How did you get started traveling?
I first started traveling through band and choir in high school. We traveled to a bunch of cities along the East Coast and even spent a week in Beijing, China. I did not travel much throughout college, so by the time I was ready to graduate, I was ready to explore!
Why did you decide to take a solo trip to the United Kingdom?
If I had had a friend whose timeline and destinations matched up with mine, I wouldn’t have traveled alone, but my priorities were not finding a traveling buddy. I had WWOOFed in New Mexico and Texas the previous summer alone and had no problems, so rather than spending my time changing my plans for someone else, I decided to plan my own trip.
Tell us about your experience as a solo traveler in the United Kingdom?
Even though I traveled alone, I was never lonely. My choice of accommodations (staying with Couchsurfing hosts and in hostels) allowed me to meet tons of people. I never had to change my plans for anyone and sometimes mapped out my destinations a few days in advance! The United Kingdom was a great place to start off my backpacking trip; I knew the language and was familiar with more of the sights and cities on my list. The UK has a lot of great hidden destinations too, so I was able to discover new cities that completely stole my heart (here’s looking at you, Bristol!)
What recommendations do you have for solo travelers in the UK?
I would recommend checking out the UK in the summer because a lot of people are going to be on similar backpacking trips! If you want to meet people, there are tons of ways to do so. I just published a post on 5 Ways to Meet People While Traveling that you can check out for more tips.
What was the best part of your solo trip to the UK?
Oh gosh, do I have to pick just one thing? I guess I’d have to say the best part of my trip was being surrounded by new experiences and creative inspiration. I had just graduated college and although I had taken creative writing and music classes, I hadn’t had much time to focus solely on what I wanted to write or create. Having free time to visit the museums in London, read in Glasgow’s beautiful parks, and write was extremely beneficial to figuring out who I am as a writer.
What was the worst part of the trip?
The logistics of moving from one place to the next. Spending two hours alone waiting in a train station when I could spend two hours at an art museum were usually tiresome, and then I had to figure out how to navigate an unfamiliar public transportation system…putting my backpack down in my hostel/host’s home was always a great relief.
Are there any safety concerns for women traveling alone in the UK?
I felt more comfortable in the UK than other countries on my backpacking trip because English is my native language.
That’s not to say I didn’t run into any sketchy situations. Once, I had a host whose intentions weren’t just to host me (if you know what I mean) and once I arrived in a city with no sort of accommodation whatsoever.
The best way to avoid these situations is to always keep your guard up. Later in my trip I became too comfortable with leaving my day bag next to my feet rather than on my back…and it was stolen. (Not in the UK, though!)
What advice do you have for women who are traveling alone?
I grabbed this from a newspaper article my parents made me read before my trip: if you’re unsure of what neighborhoods/bars/sites to go to, ask local women for advice. The women at the front desk of your hotel or hostel will be able to tell you where women specifically feel safe or unsafe.
Also, go with your gut feeling. Any time I had a gut feeling about a Couchsurfing host or a neighborhood in a city, I was usually right. Don’t be afraid to turn people down if you don’t feel comfortable being with them.
Do you have anything else to add to inspire women solo travelers?
Just do it! Women are constantly told they can’t or they shouldn’t do something just because they’re women. Traveling alone has been so empowering…solo women travelers are proof that in fact, we can do anything or go anywhere that we want.
About Megan Okonsky
Megan has always had the travel bug crawling around her feet. The past four years she has studied at Temple University in Philadelphia, making sure to go on WWOOFing adventures and music festival road trips in between semesters. Megan currently lives in Austin, Texas and is trying to figure out what’s next! Her blog details tips and tricks she’s learned from a three-month backpacking trip in Europe, updates on her volunteer work, and fun travel playlists.
Women Who Travel Solo
Women Who Travel Solo is a weekly column that shares the stories of women’s solo travel adventures in hopes of spreading the message that traveling alone is not only safe, but wildly rewarding. Inspire other women to travel solo by sharing your story with Something In Her Ramblings. Email Lauren at firstname.lastname@example.org.