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The woman traveling alone


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#1 Admin

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Posted 08 April 2004 - 14:35

The woman traveling alone by Rick Steves, Risa Laib

More and more women are traveling to Europe, either solo or in groups. They're a grand group of adventurers, making their own discoveries and enjoying the freedom to explore what they like.

Solo travel is fun, challenging, vivid and exhilarating. It's a gift from you to you. Prepared with good information and a positive attitude, you'll dance through Europe. And you'll come home stronger and more confident than ever before.

This month my thanks go to Risa Laib, my editor, who, with the women in my office, compiled the following tips on how to turn your dream trip into reality.

BEFORE YOU GO

Get inspired. Read exciting books written by solo women travelers about their experiences (try Dervla Murphy's outrageous adventures). For practical advice, read "how to" travel guidebooks written by and for women.

Seek out other women travelers. Invite them out for dinner and pepper them with questions.

Take classes. Classes in foreign language, European history, art history or travel skills are ideal. Keep up on international news so you can discuss local politics (check www.europeantimes.com).

ON THE ROAD

Create conditions that are likely to turn out in your favor. The same good judgment you use at home applies to Europe. Start out cautious and figure put as you travel what feels safe to you. By following these tips, you'll have a safer, smoother, more enjoyable trip.

Be self-reliant. Always carry local cash, food, water, a map, a guidebook and a phrase book. When you need help, ask another woman or a family.

Walk purposefully. Look like you know where you're going. Use landmarks (such as church steeples) to navigate. If you get lost in an unfriendly neighborhood, go into a restaurant or store to ask for directions or to study your map.

Learn enough of the language to get by. With a few hours' work you'll know more than most tourists and be better prepared to deal with whatever situation arises.

At a bus station in Turkey, I witnessed a female tourist repeatedly asking in English, louder and louder, "When does the bus leave?"

The frustrated ticket clerk kept answering her in Turkish, "Now, now, now!"

If you know even just a little of the language, you'll make it much easier on yourself and those around you.

Confirm your transportation plans. Before you leave a city, visit the train or bus station from which you're going to leave so you can learn where it is, how long it takes to reach it and what services it has. Reconfirm your departure time.

Choose your seat wisely. On a bus, if you're faced with a choice. between an empty double seat and a seat next to a woman, sit with the woman. You've selected your scat partner.

When taking the train, avoid staying in empty compartments, especially at night. Rent a couchette for overnight trains. Ask for a compartment for women (available in Spain and some other countries); for about $20, you'll stay with like-minded roommates in a compartment you can lock, in a car monitored by an attendant.

Carry a day pack instead of a purse. Leave expensive-looking jewelry at home. Keep your valuables in your money belt and tuck your wallet (containing only a day's worth of cash) in your front pocket. Wear your. money belt when you sleep in hostels.
Keep your camera zipped up in your day pick. In crowded places (buses, subways, street markets), carry your day pack over your chest.

Play it smart when dealing with men. In small towns in continental Europe, men are often more likely to speak English than are women. If you never talk to men, you could miss out on a chance to learn about the country. So, by all means, talk to men. Just choose the men and choose the setting.

Be aware of cultural differences. In Italy, when you smile and look a man in the eyes, it's considered an invitation. Wear dark sunglasses and you can stare all you want.

Dress, modestly to minimize attention from men. Take your cue from what the local women wear. In Italy, slacks and skirts (even short ones) are considered more proper than shorts.

Be firm in handling pests. If a man comes too. close to you, say "No" firmly in the local language. That's usually all it takes. Tell a slow learner that you want to be alone. Then ignore him. If he's obnoxious, solicit the help of others or look away and leave the scene.

Harassers don't want public attention drawn to their behavior. I went out for a walk in Madrid one evening and a man came up much. too close to me, scaring me. I shouted, "Get!" And he was gone. I think I scared him as much as he scared me. Ask a local woman, for just the right thing to say to embarrass jerks. Learn how to say it, loudly.

If you feel the need to carry mace, take a self-defense class instead. Mace can be confiscated at the airport, but knowledge and confidence are yours to keep. Remember, the best self-defense is common sense.

ENRICHING YOUR TRIP

Here are some tips on meeting people, eating out and enjoying your nights.

Meeting people -- Stay in hostels and you'll have a built-in family (hostels are open to all ages, except in Bavaria, where the age limit is 26). Or choose small pensions and B&Bs, where the owners have time to talk with you. Consider joining SERVAS (phone 212/267-0252 or visit. www. usservas. org) and staying with local families. Camping is also a good, safe way to meet Europeans.

At most tourist sites you'll meet more people in an hour than you would at home in a day. If you're feeling shy, cameras are good icebreakers; offer to take someone's picture with their camera.

Take your laundry and a deck of cards to a laundromat and turn solitaire a gin rummy. You'll end up with stack of clean clothes and conversations.

Take a walking tour of a city (ask at the tourist information office). You'll learn about the town and meet other travelers, too.

It's easy to meet local people on buses and trains. You're always welcome at a church service; stay for the coffee hour. When you meet locals who speak English, find out what they think -- about anything.

Play with kids. Bring along a puppet or a ball-toss game. Learn how to say "beautiful baby" in the local language. If you play peek-a-boo with a baby or fold an origami bird for a kid, you'll make friends with the Parents.

Eating out -- Consider quick and cheap alternatives to formal dining. Try a self-service cafe, a local-style fast-food restaurant or a small ethnic eatery. Visit a supermarket deli and have a picnic in the square or a park (local families often frequent parks). Get a slice of pizza from a take-out shop and munch it as you walk along, people-watching and window-shopping. Eat in the members' kitchen of a hostel; you'll always have companions. Make it a potluck.
A. restaurant feels cheerier at noon than at night. Have lunch as your main meal. If you like company, eat in places so crowded and popular that you have to share a table. Or ask other single travelers if they'd like to join you.

If you eat alone, enjoy it. We rarely take or even have the time to savor our own company. If you prefer to be busy, you can use the time to learn more of the language. Practice your verbal skills with the waiter or waitress (when I asked a French waiter if he had kids, he proudly showed me a picture of his twin girls). Read a guidebook, a novel (ideally set in the country you're visiting) or the International Herald Tribune. Do trip planning, write or draw in your journal or scrawl a few postcards to the folks back home.

Most countries have a type of dish or restaurant that's fun to experience with a group. When you run into tourists during the day, make plans for dinner. Invite them to join you for, say, a rijsttafel dinner in the Netherlands, a smorgasbord in Scandinavia, a fondue in Switzerland, a paella feast in Spain or a spaghetti feed in an Italian trattoria.

At night -- Experience the magic of European cities at night Go for a walk along well-lit streets. With gelato in hand, enjoy the parade of people, busy shops and illuminated monuments. Night or day, you're invariably safe when lots

of people are around.

Take advantage of the wealth of evening entertainment: concerts, movies, puppet shows and folk dancing. Some cities offer tours after dark; you can see Paris by night on a river cruise.

If you like to stay in at night, get a room with a balcony overlooking a square. You'll have a front-row seat to the best show in town. Get a small radio to brighten your room; pull in local music, a friendly voice, maybe even, the BBC. Call home, a friend, your family. With the new PIN phone cards, it's actually inexpensive.

Learn to appreciate solitude. Go early to bed, be early to rise. Shop at a lively morning market for fresh rolls and join the locals for coffee.

Remember to treat yourself right - you're on vacation. Get enough rest, healthy food and exercise. Relax. There are other trains, other buses, other cities and other people; if one thing doesn't work out, something else will.

Thrive on optimism. Enjoy your grand adventure! -- Risa Laib

For more specifics on women's travel tips, see "Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door." Rick is the host of the public television series "Rick Sieves' Europe" and the author of 20 European travel guidebooks. His company offers. Europe tours, railpasses and travel. information. Contact Europe. Through the Back Door, Box 2009, Edmonds, WA 98020; phone 425/771-8303 or visit www.ricksteves.com.

The woman traveling alone by Rick Steves, Risa Laib

#2 julian1984

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Posted 13 January 2008 - 22:17

Thanks for the information...

#3 hokin

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Posted 02 June 2010 - 03:45

It is really nice post having nice information. It is not impossible now to travel alone.

#4 Aisha

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Posted 08 March 2011 - 00:50

Many women who have traveled alone describe an incredible sense of freedom and possibility.

#5 lance21

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Posted 05 April 2011 - 19:22

If you are confident and comfortable with our won skin then traveling alone is one of the best thing you can do. Because you know how to meet people on the spot.

#6 HeadlineActually

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Posted 07 December 2011 - 21:53

Great tips, thank you so much for posting this.



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