Travel advice

5 tips for women traveling the U.S. solo

Simple ideas for maximizing self-fulfillment on your solitary sojourn

by Shannon Ruthleigh

As a lady-type who’s traveled solo for both business and pleasure, I’ve learned a few tricks for trekking around these United States — and having fun while I do it. I have regularly traveled solo since my teen years, because I get antsy after too many months in one place. But whether you’re a veteran traveler, or new to solo travel, there’s no better way to feel in charge of your life than to take off on your own. Other great posts have covered safety tips, so read on for novel ideas on how to maximize fun and self-fulfillment while on the road.

Pack light

It’s a simple tip for travelers of any gender, but one that may be particularly relevant to women, since this study shows that as group, we tend to overpack. It’s good to be prepared, but you don't want to be weighed down by roller bags, straps and backpacks. Nothing says, “I’m not from around here” like a load of luggage. Stick to your essentials, choose versatile pieces, and pack only as much as you can carry. If you’re staying in a hotel, ditch the suitcase as soon as possible. If you’re couchsurfing, think low maintenance-style.

Pack light
Make friends

Solo travel doesn’t have to mean lonely travel, and being a woman traveling alone can have a tendency to endear you to others. If you want company at your destination, one option is to reach out in your social networks beforehand — maybe your co-worker has a friendly cousin in Chicago? If you're on Facebook, you might try typing in 'friends of friends who live in' followed by your destination in the search bar. 

Even if you’re a natural introvert like me, when you're in a new city chances are no one knows you, and you don’t have to see anyone again. What’s the harm in putting yourself out there and striking up a conversation with the interesting-looking person sitting at the next table at the coffee shop? Best-case scenario, you’ve met someone who can show you around a bit, or even just make a new connection and a good memory from your trip.

If you're looking for a little more control over who you meet, you can try apps like Couchsurfing whose Hangouts feature lets you see profiles of other travelers who are interested in the same activities and experiences you are.

Make friends
Enjoy the me time

There’s no better landscape for self-reflection than gazing out a train window on the way from LA to San Francisco, or watching the New York skyline get smaller as you ascend into the clouds. Enjoy the headspace and the view while fellow passengers come and go around you. You don’t have to talk to anyone. Just be with your thoughts and feel proud that your life is together enough to make the trek you’re on. Some travelers find mobile apps helpful for meditating and relaxing.

Enjoy the me time
Hit up a gay bar

Exploring nightlife alone in a new city can feel like a roll of the dice. As women, we all know the basics: hold on to your drink, keep your wits about you, have cab fare. Wherever you go, keep those tips in mind, but for a lower-pressure evening less likely to leave you fending off an over-eager Romeo, try a gay bar. Regardless of sexual orientation, for me hanging out solo at a gay bar always results in a good time. Gay bars are often thought of as being the exclusive domain of gay men, but nowadays many popular spots cater to a mixed crowd, welcoming all who are cool with the LGBTQ+ rainbow. Go on the early side, meet the regulars, get to know the bartender, and head back to your hotel at a reasonable hour. If you’re not looking for a date, or are partnered like me, hanging out at a local gay bar can make for an ideal night out.

Hit up a gay bar
Be spontaneous

Traveling solo means you don't have to coordinate with others to make plans, and you don’t have to concern yourself about whether others in your group are having a good time. Wake up early and walk the city for hours, or sleep in and then park yourself at a local bookstore until you notice a flier for nearby yoga class; it’s all up to you. Being alone gives you a chance to be present in a unique way. Listen to your inner voice, journal, take pictures of things you otherwise wouldn’t notice. You're already out of your routine, so say yes to something new.

Be spontaneous
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