Dangers and Perks of Traveling Alone
09.25.2013 - 01.07.2014
Before I started my journey to Argentina I had many people express their concerns--worried about me traveling alone as a woman, and only knowing basic Spanish.
Oh, and I also got the occasional, ¨It´s a 3rd World Country!¨, which it´s not.
Not only am I still alive, but I am also experiencing things I would not have if I traveled with someone else.
I first want to start by saying yes, the world is a dangerous place, but that shouldn´t keep anyone from exploring new places and cultures. You just have to be smart.
These are ways that I have kept myself from being in dangerous situations:
1.=== I don´t get drunk===
I make sure that if I go out I only have one or two drinks, and of course I watch it at all times. When I do go out I am always with a girl that I am staying with at the hostel so we can go back together.
2.=== I always go hiking with someone else and take a recommended guide if necessary===
I have heard of girls getting killed or robbed on hikes, and not only that, no one wants to get lost in the middle of nowhere with no cell signal. When going with one other girl it can still be dangerous if on a quiet, secluded trail. I went hiking with a friend in Cafayate and we paid a guide to take us, who was recomended by the police at the trailhead.
I have hiked alone though, but it was a very popular trail with signs, where you are always seeing other trekkers.
Ask locals or other travelers about dangers and recommendations.
A guide Sabrina and I had to the waterfall
3.=== If I am lost in the city I try to only ask women for directions===
I have heard of men following women to their hostels, or being a bother when they know they are tourists. I don´t like dealing with pesky men so I only ask women questions, or elderly men that I know I would be able to outrun.
4. ===I always let my family know my next destination===
I give them the name of my hostel or address, and tell them the buses I´m taking.
5. ===I check with locals on where to ¨not go¨ at night or during siesta hours===
There are always going to be those dangerous places only at night or areas where mugging is most common during siesta (nap) time.
6.=== I don´t go home with guys===
This one is extremely important! I personally have no interest in meeting any guys here, but I have met other travelers who like to ´have fun´with people they meet in hostels. I think that´s the only safe option, but even then...
NOW I want to talk about perks of traveling alone (and as a woman).
People think that I get lonely, or that it´s difficult not being able to share my experiences with a friend, but that´s all a misconception. Yes, there are times I get lonely and times I wish my family could enjoy a beautiful view of nature with me, but mostly I am always with someone else. When I am alone, I take the time to enjoy my surroundings and meditate.
It´s also easier to meet new people. Either in hostels from different countries (or your own) or locals at shops or on buses, people are more likely to talk to you if you´re alone.
My personal perks of traveling alone:
1. ===I get invited out with locals===
I make friends with the receptionists at hostels or waiters at restaurants, and they invite me to parties or boliches (clubs) with their friends. I am able to meet more locals, and also go to places where there usually aren´t many other tourists.
These are locals of Argentina that worked in the hostel I stayed at in Iguazu. I still keep in touch with Carola.
2. ===I meet people on buses that end up helping me===
I met an older woman who was so fascinated by my trip that she gave me AR 100 pesos as a "regalo". She was so incredibly sweet that she made my night a happy one, even though complications occured with sleeping arrangements.
3. ===I checked out Couchsurfing to meet travelers and locals===
Actually you can do this when traveling with someone else, but usually people only use the site for a couch. I also used it as a way to meet up. I met up with a girl from the US that ended up becoming a great friend of mine. She even came with me to Cafayate for the weekend to hike and wine taste. Having her with me made those experiences so much better.
Sabrina and me on a hike to see the waterfall in the mountain
4. ===I lived with an Argentine family===
I decided to talk to a boy on a bus while I was on my way to a farm. We exchanged Facebook information and kept on touch. He invited me to stay at his family's cabañas for free when I arrived in Mendoza. I decided to check it out, but ended up staying at the family's house instead and fell in love with them! I stayed for Thanksgiving and cooked (& drank) with the mother. I was even invited to come back for Christmas and New Years! I did return and met the extended family. I am now volunteering for them, helping with whatever they need.
Doing this I am able to learn the culture, meet more locals, practice my Spanish, learn how to cook different foods, and see how people can be so nice to a stranger.
I now call them "mi segunda familia"
5. ===I just get hooked up!===
I have been given free food to taste, cheaper rooms, and upgrades.
In Bariloche I was moved to a private room with a view of the lake because the owner needed an extra bed in the dorm for a reservation.
People also like to give me free things and cheaper prices because I travel alone. I think they feel bad for me. I'll take it!
The view from my private room
6. ===I am able to take time for myself and enjoy the pleasure of alone time ===
I like having peace and quiet. It's nice to be able to take a walk and only hear nature and your own thoughts. I am able to meditate, take a nap, and just think about life and who I am while looking out into the mountains, trees, lakes, etc.
I learned a lot about myself and what I want to do for the world. I doubt I would have been able to do that with someone by my side all the time.
7. ===I friended a couple of guides===
When I arrived in Puerto Deseado I was a little bummed. The town was lame and I was planning on sleeping at a free campsite without a tent.
I went to a place for animal excursions so I could see the penguins, and ended up making friends with the two guides. They invited me to have dinner with them and their friends, and then at 4am took me out to a place where you can hear penguins. I didn't have to sleep at the campsite. They gave me a bed to sleep on where they were staying.
These guys made that one day one of the highlights of my trip!
8. ===I got over my fear of being alone===
I always hated being alone, especially alone and lost. Going to a country without cell phone service was scary. In the beginning I was sick from nerves and hated leaving a town where I was´settled´in. Getting from place to place made me so nervous because I was always worried that I´d miss my stop.
I finally was able to convince myself that really nothing bad could come from that and it´s all part of my journey.
9.=== Where I go is my choice===
I can go where I want, leave when I want to, change my plans last minute, and not have someone arguing with me about how they don´t want to.
10. ===Finally, I am able to meet a lot of people===
I have friended many from different countries, and have learned more about their cultures as well. I am able to hike, wine taste, dance, exchange experiences, and so on with strangers that become new friends, who I can also see again when I visit their countries (or when they visit mine).
I think it is important to explore the world on your own. You can figure out more about yourself and become more independent.
I already know that in these last 3 months I have opened my eyes to more than I have in the last 3 years.
I also want to say that I am not saying people shouldn´t travel with a friend. I just want to let everyone know that just because you have no one to travel with you, that shouldn´t keep you from going.
Peace and Love,