Solo traveling has become one of the most liberating things I’ve ever experienced. At first, I was absolutely terrified to go out into the world. I wasn’t scared because I would be going alone. I wasn’t scared because I am a woman. I was scared because I wasn’t sure how people in different parts of the world would receive me as a Black woman. I didn’t always intend to travel solo, but then I realized that it was a matter of going alone or not going at all.
Imagine you want to use your vacation time and go on a group trip with your friends. You gather them, get a head count, and discuss destinations. Caribbean vacay, anyone? The trip is months away but everyone is so excited and counting down the days! And then, when the trip is just weeks away, everyone starts to cancel. You still want to go but no one else is willing or able to. So you cancel, too.
This scenario is how I started entertaining the idea of solo traveling.
There were a few things that I did to prepare for my first big solo trip and a few things I learned. I wanted to share these lessons and tips with other women of color that may be wanting to travel solo, but are nervous about doing so.
1. Reach Out To Other Travelers
Before I left America, I was determined to find other women of color that have traveled through Europe alone. I did this by searching things like “solo black girl traveler” and/or “travel while black” on Instagram. There weren’t many results, but I did end up getting in contact with other Black women this way. Not only did they inspire me to be courageous, they also gave me tips for traveling through certain countries.
2. Prepare For Stares And Weird Requests
I went to Europe alone and in some areas there were very few people of color. So one can imagine the stares I got as I traveled via bus from Paris to Amsterdam. I was surprisingly the only Black person on board. A woman in the seat behind me asked where I was from and we ended up having a conversation about traveling. I knew it was coming but was still taken aback when she commented on how much she wanted to touch my hair. My immediate internal reaction wasn’t nice, to be honest. But then I sat and thought, she’s probably just not used to seeing people that look like me. I learned, in that moment, that people are truly just curious sometimes. I did not let her touch my hair because that is just a general no-no for me. But we did engage in some dialogue about me being from a different culture and race. So when these things happen, and they definitely will if you’re traveling to Asia, just use them as teaching moments and cultural exchanges.
3. Confidence Is Key
There will be lots of uninformed people back home that will plant fear in your mind. If you let them. In addition to talking to other travelers, do your own research of the places you plan to visit and go with confidence. I was really nervous about racism and discrimination in certain parts of Europe. I did so much research about every country I would be traveling through and the places to avoid as a woman of color. Unfortunately, there are places like this in the world so it’s better to be aware before you go.
It’s also important to look confident, too. Body language tells a lot about people so walk and talk with confidence. Chin up, buttercup!