Last week we featured part one of our chat with professional travel writer, and style goddess, Nina Karnikowski. Then, we talked about her approach to style, which is informed by a desire for meaningful engagement over cultural consumption. This week, we explore the highs and lows of travelling while female and Nina shares some of the tips she’s collected while exploring the world.
Stepping out in public space as a woman can sometimes be a bold, revolutionary act – one that sparks up conversations with women who wonder what on earth you are doing. Nina explains how it creates an opening that often only exists for the lonesome female traveller:
“You do get a lot more access to feminine spaces. There are a lot of really powerful experiences that I have had because I am a woman. Like being invited into a kitchen space, and preparing a meal together. Even in the absence of language there is a different kind of communication. It’s a really great reminder of what we have in common, despite our differences. I wouldn’t give that up for anything.”
“I have had so many experiences where I’ve been by myself, and I have entered situations where women have waved me down and invited me into their space. If I was not alone, I would not be open to those interactions, and other people are more likely to extend these kinds of invitations to a woman on her own. Being a woman and being alone opens up opportunities you don’t see if you are with someone else.”
But there are hard realities too – and having travelled to all corners of the globe, Nina has racked up some frequent flyer points, and a mental checklist of what to do when things get sticky.
“First of all, it is much more difficult to travel as a woman. But I think it is something you get better at the more you do, like anything in life. There are a few things that I have definitely learned to make things easier."
Nina's Pro Tips for Ladies on the Road:
Do your research. Make sure that you are not going to an extremely dangerous place. Make sure that you don’t arrive in the middle of the night. Have your hotel number handy, and know how to get there, and who you need to hustle.
Walk the walk
Even if you don’t know where you’re going or what you’re doing, look like you do. Walk with purpose, and hold yourself in a way that communicates ‘don’t fuck with me.’ Carry a plastic shopping bag; don’t stare at tourist trinkets. Just own your space, and walk like you belong there.
Dress like the local ladies
Thinking about how you dress is important, because it communicates so much. If you don’t pay attention to what you’re wearing, it says “I just flew straight from some tourist jaunt”, and outside your own cultural lexicon it can also communicate a range of things that you really don’t want to have to deal with as a solo female traveller.
Look at how local women dress, and incorporate that into what you wear. It not only shows a measure of respect to the place you are in, but it also just helps you blend in.
Female space is safe space
Use segregated female spaces. Female only carriages, or female only floors in hotels. While it an absolute shame that there is a need for this, solo travellers should take advantage of these spaces. There is no shame in needing that sometimes.”
While common sense will hold you in good stead, Nina is not shy about the moments that are not so great. But she thinks it is worth it.
“If the shit does hit the fan I just breathe through it. I get to learn a little more about myself, and about the world, and my way of moving through it. Ultimately that is what this solo travel thing is all about.
Yes, it is harder for women, but I think it’s the most amazing feeling to come to the realisation that you don't actually need anyone else. You have all the resources within yourself to get through this situation. It is just the best feeling in the world, and I think it is worth any of those down moments.”
Sharna is the Co-Founder of The Fabric Social, a social enterprise working with conflict-affected women. The Fabric Social work to transform one of the greatest causes of poverty: armed conflict. You can shop, donate, or get involved here.