Tag Archives: travel

4 Reasons to Travel Alone

You’ve thought about it. You have the time. You have the money. But…

Surely it would be more fun to travel with a friend, right?

It’s pretty common to think about travel as a social activity that you need to share with someone else. Often we think it will somehow be easier, more fun, or safer with a friend.

I’m writing this post to say that that’s not necessarily the case. Here are some reasons why you should travel alone– if only once in your life:

4 Reasons to Travel Alone

1. To remember just how amazing you are

Too often when you travel you will find yourself doing something amazing– seeing famous places, meeting interesting people, or taking your first ever train ride, for example.

When you do these things with another person, you don’t tend feel like “you” did them– you feel like “we” did them.

When you travel alone, though, suddenly there is nobody else to give credit to when you manage to order lunch in Spanish or find your way back to your hotel at night. You’ll have to realize just how amazing you are.

2. To learn about your faults

Just as you will give yourself credit for the good things that happen during your trip, you will also have to recognize when bad things happen.

If you lose your hotel key while traveling alone, you can’t blame your companions– it’s all on you!

Accepting responsibility for your actions and learning to see your faults helps you to grow as a person. You’ll become more aware of your own limitations, and more comfortable with yourself as a person.

3. To discover your true interests

When you’re alone, it’s all up to you. Whether or not your friend wants see the modern art museum is completely irrelevant.

Should I stay and watch the funny mimes on the street, or head to the museum before it closes?

If you want to stay, you can! If you don’t, then don’t! My favorite moments are when I find myself trying to decide what to do next.

Should I go out for a drink or should I head back to the hotel early?

Normally there are other people involved when making these decisions. Even when we’re alone at home we tend to think about getting things done in the interest of others– sleeping early to not make your boss angry by being late, going to the museum because you told a friend that you would, etc.

When you travel alone, though, you’ll be forced to form your own preferences and opinions. As a result, you’ll come to more fully discover your true interests.

4. To meet the locals

If you’re traveling with others, it’s much more difficult to speak with the locals. You might be embarrassed to try speaking a foreign language in front of your friends, or just more focused on your own conversations than with striking up a dialogue with somebody new.

You can meet the most amazing, interesting people when you travel. And when you travel alone, you’ll be much more likely to approach a new person– or have a new person approach you.

Have you traveled alone? How did it go?

[Cover Photo: Sheep and shepherd on the border between Portugal and Spain.]

Traveling Alone– Not Traveling Lonely

Yesterday I arrived in Istanbul for a 3-week vacation… by myself.

View pulling away from the airport in a bus headed to town

Yikes? Nearly everyone I told assumed that I must be coming with a friend. When I said I was traveling alone, they asked if I’d be meeting up with friends.

I worked in Istanbul for 8 months, so yes, I’ll meet up with some people I know. But actually, I didn’t come here for others; I came here for me. I came here to spend some time with myself. I’ll:

  • Choose what to do by myself
  • Choose where to go by myself
  • Shop by myself
  • Get lost (and found) by myself
  • Get mad by myself
  • Feel great by myself

and it also means that I’ll:

  • Eat by myself

Eating by yourself, I’ve been told, is scary. Unless, of course, it’s fast food. But why?

Today’s lunch: Turkish mantı, like small raviolis, with dried mint and sumac

We may tell ourselves that it’s too expensive to buy a fancy meal if it’s not going to be shared. We may also think that it’s just a waste of time. But if you’ve ever actually done it then you know the real reason why most people don’t– there’s a stigma.

In fact, as a woman, if you eat dinner alone in a fancy restaurant it generally looks like you just got dumped. If not that, either you don’t have friends or you’re on a business trip and your flight got delayed. Whatever the case may be, you’re a sorry soul.

I’ll never forget the day I ate alone in Houston, TX, after a last minute visa appointment. A couple who came in before me paid for my bill on their way out. It was a beautiful, touching gesture that brightened my day, but I also had to wonder– do I look that lonely?

Tonight’s dinner: Levrek (sea bass) and Efes (Turkish beer)

So to fight off that stigma, tonight I went for a nice looking, fairly crowded fish restaurant. Because, after all, who doesn’t like fish? After explaining to the server that I was just one person and, no, no friends were coming to join me, I had an excellent meal.

After finishing, a Turkish couple next to me spied an English book on my table. I immediately heard them whispering: “Yes, it’s English. Go for it. Hello. Just hello.

They’d seen my book and they knew they could practice their English with me. I looked up, smiled and said hello first.

Where are you from? What are you doing here? How long are you staying? Why do you speak Turkish? Do you like drinking raki?

The restaurant brought us Turkish tea and and we chatted for over an hour. The boyfriend loved my choppy Turkish and I was delighted to have my first decent Turkish conversation since arriving. The one person who was not delighted, however, was the girlfriend.

Turkish women are stereotypically extremely jealous. Her one question to me was whether I had a boyfriend or not. ‘Yes,’ was not a satisfactory response. The next question was if she could see a photo of him. And then a photo of him and me together. And then: why has your hair changed? Is that really you? Are you sure you’re not lying about having a boyfriend in order to get close to mine?

My street for the next several days

To be fair, the couple explained to me that they were not together anymore and they were dining to decide if that would change. As the unofficial referee, I’d probably give it a no. Jealously, I was told, was tearing them apart.

I made them both smile and laugh and we ended the conversation by exchanging information and loose promises to meet up sometime in the days to come.

That’s the thing about traveling alone: you rarely end up alone.

“Dealing with” your period abroad

What is the best way to deal with your period abroad?

Dealing with your period abroad can be a bit tricky. And as a student, I’ve found that most study abroad programs don’t properly prepare you for the challenges involved.

Not all countries have the same sanitary or birth control products. Plus, the stress of travel can cause your period to be extremely late or not occur whatsoever.

Feminine Sanitary Products – And Their Availability – During Travel


Do you use sanitary pads for your period? Then you’ll be pleased to know that they are the reigning international feminine product.

They can usually be found in either grocery stores or pharmacies.


If you use tampons, you will have to know where to look to find them.  In many countries, tampons are not very popular because using them is associated with a loss of virginity. Many women plan to remain virgins until marriage (or at least keep up such an appearance). Therefore, they never use tampons.

So far, I have never been to a country where I couldn’t find them in a pharmacy in a city. However, they are almost never found in grocery stores and they may be impossible to find in rural areas.

Keep in mind that you might not want to publicize the fact that you are using them. Even as a foreigner, you may be subject to social stigma if people assume you are not a virgin — especially if you aren’t married.

In many places, the only tampons available are those which are inserted with the finger. If you are not familiar with these tampons, you might consider experimenting with them before a long trip abroad. They’re easy to use, but take some getting used to. They may also be cause for concern if there is no way to wash your hands directly after using them – this is an even bigger sanitary concern when using a moon cup.

Moon Cup

The moon cup is a lesser-known menstruation solution.

It is a reusable cup that it inserted into the vagina in order to catch the blood. The likelihood of finding these in a store anywhere is slim (though they are becoming more popular), and most likely you will have to order one offline. That said, since it is reusable you can take it with you when you go abroad.

There are many travelers that swear by this method since it creates less waste and removes of the necessity of searching for sanitary products while in a foreign country. The problem, though, is that you are likely to come across restrooms where it will be impossible to effectively clean the cup. This is especially true if you are traveling to rural Africa or any area with pit toilets (that do not flush).

Also, sinks may be in a public area. So ask yourself if you’re comfortable washing out your menstrual blood where other women can watch.

Birth Control

In many countries birth control can be obtained cheaply and without a prescription.

However, you may not be able to find a specific brand. Ask yourself if you are comfortable changing the amounts and types of hormones in your body by switching to a readily-available brand in your host country. Depending on how long you are going to be abroad, you might just decide to bring a few extra packs from home for your trip.

In other countries, a doctor’s prescription is required for birth control.

This is, for example, generally the case in Europe. If you’re still adamant about using birth control to deal with your period abroad, your best option is probably to stock up on birth control before heading out. However, it you plan to be abroad for over a year, you might look into using the medical system in your host country.

In France, for example, medical insurance is required for all foreign students, even if you are only there for a year. Moreover, women’s health services are free and really good quality. Plus, heading to the doctor’s office can be a good test for your language skills… if you’re up for the challenge!

Should I use injectable contraceptives to stop my period while abroad? 

I was once appalled to read a study abroad preparation guide that suggested the use of injectable contraceptives, like Depo-Provera®, to stop periods during travel (for 3 months at a time) in order to avoid “dealing with them.”

This could be a great option if you are already using injectables. That said, if you’ve already got a great regimen going, don’t feel obligated to switch things up just because your period might be “annoying.”

After all, travel already puts your body through incredible stress. If you are thinking about changing birth control method, you should probably do it long before you start traveling so you can make sure the new method works well with your body.

What about using birth control to skip my period?

A lot of girls who already take birth control experiment with skipping the sugar pills (or placebos) in order to avoid having a period at what might be an “awkward moment.”

I understand that some birth control prescriptions are made so that this is possible. However, you should double-check with your doctor before trying it.

My period stopped, but I’m not pregnant? It could be stress-related!

It is true that the stress of being abroad may cause your period to be early, late, or more or less frequent.

In some cases you might stop having your period altogether.

I know women who simply did not have their periods during most of a full year while abroad! It’s not because they were pregnant, but because of the stress on their bodies. And it wasn’t necessarily stress that they felt mentally.

If you think about it, it’s actually a good thing. Your body is protecting itself by refusing to allow you to reproduce if you’re too stressed out!

Should I take start taking birth control before traveling to regulate my period abroad?

In order to prevent the scare of a late, early, or non-existant periods, it is sometimes suggested to start taking birth control. Plus, birth control can help with cramps and acne. After all, these are issues that nobody wants to deal with while hiking up mountains or crossing countries with only a backpack.

I have personally always used birth control during my travels. Because of this, I have always had easy to deal with, regular menstruations. That said, it bears repeating that you shouldn’t feel obligated to take birth control just because you are traveling. Plenty of women (ahem — most women) have periods every month, in every country of the world. There are options.

If you do decide to start taking birth control, you should probably start long before you leave to make sure it works well with your body.


[Cover photo: Orchid from the Orchid Festival in Concepción, Bolivia.]

Hair Removal and Travel

Am I Clean and Tidy?

What is the best way to shave your legs when you’re constantly traveling? There are several options for hair removal (be it armpits, legs, etc.), but when you’re caught in a flurry of flights, hostels, and public transport, some ways may be easier than others. The fact is: you can’t always expect to have a hot bathtub to leisurely shave your legs.

Waxing: This requires more money and an appointment. Unless you do it at home (I’ve never been so successful), in which case it requires the wax, strips, and often some way to heat the wax. For traveling, this is obviously not the ideal option since you may not know the language well enough to make an appointment along the way and you may not have your time (or money!) budgeted well enough to make an appointment. Additionally, you may not have room in your luggage for the waxing equipment and may not have an easy way to heat the wax.

Shaving: This doesn’t last as long as waxing and razors might cause a problem if you are flying without check luggage. Also, it can be a bit uncomfortable to do (razor burn!) if you don’t have hot water and shaving cream. That said, it is pretty easy to get razors almost anywhere and they are usually pretty cheap if you can live with the disposable ones. This is a good option, though still not an ideal one.

Epilation: About a year ago I bought an EpiLady epilator. It’s a small, battery-powered machine (about the size of two decks of cards) that contains lots of tiny tweezers in it. Essentially, it tweezes your hairs out at the root, providing a long-lasting shave. The best part about it though is that it can be taken anywhere, even on planes, and once you buy the machine you won’t need to buy anything else (no waxing strips or extra razor blades, etc.) However, it can take a long hour to get rid of all your unwanted hair and, the first few times at least, it hurts!

Permanent methods: Think– laser hair removal. I suspect that this is the best hair removal method of all. I have yet to try this, however, so I cannot say for sure. Admittedly, the price is extremely restrictive on this method especially since the process may need to be repeated more than once to get rid of all hair. However, the good news is that it is cheaper in some countries than others, which may make it more affordable depending on where you travel and for how long.

[Cover photo: Mirror at a museum in Cardiff, Wales.]