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January 14, 2014

Single Girl's Guide: How to Travel The World

Camille Willemain used to be scared to have a meal by herself. Now she spends her days globe-trotting.

Single Girl's Guide To: Flying Solo | Building Your Own House | Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro | Driving Cross Country | Meditating for a Month | Starting Over | Spending, Splurging, & Saving

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At 24 I lived in a beautiful Seattle apartment, had a prestigious marketing job, regularly threw fancy parties, and always had a serious boyfriend. But my social plans and constant relationships were fueled by a fear of being alone. That all changed when I was laid off. A close friend announced that she was heading to Costa Rica for three months, and I decided to join her. Living with no social network and without the distractions of the modern world opened my eyes: I actually didn't need company to stimulate me after all. I had the wild jungle and the crashing sea.

So instead of beginning graduate school as I had planned, I decided to continue traveling—this time alone. Every time I squeezed onto a crowded bus alongside the locals, figured out how to communicate with a few foreign phrases, or sampled strange foods, I felt like I was actually connecting with the real world around me. Much to my surprise, this adventurous lifestyle actually suited me.

Now, two years since my layoff, I've haggled in hectic souks in Morocco, raced motorbikes down dirt roads in Vietnam, swam with sharks in the Caribbean Sea, and sailed to undeveloped islands in Cambodia. Everything I own fits into one backpack, and I live on less than $30 a day. My life isn't without sacrifice: I'm far from my family, and it's hard to have a long-term relationship. But this path brings me the most joy, and I trust that by walking it, I will be a better daughter, friend, and, one day, partner.

Want to Be a Global Nomad?

Do your research: Check out Lonely Planet's online Thorn Tree Travel Forum to read accounts from thousands of solo female travelers and determine your destination's safety and cultural norms for women.

Fake confidence: Appearing lost or confused is an open invitation for a creepy stranger. Even if you're unsure of where you're going, walk decisively with your head held high. Step into a hotel or café before you pull out a map.

Find fellow travelers: I make new friends by staying in hostels, hanging in expat cafés, and going on organized tours.

Set boundaries: If people see you sitting alone in a café, they might assume you're desperate for company. If you're not, politely tell them you'd prefer to be alone. Your responsibility is to respect yourself, not to appease another person.

MY TOP FIVE SPOTS FOR SOLO FEMALE TRAVELERS:

1. Little Corn Island, Nicaragua
2. Lisbon, Portugal
3. Essaouira, Morocco
4. Hoi An, Vietnam
5. Koh Lanta, Thailand

Follow Camille's travels at www.thisamericangirl.com


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