By Barbara Foster
Perhaps more than ever, women are willing to ditch their traveling companions and go solo when it comes time to hit the road and see the world.
A survey by Small Luxury Hotels of the World, for example, revealed that between 2011 and 2012 there was a 53 percent increase in the demand for rooms by women traveling alone.
The London Daily Mail also reports that some hotels have taken steps to make their accommodations more appealing to women traveling on their own, with such features as women-only floors.
Still, despite the trend, many women may worry that such solitary excursions carry too many risks, making them a target for thieves, kidnappers and other criminals.
But one woman who has logged endless miles exploring the world and finding romance says it doesn’t have to be that way.
“There is no reason to let your fears keep you from the adventures you can experience,” says Barbara Foster, a veteran globetrotter and author of the book “The Confessions of a Librarian: A Memoir of Loves.” (www.threelovestory.com)
“Sure, there are risky places and bad types out there. But with the right precautions, women can travel solo with confidence, visiting the places and meeting the people they always dreamed of and returning home with wonderful stories and memories.”
Foster speaks from experience. Her travels have taken her across the country and around the world, with stops in Istanbul, Bombay, Buenos Aires, Jerusalem and other locales.
As an adventurer, Foster is something of a contradiction. She describes herself as a librarian who has difficulty reading flight schedules, and suspects a haggling merchant in an Arab bazaar would view her as easy pickings.
He would be mistaken.
While Foster has spent a professional lifetime in academia, and co-authored books on such esoteric subjects as Tibetan Buddhism, she also is steeped in real-life experience.
Foster, who says solo trips can be deeply rewarding for women, offers five tips for traveling boldly while staying safe.
• Steer clear of the most dangerous locales. Simply put, some places just aren’t worth the risk, so avoid “no go” neighborhoods, cities and countries. For example, if you feel compelled to go to the Middle East, visit Israel, which is the safest Middle Eastern country. Still, if the destination is truly important to you, go ahead and take the risk. India can be dangerous and Foster says she was nearly kidnapped there, saved only by the intervention of a librarian friend. At the same time, she says, the country offers a once in a lifetime experience.
• Connect with friendly contacts. Make yourself known not only to the U.S. embassy or consul, but also to people in your field, Foster says. During her travels, Foster wrote articles about libraries she visited. Her fellow librarians were a protective group.
• Learn the language or at least useful phrases. Even if it’s just a few key words, speaking the language can come in handy if you need to seek assistance. Understanding what others are saying also can alert you to potential dangers.
• Dress wisely, pay attention to manners and spend money in moderation. Essentially, don’t draw unnecessary attention to yourself. In her book, Foster recounts a visit to Istanbul where she watched horror-struck as two Turkish men slapped a young British woman for wearing a miniskirt on the street. For added protection against thieves, Foster recommends carrying money and identification in a pouch under your shirt.
• Travel in the USA. You will miss many of the world’s must-see places, but if the thought of traveling abroad holds too much stress for you, it might be better to stick closer to home. Foster says two of her favorite U.S. cities are New York and New Orleans, both great places to explore.