If you’re an independent minded gal who’s been longing to leave it all behind and head out to see a bit of the world then The art of solo travel, a girl’s guide by Stephanie Lee could be just what you’ve been waiting for – read on for my review….
Stephanie Lee’s story is one that many women can identify with – a career girl who had travelled for a week or two at a time but always limited by the constraints of a job, who one day decided that she wanted travel longer term and gave up her job to do so. On her return she decided to try and inspire other solo female travellers in her first book on The art of solo travel, a girl’s guide.
Who’s this book for?
Stephanie paints a picture of a fiercely independent, stubborn and unconventional girl who loves to travel but I think this book is for any girl that wants to travel solo but just needs a little encouragement to turn her dreams into reality. Although the book seems to target single career girls it could appeal to a wide age range, from female gap year students, to career girls wanting a change, to single older women wanting to travel, or even for those travelling with a girlfriend. Many of the tips could be for any solo traveller, male or female, but I really like the way that this e-book targets female travellers, with a mixture of practical advice and an inspirational ‘Go for it’ message, that’s very appealing.
The book is divided into different sections covering everything a girl travelling solo might need to know;
Part 1 – Why travel alone?
In this first section of The art of solo travel, a girl’s guide Stephanie covers the advantages and disadvantages of travelling alone. The reality is that although you are free to travel to your own agenda, there may be times when you’ll be lonely or be the target of unwanted male attention. Stephanie also recommends a 6-12 month planning period in which you work out what do about your job and your home while you’re away and manage the reaction, positive or otherwise of friends and family. And then if there’s a special someone in your life, how do your broach the subject of your travel plans with them?
Stephanie gives some ideas of where you might travel – a very subjective topic as one girl’s dream destination is another’s last place on earth. I felt that this section was less strong as Stephanie gives ideas of places you might consider and a feel for what you might expect there, but the options only gave a flavour of the posibilities. Japan, Egypt, South East Asia, Europe and Australia are mentioned, but what about Africa, India and the Arab world?.As Stephanie points out, she hasn’t been everywhere and is only giving sharing her personal experiences of these destinations, but perhaps it would be possible to incorporate the views of other female travelers on the pros and cons of each region.
Section 2 – Preparing to go
Stephanie gives some really useful advice on packing, the type of luggage you might use, lists of clothing, toiletries and other things you’ll need. This section would be really useful to the less experienced traveler to use as a packing checklist. Of course, we all know that we should pack less, but sometimes tempting to try and squeeze in just one more pair of shoes!
In these days when the most remote hostels are full of folk updating their facebook page, there’s a useful section on the gadgetry you’ll need to accompany you on your travels. Although I confess to being a bit clueless on technology and am not a long term traveller, I didn’t feel Stephanie’s gadget recommendations would hold true for everyone. I was interested to see that she suggested an internet enabled phone could cover the need to keep in touch and that you didn’t need a lap-top unless you were aiming to work on the road, yet suggested that an e-book reader might be worth packing. I think that if I was on the road for any length of time, I’d invest in a light and inexpensive netbook perhaps paired with an external hard drive and not bother with the Kindle. Technology is one of those things that everyone has their personal view on and it’s worth thinking carefully about your needs before you set off – you can always pick up an extra sparkly top but it’s more complex and expensive to buy technology en route.
Part 3 travel more, spend less
This section of The art of solo travel, a girl’s guide covers the financial aspects of your trip, how much will it cost and how will you find the money? Stephanie shows us how much she spent for a year of traveling – a surprisingly low Aus$15,000 – did she really keep a note of all those costs, how organized! The vaste majority was on airfares and other travel but hardly anything on accommodation – due to Stephanie’s top moneysaving tip, to find accommodation through couch-surfing and other similar websites that connect travellers.
Stephanie has some excellent tips on how you might make savings to fund your travel anything from cancelling your home telephone & Cable TV subscriptions to bringing your own lunch to work and making your own coffee rather stopping at Starbucks. All of this assumes that you’ve got a reasonable income to afford these little luxuries in the first place and I suspect that the more impoverished among you, such as students would need to find fund-raising ideas rather than cut back on spending income they don’t have.
Part 4- Flying, sleeping, eating, living
I did find the section on flying less gripping, but I guess there could be some less practiced flyers out there than need to know how to check in and when to go to the bathroom on the flight! However, the hints on using couchsurfing to find accommodation could save you a small fortune. Stephanie gives tips on how to ensure that hosts are more likely to accept your request and how to be a good guest.
I’m a member of Hospitality Club and mainly host other travellers although I sometimes contact local residents through the website to meet up for a drink when I visit a city. I know how it feels to be on the receiving end of a request for four people to stay on your floor for a week (that was a no) and the request from someone whose pen name was ‘Drunken hippy’ or something similar also got a polite decline! I’ve noticed that as we make it clear that we are a family, I often get requests from single women and I do believe what Stephanie says, that it’s an excellent way for single women to travel, provided you choose your hosts with a little care. The section on travelling by bus, train and other public transport options was a fairly general, but it’s difficult to cover this in much detail when each country has so many variations.
Part 5 – Men, women and other stuff
In this section Stephanie give tips on eating well, staying healthy and safe on the road and keeping morale up when you’re getting a bit travel weary. Also she covers ways you might get round going out and eating alone without making yourelf an obvious pick-up target. Finally Stephanie gives some useful links to websites you might want to use as resources to plan your travels.
Overall, I found The art of solo travel, a girl’s guide by Stephanie Lee is an e-book that really inspires girls to travel solo and feel that everything is possible, while also giving a lot of helpful information. I found some of the sections a little lacking in detail, I think mainly because they were based on Stephanie’s personal experience and let’s face it – no-one can get everywhere and try everything in the world. Perhaps if this book was ever updated Stephanie could draw on the experiences of other women travelers with different experiences to fill those gaps. I also thought that the possibilities of working and volunteering might have also been mentioned – some parts of the world really lend themselves to these types of travel and women often like to give something back to the communities they visit.
I loved the visual appeal of this book too – it has an easy to read presentation, lots of photos and some nice graphics than made it a pleasure to scan through. Overall this e-book gives an excellent overview of solo travel for girls that would inspire you to make your dream a reality and kick start your planning process. I could imagine it being really helpful to those who have been on shorter trips but not really experienced the realities of long term travel. I’d certainly recommend it to friends or even my teenage daughter who’s showing every sign of becoming an intrepid traveller.
The art of solo travel, a girl’s guide is available to download on-line at a price of US$12.95 and if you’re undecided you can even read a few pages for free to see if it’s for you. If you buy through any of the links on this page, I will get a commission on the sale, but never fear dear readers – I value you enough to give you my honest opinion.
If you want to hear Stephanie talking about the book, you can also listen to or download a podcast interview with Stephanie Lee at Indie Travel Podcast