco, Vancouver, Portland, Iceland, and Switzerland all in a month, I drained every single crack of my accounts).
When I moved to New Zealand, I kept a spreadsheet of every single item I bought, when, where, and the price. It was neurotic, and I gave it up (thankfully) after a month. I began enjoying my travels more when I wasn’t obsessing over every penny.
I’ve stayed in hundreds of hostels worldwide, and I’ve literally never had a bad experience (knock on wood). I even lived in a 12-bed dorm room with girls for months since it was right across from the main train station in Melbourne. I didn’t mind it, but that’s just what you get used to when you’re a frugal traveler. Plus, I’ve met friends for life at hostels, since we all share a common bond of loving to travel.
My point? You learn how to budget your travels better the longer you travel.
What are some of the best lessons you’ve learned from travel?
- Preparation is only key to an extent. My 25-tab spreadsheet for my New Zealand move didn’t even help when I arrived. Every day brought new, unexpected challenges that I hadn’t researched. You just need to experience things and live in the moment rather than get caught up in overpreparing and planning.
- Stop stressing out over the smallest things, because everything always ends up working out in the end.
- Most people have hearts of gold, as evidenced here.
- Travel is the one thing you’ll buy that makes you rich in experience, even more than any amount of education.
Have you had any near-death experiences while traveling?
Um, that’s a resounding yes. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve seen my life flash before my eyes.
My car semi-dangled off a cliff in Iceland; I was airlift-rescued in New Zealand; I was almost hit numerous times while riding my motorbike in Thailand; I got that same motorbike stuck up on high cliffs too many times to count; I almost fell off a Buddhist temple on a cliff; I almost slid off the Cinque Terre trail once; and I was forced to hitchhike in the Scottish Highlands.
And yet, these are probably my most interesting travel stories, and nothing has stopped me from wanting to continue to travel. I count my lucky stars for always being fortunate enough that people have helped me in times of need around the world. Always get proper travel insurance beforehand, such as World Nomads.
What’s the best advice you have for someone who wants to take their first solo trip abroad?
The hardest part is always taking that first step, whether it’s starting your own business or deciding to take that first trip alone. Like all things in life, it gets easier the longer you keep at it.
It doesn’t matter how many blogs or articles you read – all of us are not you. You will have your own unique experience, stories, and mishaps – and you have the power to truly see the world if you so wish. In truth, it’s so much easier to travel alone because you get to do whatever you want, eat whatever you want, and you never have to conform to anyone else’s agenda. You’ll learn to be at peace with yourself, take time for yourself, and to challenge yourself in ways that wouldn’t be possible if you just stayed in your safety net.
Even in the current state of COVID-19 and the uncertainty of the future of travel, the travel industry remains the most lucrative of all others. You still have the power to plan, budget, and research properly this year and then take off whenever you’re ready (or when the world allows us to again).
What are the takeaways as a solo female traveler?
I’m not better, “braver,” or “stronger” than anyone else just because I brand myself as a solo female traveler. When you choose to travel alone, whether or not you have a significant other or not, you choose to do it for yourself.
I’ve always recommended every woman to take at least ONE solo trip in her lifetime. It doesn’t have to be abroad, it can be just within your same state, area, or territory. The true experience of getting out there, staying a few days or weeks in a land that you don’t know like the back of your hand? It’s exciting, new, and adventurous. It’s exactly why travel becomes so addicting to millions around the world.
Despite all my near-death experiences, struggles, and hardships dealt along the way, I’ve never regretted the decisions I’ve made since 2013 to see the world. My personal goal is to see as much of the world as I can before I die, to experience varying cultures and ways of life that our planet Earth offers.
Like this article? Pin it below!