There is an unspoken ethos behind adventurous travel, which involves a certain amount of pluck, stamina and perhaps a slight dose of insanity to fully subscribe to. It’s the the carpe diem mentality – the idea that you regret the things you don’t do far more than the things that you do. While this is largely true, I’ve had many interesting discussions with women throughout the year regarding the exceptions that prove this particular rule.
The truth is, while jumping in with both feet is often fun and often amazing, blindly subscribing to the idea of doing something ‘just to do it’ is not always wise, especially in unfamiliar territory. The following is a compendium of the most common mistakes girls make while travelling:
1. Not planning around your period.
A surprising number of women have little idea of their own cycle. They leave it largely up to guesstimation and listening to their body’s signals – cramps and irritability? Give it a week or so. As women who have to wrangle with planes, trains, automobiles and cramped quarters with others, we don’t have that luxury. It is important to get to know your own body – not only for practical purposes, but you should also keep in mind that you probably don’t want to plan a 3 day hike if your lower back is going to be out of commission the whole time. All women react to their periods in different ways; some barely notice them, some have to lie down hugging a hot water bottle for a few days. Know yourself and adjust your plans (and the contents of your backpack) accordingly.
2. That one-night stand.
Many of us have fallen prey to the foreigner with the pretty eyes. And for the most part, a short-lived romance is not a big problem. Yet, this is again a case of knowing yourself and being absolutely aware of your own personal limits and situation. Always feel comfortable with what you’re doing and who you’re doing it with; listen closely to any signs you may think something might be off, and remember that disappointing a potential casual suitor is perhaps the least of all evils.
3. Not packing more carefully.
I’ve packed the heels I never wear, the coat I didn’t need and the hiking boots I never took out of the bag more than once. These don’t seem like big problems, but when you’re operating with baggage restrictions where you’re teetering on the last kg (as budget travellers often do), these things can make a huge difference. Check the predicted weather of where you’re going – have a decent idea of your itinerary, so you know you won’t need your fancy earrings or your sleeping bag. While at home, you may be a chronic overpreparer, when you’re carrying all of your ‘just-in-cases’ on my back for the eighth hour, your philosophy changes somewhat.
Spontaneity is a key element of enjoyment; but to an extent. If you’re doing somewhere, you should have at least a vague idea of where you can find accommodation, or an emergency contact in case things go sour.
This is bound to happen to you. You are going to get swindled at one point or another during your travels, and women are often targeted more than men by opportunistic merchants and tour guides. However, you should try not to be too eager to be bamboozled. Keep an eye out – listen to the locals (this is where knowing a few words of the language can come in handy). Make an active effort to see the going rate for non-tourists, and then insist on it. Often, service providers will quickly back down to a savvy foreigner. This can be nerve-wracking at first, but you get better at standing your ground the more often you do it.
I agree completely – although spontaneity is an amazing trait at the time, the truth is that it’s better to be informed as much as possible about your environment if you are a solo female traveler. A good example would be if you’re arriving late at night, you should know where your hostel is in relation to your arrival spot, and perhaps know whether the neighborhood is safe. And definitely about the period tip, it’s so true. Best to just keep track of it on an app or in a notebook so it doesn’t surprise you at a bad time.