Solo travel for women is a growing trend worldwide, including in Ecuador. Not long ago, the Ecuadorian government published a list of recommendations for female travelers. While not a bad list in itself, most of the information was a guide for ALL travelers.
It made me realize how difficult it can be for some governments to talk honestly and openly about the difficulties that women face when embarking on a trip. That’s why I was happy to be gifted a complimentary copy of Wanderess: The Unearth Women Guide to Traveling Smart, Safe, and Solo.
A collaborative effort between Nikki Vargas and Elise Fitzsimmons, Wanderess unites the voices of many female solo travelers. They are also the co-founders of Unearth Women, a website dedicated to empowering women to travel by sharing stories and providing helpful Feminist City Guides.
Solo Travel for Women Is The New Normal
It’s no secret that women have long been the primary vacation planners for their friends and family. Now many women are taking the next step and embarking on solo trips all their own. Solo travel offers benefits that group travel does not, including a sense of freedom to do the things that only interest you!
That’s where Wanderess begins, with a travel quiz that helps you define your travel style. The next sections take each of the travel styles and flesh them out.
If you’re like me, you could fit into multiple travel styles, depending on your mood and the trip in question. However, for beginning travelers, it is a great introduction to understanding your intentions when traveling, an important part of planning a successful trip!
Wanderess Is Packed with Great Advice – Be Smart
I will admit that the first time I opened the book, I wasn’t very confident that it would offer anything that I didn’t already know. Its simple graphics and clean lines deceived me into thinking it was a simple book. But on closer reading, I began to find nuggets of goodness including some that will help me save money on future travel.
But perhaps my favorite section deals with managing anxiety. Any trip worth taking will have moments that bring on stress. As a woman living with Multiple Sclerosis, managing worry is of the utmost importance as too much stress or anxiety can trigger symptoms. Lost luggage, closed roads, unexpected change in plans. While it is impossible to plan for the unexpected, we can prepare ourselves to ride the wave rather than crash with it. Wanderess. offers breathing exercises and coping techniques from which even the most experienced traveler can benefit.
The Nitty Gritty – Be Safe
About a third of the way through the book, we get to the part that the Ecuador recommendations for female travelers completely leave out – sex. Their advice is spot on and encourages us to do our homework about the country where we plan on traveling.
Their advice doesn’t end there; they continue in the next section with advisories for women of color, LGBTQIA+, pregnant moms, and menopausal women. All of the suggestions are spot on and, together, they create a non-judgemental space for all female travelers looking for adventure. It’s up to you to decide to travel and no one should tell you it isn’t possible.
Traveling Alone – Going Solo
Towards the end of the book, the authors address solo travel as a subject all its own. Traveling by oneself offers up opportunities unlike a trip with your partner or friends or family.
In this section, experienced women travelers offer up their advice for best success, including how to take time to find yourself while traveling. I especially enjoyed this section because it reiterates many of the practices that are necessary for planning a transformative travel experience.
Solo travel can be especially meaningful when life throws you big questions and you don’t know the answers.
Trip Planning in Practice
The end of the book is divided into two separate sections, one on making a difference abroad, especially through volunteering, and the other on the planning process itself.
I have mixed feelings about the section on voluntourism because I am not a fan of many volunteer abroad programs. In short, be very careful about how and when you choose to volunteer. However, voluntourism is very popular and might make an otherwise unaffordable trip affordable. Wanderess tells women how to do their homework including questions that they should ask before committing to a volunteer program. This subject also felt like it should have come sooner in the book.
Best yet, the last few pages are dedicated to building your own Feminist City Guide for the destination you plan to visit. It’s a great concept. Rather than relying on the standard guidebook, Wanderess prompts you to build your own guide, a personal travel wish list. It’s a great way to see how the concepts in the book can gel into an aspirational itinerary.
After reading Wanderess, I found one flaw that bothered me. When they recommend potential countries to travel to, their lists are limited and stereotypical.
For example, when offering suggestions for the best countries for traveling solo, only 5 made the cut in a world with over 195 countries to choose from. When mentioning great places for foodie travelers, the list is heavily weighted with regions in Italy and France and the countries of Mexico, Morocco, and Japan. It feels like the latter were added for diversity not taking into account their own regional food cultures. Of course, I am a little biased as my favorite destination, Ecuador never made a single list.
Rather than offer lists at all, why not encourage readers to explore the wide range of options instead? I would recommend seeing their lists as a jumping-off point on a wonderful brainstorming mission. Dare to find the place that best fits your travel style!
In short, this is a great book for any woman looking to travel on her own or with a small group of friends or family. The advice is good, even for those joining a group tour and especially for women traveling on their own. I only wish that when I was dreaming of my first overseas vacation I had big sisters offering up this same kind of advice. I’m glad it’s available now!