In a few short weeks, Kate Bringardner will embark on her second solo international travel experience, and she wants to spread the news. Many women I’ve spoken to lately have expressed the desire to travel alone but are held back by similar fears: safety, money, time. Well, according to Kate, it turns out we don’t have to wait for a travel companion or amass a small fortune; we can be comfortable traveling as “a lone lady” and not see ourselves as an “alone” one.
“A single female can go just about anywhere she wants to go. The beauty of traveling alone is that there is no one to tell you that you shouldn’t do something. You learn to rely on your own instincts. Women have a heightened sense of awareness anyway — it goes with the territory of being a woman — the same common sense pertains to travel. Be aware of your surroundings, but be willing to take a little risk, even if it means ordering something off the menu you have never heard of.”
So, to assuage our greatest fears of solo travel, here is Kate’s advice on how to save money, stay safe, and have the time of your life on your independent journey (You can also follow her at @katebvocal on Instagram).
|Kate takes a ride up to the Amalfi coastline in Sorrento, Italy.|
Travel on a budget
Kate’s first piece of advice is to shop around for cheap flights. She makes a modest living being “creatively employed” as a leadership and communications coach, so in order to finance her trips to Rome, Naples, and Sorrento, Italy, Kate spent months finding affordable flights. She refuses to pay over $600 for a plane ticket, so she always searches for three to five destinations with flexible dates. In April, Kate returned to Italy on a flight purchased for $470 round trip!
In order to save on accomodations, Kate uses Airbnb and finds rentals for around $60-80 per night with a kitchenette, so that she can prepare some meals at home. She recommends, especially if you are a repeat customer, making connections with the rental owners. For her return to Italy this spring, Kate contacted the owner directly and was able to secure a discount. Being a memorable guest always helps — Kate always packs little bottles of Kentucky bourbon, bourbon balls, and Louisville postcards as gifts to pass out to her newfound connections.
|This area overlooks Mount Vessuvius located outside of Sorrento.|
Travel within the region is inexpensive. Kate says she could travel between Italian cities with a $50 plane ticket. She’s also rented a scooter to ride up and down the Amalfi Coast (with absolutely no prior experience, adhering to her own advice of learning to take a few risks), and has traveled by train. Above all, Kate says we shouldn’t be afraid to negotiate. Just ask, “Can you give me a better price on this?” Most of the time, Kate says, they do.
On Staying Safe
“Trust your gut on who to engage with. Meeting people is an important part of travel, so just know when to disengage. Don’t feel like you have to be nice to everybody,” Kate suggests. “When you go out alone, at least I noticed in Italy, no one automatically assumes you are available. I could go out and be comfortable in my own space without being approached. Men came up to me on the street, but not at a bar or restaurant.”
On the ninth day of her last solo trip to Sorrento, Kate left her phone in a taxi cab. Ironically, the experience was liberating. She couldn’t rely on the comfort of a palm-sized computer to avoid eye contact when going out alone, so being without a phone helped her gain confidence. She now carries a book of crosswords with her when she travels alone instead of relying on the crutch of the phone.
“Undoubtedly you will have moments when you are frustrated and overwhelmed, like when I realized I had lost my phone and had no idea what to do next. Learning to step back and breathe, consider your options, and find the humor in the situation is invaluable. I learned to realize that a bad day in Italy is still better than a bad day at home. I learned to live by this mantra: expect nothing, enjoy everything.”
Her last piece of advice for staying safe abroad, and the one closest to my heart, is, no matter where you go, find an Irish Pub. “They are convivial and lively and you can have a cheeseburger and a conversation in English if you get homesick. That was the first place I went when I lost my phone. They couldn’t do anything for me except pour me a drink and commiserate with me, but that was step one. Irish pubs have instant intimacy of travelers, people connect, and they help ground you in a way.”
What to Pack
- A great pair of stylish and comfortable shoes; something you can dress up or down like a pair of metallic flats
- “A lightweight pashmina is worth its weight in gold! It keeps your neck warm, adds a pop of color, and dresses up the same black outfit you wear all the time.”
- A denim jacket and a stylish raincoat
- A great shoulder bag with a smaller clutch for the evenings
- “Pack light. You will wear the same basic outfits every day. I still pack one dressy-dress, just in case, but everything else is usually black with a pop of color.”
- A great pair of sunglasses (to be purchased abroad as the perfect souvenir)
- A big coffee mug and instant coffee if you are traveling to Europe. Drip coffee was hard to find, so Kate liked to fill up her mug in the Airbnb to start her mornings.
- Stock up on feminine products before you go. A box of tampons in Italy cost 24 Euros (that’s about $19!).