In a world that’s rife with drama, tension, and stress, booking a vacation is a means to escape it all. For women, the process of doing so tends to open up a world of additional issues: safety, timing, precautions, and the tiny voice we all have in our heads that delights in whispering doubts at the worst moments.
But what if rather than thinking we can’t, we actually could?
Solo Female Travelers believes this wholeheartedly and with every fiber of the strong women behind such a group, they’re making this a reality for thousands of other womxn out there.
A Defiant Act In The Name Of Solo Travel
Despite what the world may tell us, traveling solo, especially abroad, as a female is something that has always been considered taboo. The thought of a woman in another country, facing issues that a male traveler might not, is something that still draws attention to this day. In a male-dominated world, it’s not enough just to be bold - one must also be daring, confident, and clever.
These are all facets to solo female travel the group positively excels at. Through carefully curated tours, master courses, expert talks, and a supportive group of more than 135,000 womxn travelers, it’s something they can safely claim to have achieved. While Mar, co-founder of Solo Female Travelers, has had the experience of traveling solo for 20 years, many others are very new to the world of independent trips. Bridging the gap between the unknown and the real-life experience is something that came naturally to her and Meg, her co-founding partner.
“When my partner and I took over the group more than two years ago, we realized that it was quite a defiant act, in a way, to travel the world solo.”
After bringing up an excellent point during the interview regarding the fact that people travel solo for work all the time, and men do it without thinking, the realization occurred: traveling solo as a female shouldn’t be taboo at all. Rather, it’s something that should be embraced and enjoyed, just as every other positive, life-changing experience is.
Achieving The Goal
Those logging onto the Solo Female Travelers website are greeted with a slew of helpful how-tos, including a wealth of information on how to travel safely with a group of like-minded women. At the time of writing, these travel options are available:
- Tanzania (Luxe & Value options available)
- Iceland (Spring)
- Iceland (Autumn)
- Barcelona & Costa Brava
- Ancient Sudan
- Amalfi Coast
During the interview, we were let in on a little exclusive secret about an upcoming trip that has recently been added: Greek Islands Sailing.
“We’ll also go to more places that are less tourist-like, and live the good life.”
The entire goal of a trip such as this - and every trip Solo Female Travelers arranges - is to enjoy oneself while knowing they’re safe and, in reality, not entirely alone. In Greece, travelers can look forward to a privately chartered sailboat with a cap of 39 people that is a) far more of an eco-friendly, sustainable means of travel, and b) allows travelers to tour Greece like a local, rather than a tourist. This means bypassing what often becomes hours of waiting on transportation in Santorini or, the alternative: walking up 600 steps to reach its caldera.
Those who heard the early announcement also became the early birds - the trip currently has a waitlist that’s 100 potential travelers long. Don’t worry, though - more dates will likely be added once the first tours are completely sold out. For those who were able to get a spot on this trip, they can look forward to a full itinerary representing ‘the good island life.’ This includes secluded swimming spots in beautiful island coves, traditional Greek food, and a sundeck that takes up the entire upper level of the boat, as well as local land stops such as Mykonos.
“The most popular tours we have right now are Tuscany and Iceland; those two are major sellouts.”
In addition, Tanzania has become popular as well thanks to the affordability of such a trip. Whereas a safari usually comes with an extensive price tag, Solo Female Travelers splits the costs within the group, and allows two group members to split a cost. With two options available for this trip, it’s an incredible way to see the wilds of Tanzania on a solo trip without having to break the bank in order to do so.
“As you can see, there’s kind of an underlying theme behind all of our trips: Having a good time, good food, good wine, good sunshine, living the good life that [places like] Europe can offer anyone.”
An All-Female-Led Trip
On a trip like this, it’s not just the group a woman is surrounding herself while traveling that has an emphasis on female empowerment. Solo Female Travelers never works with large chains and won’t sell out to larger businesses in order to make these amazing vacations happen. Rather, they find ways to empower womxn in more ways than one - including in the country of their destination.
"And obviously all of our tours are female-led, right. So it’s not just all about the guests, it’s also about the fact that they allow us to close the circle and provide employment opportunities to the women in the country that we visit.
So we employ female guides as much as we can. It’s not always possible, but we would love for the hotels to be female-owned, the restaurants to be female-owned…”
In the event that it’s not possible to arrange guides or hotels that are female-owned, the next best thing is finding businesses that are family-run. This way, the emphasis still is not on big tourism chains; rather, it’s on supporting small, independent businesses in a way that will go back into that country’s local economy.
- Insider Fact: The boat charter from which Solo Female Travelers is renting is a family-owned business, the host for the trip is a woman, and the company does have a female captain, whom Mar is hopeful will be available for the Greece trip.
In the case of trips such as Sudan, Solo Female Travelers works with a partner who is female. She owns both the tour company and two of the hotels that are used on the trip, thus further closing the circle that is womxn-owned business, as well as womxn-dominated travel. Tours on this trip introduce travelers to the lifestyle and common traditions of Sudan, all of which are female-led.
“It’s a great opportunity for our guests to learn about what it’s like to live in Sudan, and what it’s like for the females of Sudan, for the women, for the mothers, those who work and don’t work, and understand more of the traditions and the female traditions.”
Looking Toward The Future Of Solo Female Travel
In Tanzania, Solo Female Travelers works with Glory, who was one of the first female guides in the country and was also the first female guide to summit Kilimanjaro.
“She founded the Tanzania Female Guides Foundation, and she trains women now to become guides on Kilimanjaro and safari. And so she’s trained 45 [women], and maybe even more now.”
To celebrate such a tremendous milestone, Solo Female Travelers will be summiting Kilimanjaro this year on International Women’s Day (March 8th, 2022). Along with being led by a female guide, half of the porters on the hike will be women, as well.
“We’ve basically hired… all the women that exist to go with us.” (laughs)
At the top, followers can ‘cheers’ to the female-led team when they reach the summit as they celebrate International Women’s Day.
Looking to the future, we asked Mar what that moment looked like when she realized that the group was beginning to have a significant impact on the world of solo travel for womxn. This was her response:
“I wouldn’t say it was a moment, it was more like an evolution. It’s not like we sat down and thought, ‘oh, you know, let’s change the world.’ It was more like our friend who started the community just didn’t have time to manage it when it started to grow so much… it’s a full-time job, 24/7.
… So I thought you know, I’ve always been a solo traveler so when she was looking for somebody to take care of the group, I thought, ‘I’d love to do that, I’ve always been very focused on female empowerment even in my previous jobs. I was a consultant for eight years and I was always trying to get more women in the company. Less than 10% of the consulting base were women, and so I did everything I could to hire more. I would go to all of the recruitment processes, I would go through the whole chain of ‘how can we get more women,’ I was always very involved in this and very passionate about the project.
And so I’ve always loved to travel, but I can’t do it alone right… so I reached out to Meg and together we decided to do it. But we did it because we were passionate about the topic and about female empowerment. And we didn’t sit down and think we were going to change the world, it was more of when we took over the group, we started to realize that there were a lot of needs and a lot of things that we could do, and there weren’t a lot of people advocating for us, for the community, for women like us.”
As humble of a start as it was, it was still that simple: something that spurred from a passion. Mar also went on to say that when travel slowly began again following the pandemic, the testimonials came rolling in, with many saying things such as, “Thanks to the group and the community, I finally went on my first solo trip.” This is also when she says that the final ‘feel-good moment’ began to dawn on them.
“We always joke that our next objective is world domination, maybe like Wonder Woman…”
Words Of Wisdom
When it comes to preparing for a solo trip, many women are concerned about the same thing: safety. To this, Mar, and the group, suggest several things. The first is to prepare accordingly: write down every ‘what if’ and hash it out. If money gets stolen, be sure to have a backup stash somewhere, or be prepared to wire in money if necessary. If a hotel is ransacked, be sure to wear a concealed money holder somewhere on your person so that not all is lost.
However, the biggest fear is not something physical; rather, it’s the sheer doubt that creeps in right before pressing that ‘book’ button. And to this, Mar has one thing to say:
“Just try it.”