Traveling is already something both men and women can do — together or not. There are several famous solo female backpackers known for going around places alone and being good at it.
I have been traveling for more than two years, and I have traveled both with a company and solo to the different parts of the Philippines. It has been quite an adventure. Since our bodies differ from that of the men, there are some unique experiences that women have that bring more to the adventure (but I’m pretty sure men have their own unique experiences too.) As a female traveler, here are some of the preparations I do and things I pack before embarking on a solo journey.
1. Research well about the place.
All travelers — seasoned or not — will know that researching well about the place to be explored is a must. Itineraries aren’t a necessity, but it’s better to have enough information handy. Data signal isn’t always available, so when I say handy, I meant printed out, written down notes, or screen-captured information.
I had an experience when I went to this province in Mindanao; I wore shorts because I knew it would be hot. Stepping down at the airport until I reached the Ro-Ro port, I noticed that people were staring at me. I realized that they weren’t used to seeing women wearing clothing that exposes the ankles or legs. This should have been prevented if I had done a little research about that province.
It would be better if we come prepared. Knowing a lot about their culture, manners, and beliefs would also go a long way. There are places that have different customs from what we are used to back home. It would be an advantage if you’ve familiarized yourself with the place, even before you get there. Printed maps have been a great help in getting me around places, especially if I’m traveling alone.
2. Research about security/safety and weather.
Safety is priority, and presence of mind is key. Having presence of mind wherever you go is one of the factors crucial to a fun-filled and safe adventure. Researching about the place’s state, security, and weather forecast before the trip will give you a good grasp of the places you must and must-not visit.
I went to this city that’s famous for all its scenic views and tourist spots, but didn’t know that there are parts of that city that are infested with thieves. My friend lost her pearl earrings that day. For added security, I also bring a safety whistle with me, since sharp things aren’t allowed for hand-carry baggage.
3. Prepare wardrobe wisely.
Most of the backpackers that I know of don’t buy extra baggage allowance with their promo flights. I do this too because who would want to spend extra cash on baggage allowance when you can just spend it on pasalubong? To be consistent with this, I make sure that I plan my wardrobe ahead — and I mean plan down to the last piece of clothing that I’ll wear every single day. This has saved me tons of space inside my backpack.
Last night’s shirt and shorts can be the go-to shorts the next day, that’s how I usually maximize my clothes. I also make sure that I always have a sarong with me, I could opt for malong, but the former is more space-saving since it’s thinner than the latter but still gives almost the same coverage. Sarongs can be used as a sun-shield, blanket for cold, an extension to your clothing, and a towel too!
4. Always pack your essentials.
Being a woman entails that our bodies are wired a tad bit different from that of the men. We have biological functions that would require our attention — like monthly periods. It’s a bit different feeling when I’m trying to enjoy the beach trip I have been waiting for, and then suddenly, my monthly visitor comes and it’s a bit of a hassle if I’m not prepared. So, it’s a huge deal of help when I bring at least a pack of sanitary pads with me, just in case. Some prefer tampons or menstrual cups.
Your essentials could also include your gadgets. My pouch would always include at least one power bank, cords, and cables for my action camera and charger. Who would want to miss taking photos of the breathtaking scenery, right?
5. Don’t forget your skincare essentials.
Bringing sunscreen, sunblock, or anything that gives you protection from the harmful rays of the sun should also be on your list (please use eco-friendly sunscreen products). I don’t usually rely on these products to help me keep my fair skin, but to only protect my skin enough so that I won’t have sun burns afterwards. If it’s not much of a hassle for you, you may also opt to bring caps or hats with you — it helps, a lot. During short or long boat rides, these accessories can protect my face from the direct sunlight.
6. Bring a notebook and a pen.
Take note of every information that you acquire along the way. List down recommendations if you have, numbers of the locals that you get to meet, and names of places that you want to go to. Most especially, for the budget-conscious, list down your expenses. What I do is list down what and how much I paid for every time I open my wallet. This would serve as my real-time expense guide, and this will help me track my budget.
Most importantly, it wouldn’t hurt if you go to the tourism office to pay respect to the municipality and to get useful information in getting around the place. Most often, they’re willing to help you with your trip; some would even be your tour guide. They will give you the information that you need. Introducing their place to a curious traveler brings them joy and a sense of pride.
Backpacking is a way of life for me. It is more fulfilling if I know that I have gone to places on my own and I can say confidently that I did well — that’s an achievement!