Many people ask me how I decide to wake up and go exploring alone. Some think I must have people waiting for me at my planned destination. Others believe I must be escaping from something. The truth is I enjoy my solitude. Being a solo female traveller is very appealing to me. However, it is not always sunshine and roses. There are moments I wish I had a travel partner to help me through the inevitable challenges of travelling. In case you are wondering whether you should pursue solo female travel, here are some of its ups and downs to make your decision easier.
The Good Side
I think the best part about solo female travel is the freedom that comes with it. You have the whole world under your feet, and it is up to you to conquer it. Of course, there are determining factors such as cash availability and time. However, once you have all your ducks in a row, you can travel to wherever you want. Almost like a bird. Something you rarely get with group travel where a discussion has to lead to a unanimous decision.
Solo female travel comes with great flexibility. You can make decisions on the go as opposed to group travel. For example, you can choose to head to Kisumu as opposed to Mombasa the very morning of travel, without causing anyone any inconvenience. You can also decide to make your trip two weeks long instead of just a weekend. The flexibility allows you to be more versatile.
Group travel is often expensive as opposed to solo travel. When you are a solo female traveller, you can cut costs without a problem. For example, you might choose to skip lunch and eat supper in a local eatery. You might select couch surfing over hostel or hotel rooms. You can move around by public transport or on foot. With group travel, these are not plausible.
Whether you realise it or not, being a solo female traveller teaches you to be independent. It leaves you no choice. You are all you have during your travel, so you learn how to make reservations, how to fix problems when they arise, and how to be alone. Solo travel allows you to see just how much you are capable of as a person.
When you are travelling solo, you surprisingly make many more friends than you would have if you went with a group. The reason is that when you already have travelling buddies, you see no incentive to socialise as much. However, as a solo female traveller, you realise just how important it is to have friends on the road. After a while of travelling solo, you will find that you have at least one person per region who you can always catch up with, or ask for help when around. You also get to meet many like-minded people, some of who end up being lifelong friends.
The Bad Side
As an introvert, I spend most of my days in complete solitude. That is perhaps why I make such an excellent solo female traveller. I function best when I am doing things at my own pace and rhythm. However, not everyone enjoys this quiet. Travelling solo can get quite lonely, especially if you are an extrovert. The loneliness can even cause you not to enjoy your travel experience.
Travelling solo in Kenya is generally not so dangerous. However, there are instances where your safety gets threatened as a solo female traveller. For example, in some towns such as Eldoret, Kitale, Nakuru and even Nairobi, walking alone at night can lead you to trouble. You might have to use cabs instead of matatus and adhere to a specific curfew. In other areas, your security is at risk, even in daylight. Especially in the Northern side of the country where clan-fueled conflicts are still rampant, and misogyny is still alive.
The highest advantage of travelling with a group is the availability of numerous resources. By resources, I mean financial, intellectual and even social. Solo female travel, on the other hand, forces you to make do with what you have. When you run out or get lost, then you end up stranded. With group travel, help will always be close, however big your problem. Your best bet as a solo traveller is relying on the kindness of strangers, which is not always available.
I will be honest. Sometimes I get terrified about travelling to a destination solo, especially if it is my first visit. I find my mind overthinking all the things that can go wrong. ‘What if I lose my wallet?’ ‘What if my phone gets stolen?’ ‘What if I get into an accident and no one knows where I am?’ Of course, most times, everything goes smoothly, but the fear is always there. That is why I always take extra precautions, such as letting someone know where I will be at any given time. I keep my wallet and phone on a small sling bag hanging close to my body. And when I have done all I can, I try moving past the fear and welcome the experience trusting that I am capable enough to handle it.
Solo travel is not for everyone. The same is right for group travel. Being a solo female traveller has its rewards and downsides. You have to decide whether it matches your personality and preferences. Whichever the case, travel is still the antidote for the soul. Do it as often as you can, alone or otherwise. If you still need more help deciding, read my other post where I share tips on solo female travel.