In the spirit of finding my own “Eat, Pray, Love” I embarked upon a journey to Italy to attend a writing retreat with Pink Pangea. Through traveling by myself, I gained fundamental insight on how to enjoy solitude. Exploring new places opens you up to new opportunities and outlooks. My first solo travel experience was a success, but I knew I’d need to dig a little deeper if I were to do it again. I knew that I would have to plan everything on my own. This idea was daunting. That is, until I came across Lisa Imogen Eldridge’s book.
“A Female Guide to Solo Travel” is a beautifully detailed guidebook for the adventurous female who wishes to travel. Whether you’re a first time solo traveler or a seasoned pro, this book offers information on all things travel. Not only is it a fun read, but it’s organized and easy to navigate. If you’re anything like me, you like to know your options. While I find adventure to be a huge part of any travel, I do like to have details mapped out so I’m prepared. This book gives extensive country guides that are exciting to read, and first-hand tips from Lisa herself.
When it comes to the nitty-gritty details of travel–such as vaccinations, languages, currency and what to wear–this book has it all. Money and budgeting is a reality of travel that causes anxiety for most (including me), so I was elated to find work abroad suggestions and even ideas about saving money in the months before your travel (a rummage sale: what an amazing way to make a few extra bucks!)
I give this book two enthusiastic thumbs up, 5 out of 5 stars. I suggest this book to any woman who wants to explore the globe!
I thoroughly enjoyed the random factoids that were included, and I found the “Pro and Con” lists informative and thoughtful. Whether you plan to travel for one week, two weeks, three weeks or a month, this part of the book offers comprehensive suggestions with useful websites, transportation information, where to stay, and it even maps out the rainy seasons of each hemisphere. Information on the ‘Wonders of the World’ was a nice touch and provoked new travel plans for me in 2018, as well as Lisa’s account of trekking the Great Wall of China!
This guidebook is extremely useful and lends to the idea that the community of women travelers is growing. The number of women traveling solo is on the rise. I’m grateful to Lisa Imogen Eldridge for writing this amazing book and once you read it, you’ll see why. I give this book two enthusiastic thumbs up, 5 out of 5 stars. I suggest this book to any woman who wants to explore the globe.
I had the opportunity to chat with Lisa about her book and her own adventures around the globe. Lisa is not only thoughtful and resourceful, but also a witty woman with wonderful stories to share.
This book is an amazing resource to anyone who wants to broaden their horizons with travel. What inspired you to write this book?
At the time there weren’t many solo travel books around, especially not for 21 to 35 year olds. Now there are lots, as solo travel has exploded over the last couple of years. I wanted to inspire others to travel alone and had the crazy idea of doing it through a book. I knew firsthand how much of a personal transformation solo travel could be and wanted others to experience it too. The books that I read at the time didn’t cover everything that I wanted to know as a solo traveller, so I thought I’d try and write a more comprehensive one. They only gave general information and didn’t cover how you felt when you returned from your trip, which I believe is so important to help navigate others through the reverse culture shock that you can feel afterwards. I also wanted to include each continent, what it was really like travelling there as a woman alone and how to travel through each one. There didn’t seem to be anything like that at the time.
More women are traveling and eager to share their experiences. What did you learn about yourself when you were writing this book?
That I never wanted to write a book again (just kidding!)
It taught me that popular expression “how to eat an elephant,” as I learned how to break down each section into chapters. The book is over 250 pages long so it seemed such a huge task at the time. Chipping away at it and motivating myself constantly whilst still blogging and earning a living was a challenge at the time, but I managed to complete it within eight months, which is pretty amazing. I’m now writing a series of guide books for solos and have remembered just how much discipline you need when you’re writing a book. It definitely taught me that.
What is one piece of advice you have for women writers?
Just write. Write every day if you can. I try to write for 30 minutes each morning, even though sometimes I read it back days later and have to rewrite it. This does help your brain get through the writer’s block and trains it to write.
Also, read as much as you can. My vocabulary is so limited that I need to take this piece of advice. Reading helps to broaden your vocab and improve your writing skills.
You have a vast knowledge of travel tips and your continent guide is something I’ll carry with me for years to come. I was really intrigued and inspired when you wrote about the ‘Seven Wonders of the World’. What is your favorite ‘Wonder of the World’ and why?
This is a tough one as they are amazing. I trekked the Great Wall of China for charity for a week and absolutely loved it. Each section of the wall was so different. During some of it I was literally on my hands and feet climbing up. It was amazing. My absolute favourite has to be Machu Picchu, as the feeling you get when you stand there looking over the ruins with the mountain backdrop is just magical (before the crowds get there that is).
Your book discusses what women can generally expect in different countries, and thoughtful ways to prepare for the unexpected. What is the most unexpected thing that has happened to you during solo travel?
I appeared in a Thai soap opera! I was sitting in a cafe in Bangkok by myself and got approached by a Western woman and a Thai man who asked me if I would like to earn £15 (which was about five nights accommodation in Thailand in 2001). The next day I found myself in the back of a taxi heading towards a temple to be an extra in a Thai soap opera. Apparently they needed Western women for a scene where they went back in time to England, so I had to walk arm in arm with a Thai man dressed in a green Victorian dress around a market scene. I think the name of the programme was ‘White Rose.’ I even got free noodles too!
As women we must be vigilant and aware of our surroundings during travel. You offer a ton of helpful tips for doing this in your book. Did you have an experience that changed your perspective of solo travel to prompt this sage advice?
I would love to say no, but during a trip to Little Corn in Nicaragua I had an experience which really shook me up. For the first time in my life I thought I was going to be sexually attacked, and it changed everything for me. It was during the day so it made me really wary about going anywhere by myself. I generally run to keep fit, and a week after I went running early in the morning in Antigua and I freaked out when a car load of men drove past me and shouted at me. There was no one else around at 7am in the morning. After that I stopped running because I was too scared that something would happen to me. I’m much better now, but I won’t take any risks. I wrote about that experience here.
You’re an inspiration to women who are nervous to travel solo. You’re very brave and knowledgeable. Was there a trip you were scared to pursue, and if so, how did you conquer the fear?
Before I went to Asia I was so nervous. I didn’t know any Chinese, Mongolian or Nepali, and I was going to be living in Mongolia and teaching English to Buddhist nuns in Nepal. I was also going through a separation with my ex at the time, and had just filed for divorce. I honestly had no idea what I was doing but knew that I had to just get on the road and find myself again. I broke through the fear by just booking it and making plans so there was no going back. I cried for days at the beginning, but it made me a stronger person. It was a case of sink or swim, and you always survive. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
In the guidebook, you offer suggestions for every type of woman when visiting a new country. Are there any travel traditions and/or “must-dos” that you keep on your own roster when traveling?
I’m quite a spiritual person so I try and keep up my meditation practice when I’m on the road. I do Reiki as well, so I take joss sticks with me a few crystals to keep me balanced. What I love about solo travel is that I seem to meet the right people at the right times so I don’t plan too much, and I leave things open for serendipity along the way. This has led me to having some crazy adventures as I’m quite impulsive, but these make the best travel stories for my blog.
As for must-dos….Definitely do a walking tour when you arrive in a place. Not only does it help you get your bearings but it also helps with meeting others. I’ve been on so many walking tours where some of the group decide to go for dinner or a drink afterwards, so it’s been a great way of getting to know someone whilst learning about the city, getting exercise and finding your way around too. Many walking tours are free and you just tip at the end.
Also, sit in a park or the local square and just observe daily life. I love just watching kids playing or old men playing chess in the middle of a park. Just sitting there taking it all in gives me an insight into where I am.
What is one piece of advice you would give to a solo female traveler of any age?
Just do it. It doesn’t matter what age you are (travel is ageless), or what anyone else thinks, just book the flight so there is no going back. I’ve never let anyone stop me from travelling, even though my friends and family couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to settle after getting divorced. I just went anyway. Be true to yourself and do what you want to do. In my experience, it’s generally the people who haven’t travelled who project their fear onto those who do. My motto is “no regrets.” Life isn’t a dress rehearsal and you can’t please everyone, so live your life how you want to. So many women are now traveling solo, and it’s not just for twenty-somethings anymore. There are Facebook groups where you can connect with others and get the confidence to go it alone. It will be the best thing you ever did. Trust me.
And last but not least, what are some of your travel plans for the future?
I’ve been so lucky and have been to some amazing places. The world never ceases to surprise me with so many different landscapes. As I knock a place off my “to visit” list, another one seems to replace it. My biggest one is to see the Northern Lights, which I am saving for a future trip. It’s such a special thing to do that I want to experience it with someone. I’ve never been to Japan or Myanmar, so they are definitely on my list. This year I’m hoping to go to Lebanon and visit a project run by WarChild so that I can report about the amazing work they are doing. I want to visit the ‘Stan’ countries too. I lived in Mongolia before and never got to see Kazakhstan, so that’s on the list. I like visiting countries which are not on the main tourist route as they hold more mystery to explore.
Check out Lisa’s website, Girl About the Globe, here.