This week’s Wander Woman is Brianne from A Traveling Life! She is a clever lil lady and has some amazing safety tips to share with you, that no other Wander Woman has shared before (oooooh!). Let’s get stuck in!..
1.Who are you, what do you do and what is your awesome blog about?
I’m Brianne and I’m based in Boston (USA). By day, I am a communications consultant to non-profits and start-ups, and on nights and weekends I talk about how to balance a career with travel on my blog A Traveling Life.
2.How long have you been travelling? Where have you been and what are your future travel plans?
I took my first international trip waaaay back in 1988: I accompanied my parents and younger brother on a trip to China that my dad led for students from his high school. In the years since, I’ve been to more than 40 countries including studying abroad in Strasbourg, France, during college, and volunteering in Pokhara, Nepal, during graduate school.
Most recently, I spent about 5 months on the road on a solo trip through Cambodia, Vietnam and Malaysia last fall. I just got back from Colombia and am planning to head back to South America in the next month or two, as well as to Southeast Asia in early 2016. I always do a lot of weekend trips as well, especially around New England during the summer and fall.
3.Travelling solo can have some amazing benefits: what are they for you?
Primarily, for me, it’s reinforced that I’m much braver than I often give myself credit for. It’s given me the confidence to know that I can handle almost any situation life throws at me. If I can get from point A to point B by myself in a country where I don’t speak the language and don’t know anyone, I know that I’ll be just fine handling most day-to-day challenges.
4.What countries do you recommend for female travellers just starting out?
I always recommend Europe as a good, safe bet. Go somewhere you are able to communicate – for example, they speak nearly perfect English in Scandinavian countries – that is known for being relatively safe, has good public transportation and access to a variety of activities that will help you meet other travelers (like day tours or cooking classes).
And don’t discount traveling within your home country. My first solo trip was actually spending a weekend in Atlanta, Georgia by myself following a work trip when I was 22. It built up my confidence to travel solo internationally and for longer periods of time.
5.How do you stay safe on the road? Do you have any tips for happy travels?
As an adult, I’ve lived in a few big cities – Denver, D.C., and now, Boston – so I generally use the same precautions that I do at home. I always try to stay aware of my surroundings, especially when I’m by myself and especially at night. Five other tips include:
Know how to get home
Take the business card of the hostel/hotel with you when you’re out sightseeing.
Don’t rely on Google maps
A paper map will help you get where you need to go, especially if you don’t have access to WiFi/data. You also won’t have to flash your smart phone around.
Ask the locals
Staff at your hostel/hotel should be able to provide you with the details on where – and where not to – venture. They can also write down names and places in the native language, which you can show to someone if you’re lost (instead of butchering the pronunciation yourself).
Pay for safety
It’s worth cutting corners elsewhere in your budget to take the occasional cab ride or stay in a safer/more centrally located neighborhood.
Don’t draw unnecessary attention to yourself by not respecting the local culture. Be aware of where local women are, and where they are not – don’t go into a bar by yourself if there are only men in there. In many countries, women don’t drink in public, and they definitely don’t drink by themselves. When you’re by yourself in a foreign country it’s not the time to make a political statement about equal rights (as frustrated as you might feel).
More than anything, trust your gut. If a situation doesn’t feel right, then leave. Don’t worry about hurting anyone’s feelings.
6.What is the one thing in your backpack that every girl needs whilst travelling?
My life got a lot easier once I started using packing cubes. They’re amazing!
7.Has there ever been a time where you thought ‘”#%*!”? What happened and what did you do about it?
I’m extremely fortunate that I’ve made it through all of my journeys unscathed. I’ve never had anything stolen, and I’ve never been in harm’s way, as far as I know. Most of my @#$&*^ moments probably have to do with food – I’m a vegetarian, so I’ve been in the situation a few times where I was feeling a little woozy, and I didn’t know how to ask where I could find something that I was able to eat. When these things happen, I just sit down, take a few deep breaths and come up with a plan. (And just remind yourself that most of the @#$&*^ moments become the best stories later on!)
8.Is there anywhere you want to travel solo as a woman but feel you can’t?
I don’t think there’s any place on my radar right now that I wouldn’t go because of safety concerns. Really, anywhere is fair game if you do your research, use common sense, and respect local laws and customs.
9.What travel experience are you most proud of?
The recent solo trip I took to Southeast Asia. I had been planning on taking a long trip like that for about two years. It’s the reason I left my previous full-time job to become a consultant (As everyone knows, in the U.S., we get very few vacation days compared to the rest of the world). I’m proud of myself for having the courage to step away from my home, family and friends, boyfriend, dog, clients, and other responsibilities and follow through with something that I wanted to do for so long.
10.What one piece of golden advice would you give to a solo female traveller?
Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks. Well-meaning friends and family will try to dissuade you by saying it’s not safe, or they will question why you’d even want to travel alone in the first place. They don’t know how empowering it is to travel solo – and they’re probably never going to find out – so don’t let them stop you.
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Did you miss last week’s interview with Abbi? You can check it out here! Want to check out all the other Wander Woman Wednesdays interviews so far? Click on the ‘Wander Woman Wednesdays’ tag right at the bottom of this post or the ‘Wander Women’ menu at the top of this page!