I know so many women in the Dressed for My Day community love to travel. I do, too! And while I love visiting new places with my husband, there’s something lovely about traveling with other women, whether they be your mom, sister, daughter or friends. I think it’s empowering and helpful for women to have the know-how and the courage to travel alone, in fact. That’s why I’ve invited a friend who is also a bona fide travel expert to share with us her top 10 tips for women traveling solo.
Meet Shelly Wildman, our expert travel guide and my friend
I first got to know our guest, Shelly Wildman, when we both were writing Christian devotional blogs. But when I heard Shelly was coming to Tucson, Arizona, near where I lived at the time, I reached out and suggested we meet up for lunch. I had a delightful meal and conversation with Shelly and her mother, who has since passed. I remember then Shelly telling me about a recent trip to Europe and another one on the horizon. But it would be another few years before God planted in Shelly’s heart the idea for Walkabout Tours. More on that in a bit!
You’ll see from our interview that Shelly has traveled to Europe and other places frequently. Not only does this woman know her stuff when it comes to travel, but she is the kind of woman you would like to travel with. She’s easy-going, kind, relatable and gracious. Shelly is a mother, Nana, wife, author and woman of faith. Listen in as Shelly shares more about her love for travel and her 10 tips for women traveling solo.
(I’ve filled our blog post today with photographs from Shelly’s travels. I don’t know where all of these photos are taken, but we can enjoy them all the same!)
Question: How did you get started traveling solo, Shelly?
It all started over dinner with my husband. I had been thinking about the idea for a while, but finally mustered up the courage to ask him: “Honey, what would you think if I took a trip by myself?”
I had prepared myself for every possible answer. He might be hurt that I wanted to go alone. He might think it was unsafe or selfish. Or worse, he might laugh, just thinking it was another of my crazy dreams.
What I hadn’t prepared for was his actual response: “Oh, thank goodness! Yes!”
He went on to explain that, while he liked to travel and had enjoyed the many trips we had taken together, he didn’t love to travel the way I did. He thought it would be amazing if I took a trip on my own, allowing him stay home.
Question: Where is your favorite place to travel?
My favorite travel destination is anywhere in Europe—I just love the history, the beauty, and the culture of every country in Europe I’ve visited.
One of my favorite trips was a Christmas Markets river cruise on the Danube River with my mom and sisters, where we visited places like Budapest, Vienna, and Nuremburg. My mom passed away last year, so I look back on that trip and feel so grateful that we had that time together.
This fall, I’ll be road-tripping through southern England by myself for a few days. I’m looking forward to seeing the sights on my own schedule, stopping when I want, ordering room service if I want, and getting the rest I need.
Question: Some women might be wondering if it’s strange or unusual for a woman to travel alone. What do you think?
Obviously, I don’t think it’s strange! I love traveling solo! If you’ve been thinking about solo travel, know this: nearly two-thirds of solo travelers today are women. The travel industry knows how to accommodate females traveling alone, and, while you may think you’re alone, you’re really not.
If you’re thinking about taking a trip, here are ten tips for women traveling solo.
1. Be prepared. Before you leave, do a little research. Grab a guidebook to learn something about your destination. Learn about the local currency, the weather, and the transportation options. The more you know ahead of time, the more enjoyable your trip will be.
2. Have the mindset of a “traveler,” not a “tourist.” The biggest difference between the two is that a tourist travels to simply check places off a list. A traveler travels to experience a new culture and its people. Travelers are open and curious learners rather than consumers.
3. Pack light. I cannot emphasize this highly enough. I only travel with a carry-on bag these days, and it saves a lot of headaches. You’ve probably seen the pictures from airports this summer of mountains of lost luggage. Avoid the heartbreak of lost luggage (and a potentially ruined vacation) by taking only a carry-on bag.
4. Don’t travel scared; do travel smart. Yes, sometimes bad things happen when you travel, but don’t let that stop you. Just be smart. Carry a crossbody bag with a zipper (vs. a backpack). Make a copy of your passport and carry that with you during the day; keep your original safely tucked away in your room. And, most importantly, carry yourself with confidence.
5. Prepare for lonely moments. Sometimes, wandering the streets of a new city, I can start to feel lonely, but then I remind myself that this is what I chose. Next time, I might choose to travel with a friend or a group, but for now, I need to lean into my loneliness and realize that this feeling won’t last forever. Usually, after a good night’s sleep, I’m feeling much better and am ready to see the sights.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Talk to the locals. They know the best way to get from one place to another, and they certainly have opinions about the best restaurants. You’ll find most people are friendly and more than willing to help.
7. Go to a grocery store. Every time I travel, I seek out a local grocery store and just wander the aisles. You’ll be surprised how much you can learn about a culture in a grocery store. Plus, you may find a few inexpensive treats to take home with you. Now that I’m gluten free, I’m finding all kinds of new foods that I would have overlooked in the past.
8. Keep a journal. I know it’s hard to keep up with writing when you’re on the road, but try to write just one or two sentences a day. Keep a record of the interesting people you saw or met. Write about the best meal you had on your trip. Keep track of the ways you encountered God while traveling. When you get home, you will be so glad you did this.
9. You don’t have to dress like a local, but do dress like you care. Don’t look sloppy or slovenly—I think that shows a lack of respect for the culture you’re visiting. Personally, I don’t like to wear blue jeans on a trip because I think they scream “American.” I try to dress in more neutral colors when I travel, and I try to take more care with what I wear than on, say, a normal day at home.
10. Be prepared to change. You won’t be the same person when you get home because travel changes people. Be ready to look at your surroundings, your community, your life, differently because of what you have encountered in a new and different place. And remember, “It’s not bad, just different.”
Question: What are some of the benefits of traveling alone?
One of the benefits, in my opinion, is that you can do what you want when you want. You can eat wherever YOU want to eat. The schedule and itinerary are completely up to you.
But the main benefit I’ve seen is the confidence women gain when they realize they CAN do this.
A friend recently told me about her first solo travel experience when she went to Greece last year for some meetings. Her flight back home was canceled, so she was in the Athens airport, unable to speak the language and unsure of what to do. Her first instinct was to call her husband, but she very quickly realized he couldn’t help her when she was so far away. So, she took a deep breath, asked for help, and got on a new flight.
As she relayed her story, I could see such excitement in her sparkly, blue eyes. She was thrilled that she had handled a very stressful situation on her own. And she told me she can’t wait to do it again!
I think it is so brave to embark on a solo journey. It takes courage to travel alone—even if you’re with a group.
Question: What are you doing to help women who want to travel solo, but maybe not alone?
About three years ago I started Walkabout Tours, a boutique travel company that takes small groups of women on sightseeing and spiritual retreat tours in Europe. I help women experience culture through the eyes of faith as we explore God’s creation together. My vision was put on hold for a couple of years for obvious reasons, but now we’re up and running, and it has been a blessing to lead women like this. I’d love to talk with you further if you’re interested in our 2023 trips to France, England, or Italy.
Isn’t Shelly Inspiring?!
I hope you gained a little courage and inspiration from my interview with Shelly and her tips for women traveling solo. Even if you don’t feel inspired to travel alone, remember that you are a strong and capable woman, made for hard things and able to have grand adventures – even of the everyday variety – on your own.
Along with offering tips for women traveling solo, Shelly also sent me links to some of her favorite “travel things,” including travel clothes, luggage and shoes. You’ll find those in a shopping widget at the bottom of the post.
If you’d like to learn more about Shelly’s Walkabout Tours and her upcoming trips, click through to her website. I also encourage everyone to follow Shelly on Instagram @discoverwalkabout. In fact, she’s traveling in Europe right now, so I bet she’ll be posting photos and videos. Have a great day, dear friend!
Blessed for My Day
We named our daughter Abigail after the woman in 1 Samuel 25. The wife of a harsh and contemptuous man, Abigail acted with courage and wisdom when his foolishness jeopardized her household. She later became the wife of David, who would eventually become king. I am inspired by this biblical woman’s actions of bravery and decisiveness. In fact, the Bible is full of examples of courageous and strong women. And nowhere does the Bible indicate that women are weak or incapable of big things. Now that’s not to say that the Bible draws no delineations between the sexes. It absolutely does. But the Word of God and the Son of God, Jesus Christ, honor and extol the actions of brave and godly women throughout its pages.
I mention this today to remind us that regardless of our experiences, our physical conditions, our ages or our temperaments, each of us are capable, by the grace of God, to do hard things. That’s not to imply that travel should be hard. But I just thought I’d piggyback off Shelly’s stories and remind us that we can do big things, even today, that call for a little courage, discernment and knowledge. Whatever big thing is on your to-do list…or your bucket list…by the grace of God and in His strength, you can do this!
Then Abigail made haste and took two hundred loaves and two skins of wine and five sheep already prepared and five seahs of parched grain and a hundred clusters of raisins and two hundred cakes of figs, and laid them on donkeys. ~ 1 Samuel 25:18