Did you know that according to Solo Travel Statistics and Data:2020, 72% of American women are taking solo journeys? And the tours by Tanpopo Journeys are no exception. In 2019, female travelers represented our largest customer group.
I currently take about five to six solo journeys to Japan annually, which often occur before and after leading tours, mainly on research and development, visiting anywhere from large cities to remote islands. Safety and security are always my top priority when traveling solo, but once you cover that platform, the journey itself can be rewarding and fun.
Below are recommendations from my experiences as a fellow solo female traveler to help you make the most of your next trip.
Plan Your First Night Wisely
This means book your first night of hotel before arriving in Japan and get to the hotel before dark. Book a hotel located near major public transportation on a well-lit street.
A hotel with a sound security system located in a safe neighborhood is key to safe travel. Even for a budget female traveler, there are hotels with designated “female floors” with extra security to help you travel safer. Remember to share hotel information only with close friends and family and never with strangers.
Mobility is the key to successful and safe travel, especially for solo travelers (no one will look after your luggage when using the bathroom, for example). I recommend traveling with one carry-on size suitcase with wheels, a purse or a backpack, and if you must, a handbag. Make sure to sneak a collapsible lightweight bag in your suitcase for all the souvenirs to bring home.
Get Creative About Meals
If you enjoy eating meals with others, consider joining a cooking class and other day-tour for the opportunity to gather with other and meet people. Also, why not make reservations at a notable restaurant for lunch, which is often more casual and less expensive and perfect for lunch alone. When I travel, I eat a good portion of breakfast and lunch, then eat light dinner either at a hotel or nearby.
Staff at traditional Ryokan often are friendly and very helpful in sharing local travel tips. I also make a conscious awareness to put away my phone and talk to store clerks and waitresses, which usually works well. How about consider striking a conversation with others in less touristy areas. People in over touristy destinations are sometimes frustrated with tourists and might be annoyed if you approach them with too many questions.
Join Local Tours
Okay, I admit, I do get lonely sometimes traveling by myself, just longing for any human connection. I remember on my first international solo trip after college; I felt lonely, vulnerable, and anxious even I had planned to join a group for a portion of my journey: I joined a group of monks on a peace journey across China before and after my solo journey. And it felt so good to be connected, and I felt at peace with others, especially those who spoke the same language.
So, I highly recommend signing up even for a short tour, then traveling solo before, after, or in between. Almost all our clients who book tours through Tanpopo Journeys arrive in Japan early or depart late to have those solo travel moments
Alcohol and Late Night
I enjoy select sake and wine with good company, but I cut back on alcohol and late-night hours when traveling solo. On the same note, it is never a good idea to meet a stranger at bars late at night. Instead, I get up early for a walk, especially around temples and parks, and take pictures. I find early morning very spiritual, calm, and tranquil. Have you tried morning meditation at Zenkoji temple or early morning walk along the Philosopher’s Path in Kyoto? These experiences are sure not to be missed.
Enjoy Travel with Yourself
Not really a tip but suggestions: Take pictures, keep a journey, take lots of hot baths, especially in regions known for hot springs, eat the food you enjoy, and most of all, have fun.