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How Solo Female Travel Builds Confidence According to the Blonde Abroad

Photos: Courtesy of Kiersten Rich

Kiersten Rich, founder of The Blonde Abroad, explains why it is more important than ever to empower solo female travelers and educate them on ways to ensure a fun and stress-free trip.  

Kiersten Rich

Founder, The Blonde Abroad

How did the Blonde Abroad blog get started? What was the motivation behind the content on your blog?

After high school, I worked full time at a law firm to put myself through community college and took night classes so I could finish a Financial Services degree at San Diego State University. While I missed out on the traditional college experience, I was able to gain a lot of work experience at a young age. I graduated from college during the recession, so it was a scary time and the job outlook was grim, especially in the finance field. I moved to Los Angeles to work for a Wealth Management firm and started living the “young, corporate American dream.”

I was working 60+ hours each week and doing whatever I could to work my way up the corporate ladder. Despite working towards my career relentlessly for five years, I hadn’t once questioned if that path was something I actually wanted to do.

In 2011, took a huge risk and decided to take a hiatus from my career to spend three months traveling through Australia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Bali, and New Zealand and, almost accidentally, experienced the empowerment of solo travel for the first time. Wanting to keep my family in the loop of my whereabouts and share my incredible experiences, I began keeping a daily journal of my travels online (some are still on my blog!).

After that summer, I began to question everything about my goals and my purpose and delayed returning to wealth management to give entrepreneurship a chance. These were the early days of blogging and social media marketing, so it was a slow and uncertain path. But, over the next three years, I worked tirelessly to balance freelancing and living on a shoestring budget, while building The Blonde Abroad brand.

Today, The Blonde Abroad is one of the top female travel brands in the world with over 1 million social fans.

My goal for The Blonde Abroad has always been to serve as a resource for women around the world and inspire them to travel — I share everything from female travel to safety tips to photography tutorials and even started my own all-female travel company, TBA Escapes! There’s something for everyone.

After seven years, I’ve now grown the brand to a team of incredible women around the world who support the business and create the best possible resource for women of all ages to travel the world.

What research should female travelers do when preparing for their first solo trip?

Solo travel changed my life and is such an empowering experience for women! It can be a little nerve-wracking and scary to take your first trip, but there are so many solo female travel resources out there to help you.

I think that preparing properly for a solo trip is super important to feel comfortable and truly enjoy your solo sojourn. The first step is to check in with yourself and figure out what kind of experience you’re really looking for — are you a seasoned traveler wanting to push yourself and get out of your comfort zone? Or, do you want to travel without having to wait around for someone to join you? The destination you pick for your first solo trip is important!

It is critical to understand that feeling safe is not the same as feeling comfortable. Just because a place is “safe” doesn’t mean you won’t encounter different cultural norms, or a language barrier that makes you uncomfortable. It also doesn’t mean that crime doesn’t happen. A place can be super safe, but it doesn’t mean that pickpockets don’t exist!

Any destination can be traveled successfully with some preparation. Some of my favorite trips have been ones that pushed me out of my comfort zone or ones where something went wrong and I learned how strong and resilient I actually am. Personal growth is one of the greatest gifts of a solo trip.

There are lots of safety tips for female travelers on The Blonde Abroad, but here are some of my top tips:

  • Keep your valuables secure and hidden — don’t hold out your camera and cell phone while you’re walking around, keep them tucked away in your bag until you need them. You don’t want to attract any unwanted attention. As a rule, I travel with the least amount of valuables as possible.
  • Plan out your transportation ahead of time — know where you’re going and how you’re getting there and share your itinerary with friends and family back home (it relieves their worries too).
  • If you’re worried about having connection, there are many international WiFi hotspot devices available that you can take along with you on your trip.
  • Look confident even if you’re lost. Don’t walk around staring at the map on your phone — thieves typically target those who look the most vulnerable, so try to walk and appear as confident as possible. Check the map briefly every few blocks, if you need it, and be aware of your surroundings. If something feels wrong or you are getting a bad vibe from someone you are speaking with, find a way out of that situation by ducking into a hotel or shop for assistance.
  • Keep emergency phone numbers as well as your hotel/hostel numbers in your phone. I also screenshot important numbers, addresses, maps, and save photos on my phone in case I’m not able to access WiFi.
  • Make copies of your travel documents and passport and tuck them away somewhere away from the originals, just in case.
  • Don’t party too hard. If you’re by yourself, it’s not smart to drink too much or take any substance that would impair your judgment and safety.

Again, I want to stress that these are all precautions and are “over-preparing” you, but I find that over-preparedness helps me to feel at ease before I jump on a plane solo. Once you arrive at your final destination, you’ll realize that traveling solo is not so different from exploring new destinations back home.

What are your three best tips for booking a hotel in a new destination?

I always, always check reviews for a hotel or hostel before I book, especially when I’m traveling alone. If there are any red flags when it comes to safety or women being uncomfortable, that’s an automatic “no.”

Staying in trustworthy accommodation is super important — you should feel comfortable enough to let staff or management know you’re traveling alone so they can check in on you or flag your absence if you don’t return by a certain time. I always make friends with the hotel or hostel front desk staff.

Keep in mind that accommodation prices can fluctuate depending on local holidays or events, so I always recommend booking early to save money and doing research on the dates I’m visiting before booking. Hostels are a great option for solo travelers, as you don’t have the expensive costs of hotels, and you can just pay for a bed — there are some beautiful and safe hostels out there, and some even offer private rooms.

And of course, I look at other blogs for their recommendations and tips for where to stay in a destination.

Theft of valuables is seeing a 10 percent increase this year, with 20 percent of people having experienced theft while traveling. How can travelers be prepared and protect their property?

First off, I never travel without travel insurance — which covers any travel delays, lost luggage, as well as theft and medical emergencies. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Try to pack less-valuable things (just to prevent worst-case-scenario disappointment) but you should never put any of your valuables in your checked luggage. Electronics, medication, etc. should always be carried on with you, so they’re always in your possession. Luggage theft is a big problem in some countries (even in the United States), so don’t take that chance.

Pickpocketing is probably the most common issue that travelers run into, and I think it ties into staying vigilant and being aware of your surroundings and not presenting yourself as an easy target. As a general tip, don’t leave your bag outside of your reach or view, and don’t keep your phone in your hand or pocket where it would be easy to snatch. For example, the Louvre in Paris had a huge problem with pickpockets in front of the Mona Lisa! Why? Everyone is focused on the painting and their hands are so busy taking photos that they didn’t notice their wallets and phones getting stolen. Stay alert!

I also recommend doing a quick search on tourist scams in your destination, just so you know if there’s something specific you should be aware of.

What are your go-to travel essentials?

  • Earplugs
  • Hand Sanitizer Spray
  • Travel Turtle Pillow
  • Compression Socks
  • Reusable Water Bottle

What was your favorite solo trip and why would you (or would you not) recommend this destination to first time travelers?

For first time travelers, it’s no secret that Western Europe is an amazing destination as it is less intimidating and offers a well-beaten tourist path, meaning it’s easy to get around and there are a lot of accommodation options. You’ll also experience less of a language barrier most likely.

Destinations like France, Spain, Italy, and Greece are always great options. With good public transportation, you can plan in advance or be spontaneous.

My personal favorite solo trip might not be for everyone, but I think that’s the beauty in solo travel — you find out what makes you happy. Personally, I love scuba diving so many of my solo trips are to new destinations where I can explore “unda da sea.” The dive community is super welcoming and it’s a great activity to meet travelers with a shared interest while giving yourself that much needed “me” time.

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