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Women Traveling Solo

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    My work travel typically involves conferences in cities and visits to universities, both in the US and abroad. While I typically vacation travel with a partner now, I used to travel around Europe by myself.
    • I'll reiterate that one should reconsider traveling with more than one can easily pick up and carry. This is why I avoid roll-aboard suitcases. They're hard for me to carry up stairs. Try to keep one hand free.
    • Get plenty of rest, or recognize that you're tired and plan accordingly. Travel is tiring, especially if you're dealing with a foreign language. People are more likely to make unsafe choices if they are tired.
    • Don't be too cheap. Especially when you're traveling on a budget, saving a few bucks can be really tempting. Take a certified cab if it might not be safe to walk back to your lodgings. Pay more for a legitimate airport shuttle. Don't take the bargain room if doesn't seem secure. Never take deal that seems too good to be true.
    • Don't take anything with you that you couldn't afford to lose (passport and credit cards, excluded). This is more advice for leisure travel and probably best applies to electronics, jewelry, and creative works. This might mean picking up a cheap MP3 player instead of taking your iphone or wearing a simple gold band instead of your wedding ring if you cannot afford (monetarily or spiritually) to replace the items if they are stolen or broken.
    • Let friends know where you plan to be and when you get there. (Depending on your travel experience, this might be a weekly check-in or a daily check-in.)
    • Worry just the right amount. If you worry too much about your safety, you might not have fun. If you don't worry at all, you might be an idiot.


      Originally posted by lonestar6 View Post
      Entertaining story: I travelled overseas recently and was sitting alone at a hotel bar when a gentleman came and asked me if I would like to join his group at a table. I politely said no, finished my beer and paid my bill. The whole time something was nagging me in the back of my head. ... Better safe than sorry.
      I love this story!


        Hey everyone! Please welcome Jodi Ettenberg of Legal Nomads to the forums. We were inspired to start this thread because of her and now she's here to participate and answer your questions-- way cool. I did have to "approve" her post before it showed up, so some of you might not have seen it.

        Originally posted by LegalNomads View Post
        Hi all! I'm Jodi, the Legal Nomads person Darcy mentioned at the beginning of the thread. I tend to travel primarily in Southeast Asia, the Middle East and South America, so my tips are more geared toward solo travel in those regions. I always keep a doorstop (in case anyone is coming into the room), a safety whistle (gotten me out of being chased by a pack of monkeys in Burma and got attention when stranded on a boat later on in the same country) and a headlamp (never know when the power will go out).

        In South America/Central America, I often carry a mugger's wallet as well.

        Another great solo female site: A Little Adrift
        Have a question? @Darcy (to make sure I see it)

        Current carry: testing new potential materials in the form of Original Large Shop Bags.


          I haven't had a ton of opportunity to travel solo recently. I did as a college student though. Thank you Darcy for starting this thread, and others for your comments. It's good to be reminded to be safe.

          My mental over simplification of all of this is to be aware everywhere and think 3 steps ahead.
          I really, really like TB Bags!


            What a terrific thread. Some great tips, too.

            I don't travel solo nearly as often these days (not a lot of budget at work for business travel), but I'll add a few as well.

            LegalNomads said she travels with a headlamp. I do, too. Once in a while I'll stay in a room where the lamp isn't by the nightstand, or it requires that you get up to go turn it off--how incovenient! Times like that, headlamps come in handy for reading in bed... but it's also good to have and not require that you hold it with one hand. My favorite is the Petzl Zipka Plus-- You can buy it at REI and it's made by the company that makes a bunch of hiking headlamps, but the Zipka has a retractable strap so you don't have to deal with the mess of straps (Petzl Zipka Plus 2 Headlamp at REI.com).

            As much as I like the TB Cafe Bags, its one main drawback is that you can't zip up the opening. Instead, I wear the TB Packing Cube Shoulder Bag as my cross-body, and keep all my valuables in it (except my passport, which I keep next to my skin if it's not in the safe in the hotel room). The Dyneema fabric is basically slashproof. And to prevent pickpockets from trying to worm their grubby fingers into the bag, I use an S-biner carabiner from NiteIze (S-Biner | Nite Ize) and clip all the zipper tabs together, and then clip the other end into the D-ring of the bag or the strap hook. My favorite size #2 or #3 of the black steel version. It's less clunky than their plastic ones, and the black blends in well with the zipper tabs.

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            It's not a locking mechanism, but it's an inconvenience that a pickpocket isn't gonna want to bother with.

            If I'm playing tourist, I also try not to walk around with a travel guidebook in hand. I either just rip out the chapter/section I want, and tuck it in my purse, or I put an innocuous-looking book jacket on the outside of the book so it's not so obvious what I'm reading. Especially if I'm visiting touristy places (in places known for scammers and pickpockets), I don't need to stand out. I'll avoid wearing any shiny jewelry or expensive watches (not that I have one, but I'm going with a cheapo watch) and try not to look like an easy mark.


              LegalNomads, what's a mugger's wallet, if you don't mind me asking?


                Hi Lani, I too clip my zippers together like you do. Someplace on the forum there's photo of my Synapse clipped like yours. I also carry a head lamp with me. It clips on the strap of my Synapse or its on the elastic band it came with and around my neck. Makes for some good reading or stitching. It seems a bit less silly around my neck than around my forehead. I've got a Timbuk2 Shagg bag on my Synapse strap too. Great place for a bit of cash, a key or credit card. Makes them eaiser to get to without having to open up my whole bag.
                Take care,
                List exceeds allowed characters. So I'll just say I'm plum and kiwi loving FOT!


                  Originally posted by gmoskal View Post
                  LegalNomads, what's a mugger's wallet, if you don't mind me asking?
                  It might be different, but I think Rick Steves has recommended it in the past. You get yourself an old billfold with store loyalty cards and expired gift cards and stuff, and add a few bills in there. This is your decoy. If you're ever needing to give up your wallet, you give them this decoy one. You keep your real stash and IDs in your security wallet.


                    Originally posted by Moose View Post
                    It seems a bit less silly around my neck than around my forehead. I've got a Timbuk2 Shagg bag on my Synapse strap too.
                    That definitely sounds more elegant than the cyclops look, for sure! On the other hand, your method won't let you zap bad guys with your third eye laser beam. Schwaaaaaaaaaaat!


                      Originally posted by gmoskal View Post
                      LegalNomads, what's a mugger's wallet, if you don't mind me asking?
                      Hi there! As Lani noted below, it's a decoy wallet with some cash (real cash, but not very much), expired cards or fake cards, like the ones they send you in the mail to entice you to sign up for something, and other stuff you might not mind losing. Make it as real looking as possible - as in, cut out a photo from a mag and put it in, as though you're carrying someone's photo that you miss. It's a tough piece of advice because of course it does depend on how each of us react in situations like that. I've been mugged at knifepoint and did hand over just the mugger's wallet. The mugger asked me to lift my shirt up to see my waistband, obviously looking for a moneybelt (which I never carry, for that reason, but of course this is a very subjective decision). I turned over the mugger's wallet (he went through my bag and saw it there) - my other wallet was stashed in a side pocket in my pants. The 2nd time I was mugged was in Southeast Asia and by a police officer, and was at gunpoint; luckily I had nothing on me as I was walking back to my hostel after getting food, but my dorm that mate's camera was taken - though we were able to negotiate with the mugger to keep the memory card. Probably not the wisest move ("WAIT! Can she keep her memories? Memory cards are cheap. We give you the camera, she takes the memories") but it worked.

                      Lani, I also use a Petzl Tikka and I've had the same one since I began my travels - love it!

                      I hope it's ok to post a resources page here too, for those looking for further advice? I've built a long page with packing, planning and other tips, along with resources for vaccinations, visas and how to stay positive on the road. It's here if any of you are interested.

                      Finally, as I said in the initial post, the way I travel differs in that it's often in developing countries and by public transportation, so as with any advice "your mileage will vary" and all that. Happy to answer any other questions if you've got'em!

                      Eating my way around the world, one country at a time.
                      | |


                        Excellent advice, and some interesting stories too! I don't usually travel all over the place in a single trip, so I plan the following accordingly:

                        I always bring printed copies of emergency numbers - family, embassies, doctors, etc. I keep copies in several locations - pocket, purse, luggage, even try to have a "photo" of it on the first image in my camera. (Not passport or credit card information - could be risky if camera is stolen.) I'll even laminate a copy before I leave.

                        Also on this list - phone numbers for calling from WITHIN and from OUTSIDE of the same country. (Ask me how I know!) When stressed, tired, hungry, ill, cranky, lost, when your brain is in a fog and you cannot think clearly....helps to know exactly what number to dial from your current location. Example - calling a relative in England from North America is a little different from calling the same person from within the UK.

                        Some hotels will have a business card with one side printed in English and the other in the local language. Take a few with you. If lost, you can show the "local" spelling to a taxi driver to make sure you get to the right place. (Think how many big cities have multiple hotels of the same chain's name....)

                        "Buy the best, cry once" - Pasquale


                          Originally posted by Moose View Post
                          Hi Lani, I too clip my zippers together like you do. Someplace on the forum there's photo of my Synapse clipped like yours.
                          Here's the link to the 'Locking' zippers on the Synapse thread with pictures by notmensa (whose photo is also featured on the blog post for this thread). @Lani, I did try out some of the S-Biner clips. They may be OK in the fashion you use them, where they're held tight by the tension in different directions, but I find the spring-loaded clip sections to be unreliable about staying shut. Just my experience. They did look as though they'd work well to lock multiple rings. I use notmensa's option 2 locking arrangement on my Synapse.



                            Great thread. I usually travel alone and just got back from a solo trip to Belgium. I think pre-trip planning is one of the most important keys to a successful solo trip especially when there are language considerations. I like to read travel forums like Frommer's, Fodo's, Trip Advisor and FlyerTalk to get tips and a feel for the area I'll be travelling to.

                            Another favorite planning tool is Google maps -- I love to literally take a look at where I'm going -- especially helpful for planning routes from the airport or train station to the hotel. Cuts down on getting lost en-route. It doesn't always work, I did get confused on the Belgian tram and had to backtrack two stops and start over, lol, but that's all part of travel, isn't it.

                            Gear wise for this trip I used my Tri-Star, Large Cafe Bag, various pouches, and the small shopping bag for day trips. Perfect for the many transfers, there were 6 flights, 4 trains, a tram, taxi, bus, and a boat.

                            I also tried using the stuff bag folded down as a trial run for the travel tray. I'm definitely picking up a travel tray to keep all those little bits organized in the hotel.


                              I now use split rings and Key Straps as well as a still usable long strap from the bag which was replaced by my first Cafe Bag.



                                Here's another thread with some more photos of S-biner clips on the Synapse.
                                Take care,
                                List exceeds allowed characters. So I'll just say I'm plum and kiwi loving FOT!