When I tell people that I am travelling alone for a year, I am mostly met with 3 different reactions: Fear, admiration and sometimes a little envy.
I used to say “I could never travel alone!”. I’m not too sure why. I have been living in London for 11 years and sometimes do things on my own. I had also travelled around Europe alone for work. Yet, the thought of going away for a long period of time, far from “home”, alone intimidated me.
I am very fortunate to be surrounded by inspiring women who have travelled on their own. Just a handful, but they were more than enough to inspire me. Thank you ladies, you rock!!
Since I am going to be travelling around different countries, with different economic and socio-political climates, I’m going to dedicate one blog post per country / group of countries where appropriate.
So far I have spent a month in Hawaii and a month in California. Here is what I have to say about my experience travelling in these parts as a woman.
I didn’t know much about Hawaii before travelling there, and I must admit, I didn’t do any research prior to my travels. But since it’s a renowned (US) tourist destination, which I had never heard horror stories of, I expected a certain level of safety and I was not disappointed.
It’s challenging to speak of “Hawaii” in general, because the archipelago is composed of 7 islands and they are very different. Varying from quite urban to rather wild and rural parts. I visited 4 of the islands and I can say that my experience as a solo female traveller was very positive on all 4. (To read about my tips for visiting the islands please check previous posts: Hawaii Island hopping & Honolulu & O’ahu do’s and Don’ts )
The Aloha spirit most definitely has something to do with how welcoming the Hawaiian people were to me. However, there is a factor other than my gender which I think is worth mentioning, my skin colour. Like in most ‘ex-colonies’, there is some tension between the Haole “white people” and the locals, but my exotic looks, according to a few locals, enabled me to blend in, until I speak with my transatlantic accent that is.
Island vibes all around. Short shorts and crop tops are totally acceptable pretty much anywhere and there is very little staring, which is nice.
I didn’t go out much at night while on the islands. Apart from a couple of times with groups of friends and felt very safe at all times.
When in Maui, I was told by one of the hostel volunteers from Canada, that it was best not to walk alone at night. This surprised me, as I thought the neighbourhood seemed ok. Turns out, it was one of the less safe ones on the island. Reminded me of the importance of asking locals or people who have been there a while about local safety.
On the road
I drove a lot on my own while on Kauai and never felt unsafe, even at night.
Drivers were courteous all around.
Overall, I’d say I felt safe and even supported throughout my month long stay. On a few occasions I needed a little help, bringing a kayak from the riverside to the kayak rental for example, or, learning how to drive my automatic rental, and even finding a last min place to stay late at night, and I was overwhelmed by the kindness of the men who “came to my rescue”. I am aware that being a young woman means men in many countries around the world would volunteer to help out, yet, I am pleased to say that all my interactions with men of all ages were pleasant and respectful.
I am tempted to attribute that to the fact that “Hawaiian society was a Matriarchy” as thoroughly discussed by ‘Hawaiian libertarian‘
I spent some time in Oakland, Alameda, San Francisco, Lake Tahoe, LA, San Diego & Joshua Tree.
This was not my 1st time in SF, so I knew from my past experience that it is very diverse, in its population and its neighbourhoods. Varying from very touristic and safe to less tourist friendky neighbourhoods.
As expected in Cali, summer clothing is appropriate. SF can get kinda chilly at night, so I’d recommend packing a few warm items but you do not need to worry about revealing flesh.
I didn’t go out at night on my own, but I did have to wait a few minutes for an über late at night in Hollywood and I was cat called several times but didn’t feel unsafe.
I received quite a lot of “invitations to chat” during day time walking around Santa Monica (expensive neighbourhood in LA), but I was able to politely decline without experiencing any animosity.
On the road
I only drove in LA and I think gender is irrelevant in this case. I had been warned that traffic is terrible and drivers can be quite aggressive but I was pleasantly surprised by my fellow drivers’ patience as I navigated from one highway to another trying to make sense of what google maps was telling me.
Overall, I’d say my experience travelling around California was very positive too.
I didn’t feel like my gender gave me a disadvantage and I would recommend women to travel alone with caution of course but without fear.
I’d always recommend doing a little research before entering a “new country”, or one you have not visited in a while.
It can be helpful to have an understanding of the local culture and the gender dynamics, in order to adapt and behave accordingly.