5 Ways Solo Travel is Easier for Women Than Men

There has been an enormous influx of solo female travel bloggers during the past few years.

You can find them peppered across the web easily. A quick Google search of “female travel blog” will conjure up a plethora of lists of top bloggers to follow, travel tips, and packing advice all aimed at women. However, most of these sites ignore the fact that quite frankly, women have it a lot easier trekking the world alone than men in several aspects.

To be clear, women do almost inarguable undergo more risk than men when traveling alone. We have to worry about our drinks at the bar and walking alone at night and if our clothes are ‘right’ for whatever place we’re in. (Though, to be completely frank, most of us worry about this at home too.) Additionally, there are a lot of places where it remains very, very tough to have been born without a Y chromosome, and thus peril is higher while freedoms are lower for even those of us just visiting.

I myself am a solo female traveler (most of the time) and have had the idea that women have it easier than men in a lot of ways reinforced several times throughout my journeys.

To do my best to convince you, here’s a list of reasons why us girls have it easier than the lads.

1. People will help you out more.

There’s something to be said for the old damsel in distress trope – people still believe it, and help women out a lot more than they help men. From getting directions from locals to random, chivalry-is-not-dead men who insist carrying bags up and down stairs, ladies definitely have an advantage here.

The men I’ve met and seen who are also traveling alone almost never get helped out, unless they very explicitly and politely ask for it. The stereotype of self-sufficient men who need nobody’s help makes it much harder for them to get it when needed.

2. You’re more likely to get accepted on sites such as CouchSurfing

CouchSurfing and other similar sites set visitors up with a host to whatever place they’re visiting. The host then allows the aforementioned guest to crash on their couch (or whatever) for free. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it is much easier for a woman to send out a request and get accepted than it is for a man (And, vice-versa, it’s easier for women to host.)

Even though (nearly) everyone I’ve met off of CouchSurfing has been a fantastic, interesting individual, regardless of gender, I tend to scout out my fellow women as hosts first. Almost every other solo female traveler I’ve met does the same. There are too many whispered horror stories about what happened to girls traveling alone who made the wrong choice floating around, and staying with a woman just plain feels safer to most of us. Which leads me to my next point:

3. Women look out for other women

For all of the mean-girl stereotypes surrounding women, female travelers are actually the greatest for looking out for each other. For the large part, we know we run a higher risk traveling, especially when alone.

One night while staying in a hostel on a solo trip, I had to make a run to the ATM. I asked the woman working at the counter where I could find one nearby. She started to give me directions, then told me she was worried about me walking alone at night. She called over a guy who worked at the hostel and made him walk me to the bank, even though it was only a couple of blocks away.

I’ve had countless instances like this. I’ve had girls in bars warn me away from particular men, women coming up to me if I look uncomfortable talking to someone to make sure I’m okay, old ladies making sure I’m safe.  And I do the same for other women. We keep each other. We know it’s a dangerous world out there for us females, and damn it, we have each others’ backs.

It doesn’t seem to me that men have this same, unspoken support system, but then again, it’s perhaps because their risk runs much less than ours.

4. There are special women-only perks

We all know some “women perks “from back home (Ladies Night, anybody?), which do little to alleviate from the misogynistic bullshit such as the tampon tax, but we take it where we can get it.

Travel is similar – we take what we can get.

All over the world, there are hostels with women-only dorm rooms which do not offer male-only rooms. (I have yet to see the inverse). In places like Japan and Malaysia, there are special women-only carriages on trains. Here in Korea – and scattered throughout Asia – there are women-only parking spaces located closer to doors and exits.

Of course, the measures listed above were implemented not out of ‘perks’ but rather to keep women safe from crime and harassment. However, during travel these options don’t always exist for men, leaving them more vulnerable to crimes targeting tourists – which are all too common in areas like crowded subway cars.

5. It’s easier to meet people

I can easily approach people when I travel alone, and part of this is definitely due to my gender. I’m neither threatening, nor do I seem to be hitting on people, nor am I seen as a dreaded “creeper.” Instead, I get to simply be a woman alone.

I was sitting at an outdoor breakfast cafe once in Georgetown, Malaysia when I noticed a girl about my age waiting for a table. Like me, she was alone, so I waved her over. We learned that the two of us had similar plans for our days, so we spent the day together sharing both Ubers and experiences.

I’ve done this plenty of times – met other travelers and spent wonderful occasions with them. Many of the other female travelers I’ve talked to have had similar experiences – we meet people easily and then part ways.


 

What are some of your travel experiences? Do you think that your gender has shaped these experiences at all? How fortunate do you feel to be a whatever gender you are while traveling? Share in the comments!

 

 

A (Partial) Guide to Korean Side Dishes

If you were to go to a Korean restaurant, you would immediately notice the several small dishes of food – mostly vegetables – set on your table.

These are banchan (반찬) – side dishes – and they are truly the hero we need. What makes them even better (besides the fact that they are both delicious and healthy, for the most part) is that you can ask for free refills. Much like soda in the United States, your waitress might even refill your banchan before you even finish it all.

Be still, my chubby heart.

Presented here is a guide of a few of my personal favorite banchan. It is in no way a complete encyclopedia to the myriad of Korean side dishes that bring light to this dark, cruel world, but it is a noble start.


Kimchi (김치)

dsc_0209

Easily the most famous banchan is kimchi.

Kimchi, for those of you who don’t know, is vegetables, usually fermented but sometimes served fresh, seasoned with ingredients including but in no way limited to, red pepper, scallion, daikon, and fish sauce. The most common kimchi (such as the one pictured above) is made with Napa cabbage, though many other varieties exist, such as radish, scallion, and even cucumber (if you’re lucky!).

Even though it will make your entire fridge reek if sealed improperly, kimchi is eaten at nearly every Korean meal all year around.

 

Gagi Namul (가지나물)

DSC_0292

Gagi namul is a gorgeous side dish for any table, both for the eyes and the palate.  Deeply-colored purple eggplants are steamed and torn into bite-sized chunks. The one pictured above is topped with a salty, umami soybean-based sauce and loaded with nutty sesame seeds.

I’d date it.

Kkwarigochu Myulchi Bokkeum (꽈리고추 멸치 볶음)

dsc_0210

Kkwarigochu Myulchi Bokkeum is mild shisito peppers stir-fried with fresh garlic slices and dried, salty, lightly killed anchovies. Dressed in a lightly sweet-and-salty sauce, this dish is absolutely bursting with flavor. Some people even eat it as a snack, though you might not want to kiss them afterwards.

Jangjorim (장조림)

DSC_0302

The banchan in the pretty dish above is jangjorim: soy braised beef with quail eggs. Before moving to Korea, I would have never thought to pair pulled beef with eggs, but it is a magical marriage of two equally tasty partners. If you like protein and/or delicious, salty food, this is the banchan for you.

Shigumchi Namul (시금치 나물)

DSC_0300

Shigumchi namul is blanched spinach with garlic, sesame oil, and a bit of soy sauce. The texture is two-fold: the leaves wilt down quickly, rendering them soft, but the cooking process is quick enough that the stems normally retain a bit of crunch. Sometimes (such as in the example pictured above) carrots are added for both their extra crunch and sweet flavor.

Eomuk Bokkum (어묵 볶음)

dsc_0217-1

In the above picture are something little known to the Western palate: eomuk. This is the hot dog of the fish world. It’s made from mysterious parts, all ground up and smushed back together in a process that I choose not to question too heavily.

What I know is that eomuk bokkuum, stir-fried fish cakes, are delicious. They taste like MSG and sodium, which are both scrumptious even if doctors and television adverts warn against them. The one above is coated in a chili sauce for a bit of heat.

Kong Ja Bahn (콩자반)

DSC_0297

Kong ja bahn is built of the humble black bean, slightly dehydrated so it’s both slightly tough and chewy, coated with a sweet dressing of sugar and soy. Its saccharine flavor creates a nice break from all of the salty, spicier neighbors on a Korean table.

Beosot Bokkeum (버섯 볶음)

DSC_0290

If you haven’t caught on by now, “bokkum” means “stir-fried” in Korean, and that’s exactly how these mushrooms are prepared. They’re cooked up in sesame oil, salted, and often served with pretty orange carrots for both the perfect texture, flavor, and visual combination.

Kim (김)

DSC_0303

Kim is beauty in its simplicity.

All it is is dried sheets of salty, paper-thin seaweed, perfect for wrapping lovingly around your rice. Some restaurants even bring you a dish of soy sauce to dip your mini Korean burrito in, for extra salt and umami flavor.

Sometimes, it’s nice to get back to the basics.


There are scores of different banchan  to be found that I’ve not talked about here. I strongly encourage you to shut down whatever device you are viewing this blog on and high-tail it to the nearest Korean eatery, and discover some of these delightful dishes for yourself.