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A Woman’s Perspective on Solo Travel

06.24.09

Biking VersaillesThe Frugal Traveler (NY Times) posted an interesting Q&A with Beth Whitman, from Wanderlust & Lipstick about solo, female travel. I agree with her on most of her advice, except I’ve definitely thought “Oh God, I wish I was a man in this situation!” Some of the comments from NYT readers are getting a little nasty though. Ouch! Anyway, here are a few of my tips for traveling solo as a young[er] female.

  • Do your traveling during daylight hours. Arriving into town on a train at midnight isn’t the safest bet.
  • Treat solo travel as you would your own city. I wouldn’t walk around parts of Portland at night, so why would I abroad?
  • Don’t dress like a hooker. OK, maybe more useful to say dress appropriately for the region you’re in. Modesty goes a long way.
  • Know where you’re hotel is on a map, before you even arrive at the airport. You’ll know if the the taxi is leading you astray.
  • Keep a hotel/hostel business card with you at all times.
  • Master the “Don’t Mess With Me” walk, at some point you’ll need it.
  • When looking for hostels online (HostelWorld.com etc), sort by location. Location is a huge deal when traveling solo. Example: my hostel in Madrid was on a pedestrian street, and I could go out at night alone. In Barcelona, it was down by the port, so I made sure to not be solo after dark.
  • Use your “sixth sense” to differentiate between danger and simple curiosity. Many cultures are just curious as to why you’re alone, or why you have blond hair, or why you have blond arm hairs. :)
  • Do small group tours for countries you want to experience without the hassle (like Morocco and Turkey).

Ladies, what are your tips for solo travel?

I <3 America

I spent the night in Beijing, in a neighborhood close to the airport. It was funny being back in China. I wandered around the neighborhood and went to the grocery store to get snacks (and cucumber chips). After a day of exploring, I was back at the airport and on my flight home. Funny side note: 2 Chinese girls in the tea shop at the airport were laughing at me, so I smiled and asked them what was so funny. They of course laughed even more (& covered their mouths with their hands) and then said “your hair on arms is gold.” and then they burst into giggles again, pointing at my arms and then showing me their arms. lol, hilarious ending to China.

It was so great walking into the Portland airport and seeing familiar faces. I’m so excited to be back! I love Portland and I love America.

The Slow Boat From China

03.05.08

Sushi in JapanAnd I`m back! I completely forgot about the China censorship issue, so I was only partially surprised when I couldn`t login from China. It`s been a busy week! We just arrived in Osaka this morning off a 48 hour ferry boat from Shanghai. Good Times! :) I`ll be filling in the gaps of the last week eventually, but for now, I`m alive! Japan is so different than China. China was a great experience, but it`s nice to be back in a 1st world country. Biggest difference… the toilet situation (not a big fan of squat toilets, but that`s another story).

I`ve had my first real Japan sushi lunch, yummm! And now it`s off for some exploring! I`ll try to post some pictures of China soon.

Just Call Me Jonah

03.04.08

Let me tell you about my boat journey, but shhh… we’ll have to whisper, so I don’t get thrown overboard.

After a long morning of hurry up and wait, we finally made it through Customs to board the boat for our trip across the East China Sea. It took us about an hour just to get out of Shanghai, which made me thankful for not taking a river boat here in Shanghai, as we saw the whole thing from the ferry anyway. So, our accommodations are “clean and comfortable”, lol, no, really, it’s cool, it’s just a little cramped to have 4 people in a closet-sized room. Thankfully, the boat is fairly empty so there are a lot of lobby and lounge areas, and even a reading room that looks out over the front of the boat. I guess I’ll be doing a lot of reading over the next few days. The sad part of the boat? Back to regular prices, lunch was $5, I miss my 25 cent street food!

After lunch, everything was going fine, people seemed to be getting along, we tried some real Japanese saki at lunch, everyone was reading or playing games, no one had gone stir-crazy yet… and then? People started disappearing. The sea sickness was setting in. Even after their meds, almost everyone had gone to their rooms, and the halls and bathrooms had a distinct vommity smell. The water got choppier into the evening, with some pretty big swells, that the whole boat was rocking from side to side. By around 6pm I started to feel it a little bit, so I decided to just go to sleep in case I was getting sick like everyone else. That did the trick and the waves rocked me right to sleep. (I’ve heard it wasn’t such a calm night for my comrades). After about 12 hours of sleep, I was refreshed and ready to… sit around on the boat. At breakfast, I discovered that I was the only one enjoying our little adventure at sea, and was beginning to feel a little like Jonah.

OK, I admit, by mid-afternoon I was just about stir-crazy, but at least I wasn’t ill. I spent the day playing games, reading, and drinking the free tea from the vending machine downstairs. Oh, it’s nice to experience simple means of travel, but it will be nice to just get there tomorrow.

Are we there yet?!?

The Whore of the Orient…

03.02.08

…according to someone’s guidebook. After being in Xi’an and Beijing, Shanghai has such a different feel. It has a big city energy, and it just feels alive. When we first arrived, and headed down Nanjing Road in search of lunch, we got sidetracked with all the people and shops to look at and ended up walking for several hours. It’s so busy here. I love this city, it’s mind-blowing. Lights and people everywhere. I imagine Tokyo is going to be even crazier.

A few of my favorite things about Shanghai:

  • Everyone kept recommending the acrobat show in Shanghai, and it was definitely a must-see. The finale was very Evil Knievel. I searched for the Shanghai acrobats on YouTube and here’s a cool video of the finale.
  • Another memorable part of Shanghai was our trip out to one of the canal towns. We walked around the town and toured historic buildings, hitched a ride on one of the boats, ate lunch and more strange street food.
  • The Bund, which is just the river walkway, was a great way to see the river area of the city, followed by a subway ride under the river to Pudong and visiting the Pearl TV Tower.
  • Spending our very last bit of Chinese currency (on anything edible) before getting on the boat to Japan, since you can’t exchange currency out of the country.

Next stop, the East China Sea… for 2 days and 2 nights of card games and saki fun.

Olivia Raymer
Things I ♥: travel, food (I'm a pescatarian), the Pacific Northwest, bikes (I ride an orange mixte), beer (IPAs), summer, coffee, lists, and kitties. Travel enthusiast, former product manager, dabbler, and currently helping small businesses with digital strategy at Early Bird Strategy.

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