Beverly Daniel Tatum’s book, “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria,” is a standout text in teacher training courses. In it, Tatum argues that self-segregating with members of our own “groups” is not always so bad.
Sometimes self-segregation is positively essential in maintaining our sanity!
I realized last week that I’d started talking with my male travel buddies as if they were women. Really, this is just dumb. I needed to be yanked over to Girl Time World immediately, before I scarred any more boy brains!
The failed woman-speak conversations with male friends would go like this:
Me: “I just can’t believe that __ and __, and I felt SO __, you know? I wondered __, and GEEZ, I was so __! You see what I’m saying??”
Male Travel Buddy: [eyes glazed over and spasming slightly from overload] “Whoa.”
I was REALLY craving some female friend love, and so when Kathy, who I met in August in Bangkok, Thailand at Lub-d Hostel, emailed me saying that I should come to the capital four days earlier than planned in order to hang out with her, I bought my bus tickets with joy.
I’ve adored my time with Kathy! Especially our gossip-filled escapade to eat “Chicken Puffs,” documented in these photos. (“Experience a new kind of puffs like you’ve never tasted before!” purrs the sign seductively, “What a filling!”)
To continue the female travel love, yesterday I was introduced to Jodi of LegalNomads.com, a brilliant and kind former corporate lawyer who, like Kathy, has now been traveling the world solo for a year and a half.
We ate a mysterious pink soup, traipsed all over Bangkok’s uber-glitzy Siam Paragon mall (check out these photos of it!), and squealed in unison when the saleswoman handed Jodi a free purple backpack for buying two books.
Thus, the Week of Women Travel Solidarity was born.. and boy did we all need it!
So, WHY is it so important for us Solo Women Travelers to have some quality time together?
1. Some things going on with our minds, bodies, hearts, and souls can only be understood by fellow women. It’s just, well, different to talk with a boy about cramps, or a weird sexist comment, or a lovesick heart, or a revelation about the future.
Jodi understood how wonderful it was to be in the luxurious mall bathroom, pictured below, and she smiled in affirmation as I snapped the photo. For men, finding a place to pee in comfort while in Thailand is less of a heaven-sent rarity!
2. In a sweeping generalization: there’s something special about the way female friends are able to affirm what you say and ask the right questions.
Affirming example 1: “I know exactly what you mean! Last month I had the same weird–”
Affirming example 2: “You must have felt so __!”
(Being affirmed feels warm and fuzzy and good.)
As for questioning, a lack of follow-up queries kills a conversation. So there is nothing like the perfectly placed: “But how did you feel?” or “So now what are you going to do?” to get that back and forth zing ricocheting towards truth and happiness. Good female friends know just how to ask!
3. With a female travel friend, you may cry. This is good, because sometimes conversations with lots of affirming and questioning lead to tears (of the positive, cathartic kind).
In a restaurant in Vietnam when I broke down in hysterical sobs, all the male friends I’d made fled in terror, while a woman I hardly knew came over and held me, stroking my hair. I deeply appreciated her kindness.
4. The more I am exploring the online travel blog world, the more I am seeing a marked difference between male and female travel sites and comments. Both are so necessary and important, and clearly this is a sweeping generalization, but… have any other people in the online scene noticed that male and female travel writers approach it all differently?
5. Fellow female travelers inspire you by showing what a solo woman traveler is capable of… and they can give you tips on how to do what they did.
Kathy has been up and down nearly every continent. Jodi revealed today that she has not only taken a month-long train across Russia and Mongolia and hiked mountains from South America to South Africa, but she has also been living in a tiny fishing village in the Philippines for the past few months! All this while maintaining heart and a thirst for learning.
All right, so we know we need female travel friends. But HOW does a lone lass abroad meet fellow solo women travelers?
1. Stay in hostels with all-female dorms. The close quarters force you to bond! This is how I met sweet Kathy: we both couldn’t sleep from the German girl’s coughing.
For similar bonding-with-women-through-shared-intensity, try taking a class or doing a volunteer job.
2. Approach lone women in restaurants (after ascertaining that they aren’t just waiting for their boyfriend to show up in five minutes).
This is scary but it works shockingly well. Just say, “Are you another woman traveling solo like me? That would make me really happy! Can I sit down for a bit?”
3. Tap into the travel bloggess scene. There are tons of AWESOME, inspirational, super-friendly female travel bloggers now! Overarching sites like TravelBlogExchange.com can help provide a road map for navigating the sea of sites and contacting authors.
4. Get friends, and friends of friends, and cyber-“friends” who you’ve maybe never even met to link you up.
Thanks to the power of Twitter, I have recently been connected with two different wonderful solo female travelers by two different American men named Brian who I have never met. Usually it happens in a Tweet something like this:
Brianepeters of NoDebtWorldTravel.com: Hey @WorldLillie and @legalnomads , I think you’re both in Bangkok this week! You two should try to meet up!
Then the gal and I start Tweeting and emailing each other, and then in no time we are stuffing our faces with pork ball soup on Silom Road and gossiping about travel scandals.
I bow to the power of the internet to create more happy connections on earth.
5. Remember that female travel buddies take many forms… and some may be back at home!
Marleny is traveling through the world of health care in Philadelphia. Meg is traveling through science education of young California girls. Gareth is traveling to China from Boston through Skype, teaching ESL.
Zoe and Emma are traveling into the realm of marriage! Franny is traveling into the world of writing, and keeping me sane with her wit and logic. A former coworker who I cannot yet reveal will be traveling into the world of motherhood!
So hurrah and six cheers of joy for wonderful women travelers! May we continue to reach out and to meet up, and may we continue to support each other.
(Sidenote: Look at these photos and see if you agree that Siam Square in Bangkok and its accompanying Sky-train are glitzy beyond belief.)
The author, Lillie Marshall, is a 6-foot-tall National Board Certified Teacher of English, fitness fan, and mother of two who has been a public school educator since 2003. She launched Around the World “L” Travel and Life Blog in 2009, and over 4.2 million readers have now visited this site. Lillie also runs TeachingTraveling.com and DrawingsOf.com. Subscribe to her monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media!
Saturday 30th of December 2017
So yes. Even the most emotionally aware guys are still... guys. It's not the same. But even a random female, she gets it.
Saturday 30th of December 2017
Sunday 26th of June 2016
I am about to head on my first ever SOLO trip out of the country to Costa Rica, It was great to hear the different tips that you had and that it is completely possible to make friends while I am gone! Any additional tips are more than welcome!
Monday 27th of June 2016
So exciting, Ashlee! Have a fabulous time!
Suzanne in VA
Tuesday 5th of June 2012
Very timely for me. I want to travel and do and would love to find a travel buddy. Not for every trip but for some it would be great. I am going to Montana in a few days and will meet friends for a few days and be solo for a few, perfect! I love the tips and will try them.
Tuesday 5th of June 2012
Fabulous! Let us know how it goes, and have a great time!
crazy sexy fun traveler
Thursday 8th of March 2012
Yeah, you are right, sometimes we just need to talk about our ''crazy girlie'' stuff that only girls understand. I do miss it when on the road!
Wednesday 9th of March 2011
Great Blog post Thanks for sharing