“I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list”-Susan Sontag
Travel, whether stateside or abroad, can enhance our lives. But many single women hold off on taking trips because they don’t feel comfortable or safe traveling alone. The face is, there is a whole world out their waiting to enrich our experience as singles. Just ask Anne Banas, editor of SmarterTravel.com, contributor to Jetsetter.com and frequent solo traveler. I talked to Anne about taking that first step to travel alone, travel advice for single women and the places she loves most.
S&LF: Tell us about what inspired your passion for Travel.
My love for travel was always inherent and became obvious very early on. My first trip, at age five, was to Lake Placid, New York, where I climbed a mountain for the first time (White Face) and got to dine out every night. From a kid’s perspective, wow. After that, I was hooked on travel and took on the role of the family’s vacation planner. I had a knack for finding all the most interesting places, including restaurants, hotels, and things to do.
My inspiration for international travel came at 15 when my French teacher offered a school trip to France and Spain. From the moment the plane landed, I fell in love with Europe—the way the cars sounded when they beeped, the old monuments, the food, the timeless beauty all-around—and vowed to return again and again. To ensure that happens, I always keep a metro ticket or a bit of local currency, so I always have a reason to come back.
S&LF: What are some of the best travel destinations for single women traveling solo if they are looking for relaxation? fun/socializing/interaction with others? sightseeing/memorable tourist experiences?
I have two favorite types of vacations: city breaks and farm/country stays. I think both are great for solo women travelers.
In cities, there is so much to do whether you want to be alone (museums, monuments, etc.) or interact with others (tours, classes, etc.). When staying in a city, I usually rent an apartment. You get the experience of living among locals, plus often get personalized attention from the owner, who will usually offer tips (like where the best bakeries and markets are) and even show you around in the beginning. It’s a great way to get your bearings, especially when in a new place. You also have a local contact in case something goes wrong. Another benefit to cities is that you can walk just about anywhere and won’t need the burden of a car or won’t need to rely on others for transportation.
It’s easy to meet people in cities, too. One of my tricks is to talk to local shop keepers. Many are quite passionate about what they sell and will talk your ear off; they will also offer great advice and point you to things that are off the beaten path. Also, I recommend following your normal interests. I regularly practice yoga, so will often schedule a class at my destination; I typically find like-minded people but with a twist since they are from a different place. Another of my favorite options for socializing is to take cooking classes or even attend supper clubs, which are meals offered to the public but prepared in someone’s house; both are fun, comfortable, and more intimate ways to meet locals and other travelers.
I also love farm/country stays since they tend to be more experiential and make you feel connected even though you might be traveling solo. You can relax in the country but can also get involved with things like picking vegetables or taking care of animals. You usually get to know the owners as well as other guests, and some places offer home-cooked meals as well as classes such as cheese-making. It’s hard to get bored or feel alone. These days, many farm stays are more like country inns and have surprisingly nice amenities, too.
S&LF: What do you enjoy most about traveling on your own?
Freedom! I’m very independent by nature and love to just go. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy traveling with others, but that can be challenging if your travel partners have different travel values or energy levels. Many times with groups, things turn into a “hurry-up-and-wait” situation or people spend endless amounts of time on deciding what to do. When traveling solo, I plan a rough itinerary a bit in advance (usually the evening before) and will head out all day to see the things on my list but also to wander around to discover the unexpected. It’s virtually stress free and I don’t have to make compromises. Another benefit is that I tend to meet more people when traveling alone and am more likely to try to speak the local language since I have no one to rely on but myself.
S&LF: What do you remember most about your first solo trip?
I remember being absolutely terrified and thought I made a huge mistake once I arrived. But afterwards, I regarded it fondly as the best trip I had ever taken. I learned the huge lesson that most fear is not based on reality. The trip itself was wonderful and quite life changing.
S&LF: What basic safety tips would you give to single women traveling alone?
Be smart and confident. I always recommend for women—or anyone for that matter—to arrive at a place during the day, when more businesses are open and more people are around to help you. Plus, places you’ve never been can seem intimidating at night. Also, never give out your hotel room number (ask the hotel clerk to write it on a piece of paper rather than say it out loud) and don’t post your current location on social media. I rarely tag my specific location, but when I do, it’s always after I’ve left. Also, try to dress like the locals, follow local customs to the best of your ability, and exude confidence. Once I embraced those three things, I found that people were more likely to ask me for directions than harass me.