“Travel is just a little bit different for us,” said Kelly Lewis, the founder of Women’s Travel Fest, at the beginning of last year’s festival, a blend of travel inspiration, safety advice, and even airfare tips geared specifically to women.
Though I had studied the schedule of speakers and their presentations, I had no idea what to expect. I was there because I loved travel and happened to be a woman, but I had never before given a thought to what being a female traveler, solo or not, really means. But it’s true: Travel is a little bit different for us. The road will never feel as comfortable and safe for me as it might have felt for Jack Kerouac—despite my vagabond fantasies.
After listening to the stories of the women who endured the worst and kept going, I realized that we were cut from the same cloth, determined to see this beautiful and dangerous world no matter what. Here are the best pieces of advice that I take with me everywhere I go.
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If you’re lost in a strange neighborhood, pretend you know where you’re going. It’s easy to let fear and anxiety show, but there are concrete steps you can take to look more confident. Simply standing up straight and looking ahead can help you look like you belong. Putting on a pair of sunglasses will also help you avoid eye contact with anyone you don’t wish to bother you.
You don’t have to be polite and you don’t have to smile back. You don’t have to talk to anyone you don’t want to talk to. Don’t let the pressure of being polite force you into a situation you don’t want to be in.
If you’re in trouble, try to make eye contact with another woman. Even if you don’t speak the same language, there’s a basic female connection and understanding you can try to call upon.
When you’re traveling, there’s a lot of pressure to say yes to every opportunity, and some of the best travel memories come from the moments when you’ve tried something new—but that doesn’t mean you always have to say yes. Never doubt your instincts.
This year’s Women’s Travel Fest takes place March 4 through 6 in New York City. Tickets range from $80 to $186. I’ll be there covering it live on Periscope, Twitter, and more.