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She Roams Solo Ladies – Alice

she-roams-solo-ladies-Alice

Alice Chen writes and vlogs about travel tips to Make Anywhere Possible for the curious traveler. She focuses on leveraging frequent flyer miles to get international flights as cheap as $25, and using the experiences of other travelers to craft your perfect itinerary! She also writes guides of attractions and reviews of her own itineraries so that travelers to places she's been can spend their time soaking in the experience, not doing research.

 


 

Tell us about your first trip alone overseas? What emotions you felt, scared, happy, excited, was it a mixture of everything? How old were you? Where did you go?
When I was still in college, I decided to go on a service trip the summer I was 19. Because the plane tickets were going to cost a small fortune (before I learned about frequent flyer miles!), I decided I was going to stop somewhere else before arriving. I spent three days in London by myself!

I think that was before I really knew how much there is to traveling – planning, interacting with people, getting from once place to another on the right bus/train, communicating with people in a different language, etc. – so I was more excited than scared or nervous. I knew I needed to be very cautious about my money and passport, but other than that, I was ready to take on London!

 

How has your experiences travelling alone been compared to traveling with someone? Do you have a preference on alone or traveling with someone?

Since my trip to London, I have done a lot of travel. Most of it has been solo, but a good portion has been with friends and family. The two are really hard to compare because they’re such different experiences. When I travel alone, it’s up to me to plan every moment of my day and make sure I’m safe. But that also means I have a ton of freedom to go from place to place, or eat that same really great dessert that I had yesterday. (Other people always want to eat something different?!)

When I travel with others, I tend to have a more solid schedule – leave at the same time, eat at the same time, etc. It’s much more structured but there’s someone there to talk to, communicate with people who don’t speak English, and just take the stress of travel planning from you. It’s also an amazing way to really get to know someone. Even though I’ve know my cousin all my life, having him take me on a day trip in Hong Kong brought us a lot closer than we ever were before.

What is your thoughts on traveling alone as a woman and the issue of safety?

As much as I hate how safety is different for men and women, it’s something that I’ve accepted. For the most part, safety is always on my mind. When I’m abroad and especially if I’m staying in a hostel, I always know where my wallet, phone, and other valuables are. When I go out, I keep them in secure pockets or under my clothes. I come back early and try not to stay out late, and try to make friends with other travelers who are alone.

Even when I’ve taken chances, I haven’t run into many problems. I think that people fundamentally aren’t out to harm you, so the chances of something bad happening aren’t high overall, especially if you are in a more crowded place. Being prepared and not putting yourself in potentially dangerous situations is a good idea. Then again, I think for Asian American women like me, it’s different than it is for white women. People, especially creepy men in developing countries and the countryside, are much more interested in (likely to bother) white women than Asian American women. That’s the reality.

Even when I’ve taken chances, I haven’t run into many problems. I think that people fundamentally aren’t out to harm you, so the chances of something bad happening aren’t high overall, especially if you are in a more crowded place.

Tell us a story about your best travel experience (with or without someone else)

It’s so hard to pick a best one! There are so many ones that I like for different reasons. But one experience that really stands out in my mind is from my trip to South America several years ago. There’s this tiny town in the northern part of the country that sits smack dab in the middle of the Atacama Desert, one of the driest in the world. Because of that climate, it has incredible views all around it!

I had just come from the Uyuni Salt Flats of Bolivia, which were stunning, and then went to Chile! The town, San Pedro de Atacama, is the home base for sights like the Rainbow Valley – one of the most gorgeous rock formations I’ve ever seen! It was so humbling to see so many different natural sights in that area, and the colors of Rainbow Valley were just so majestic. Being there, I felt this sense of awe that I’d never felt before, and I can remember standing there in front of it and just taking everything in, trying not to feel overwhelmed.

Being there, I felt this sense of awe that I’d never felt before, and I can remember standing there in front of it and just taking everything in, trying not to feel overwhelmed.

What are your top 3 favourite countries you have traveled too?

I like different countries for different reasons – I think travelers can relate! But I think some of my favorites are Chile, South Korea, and the United States. Chile is stunning, not only at San Pedro de Atacama. South Korea is underrated but has great food and is convenient to get around. I know the US technically isn’t a country that I’ve traveled to, since I’m from it, but places like New York City, San Francisco, and Yellowstone National Park are must-sees!

What are your least favourite experience or country traveled too?

I have some complicated feelings towards travel in China, both because of the country itself and because I’m Chinese American. I traveled there for a week before moving to Beijing for half a year. In general, China is difficult because they have historically been so closed off. They still are, to some extent, so you can’t use your credit cards or most of the internet (Google, Facebook, Twitter, DropBox, etc.). It’s even more difficult for Chinese Americans because locals sometimes see Chinese Americans as Chinese people, and don’t understand why there are cultural or language differences between us. Customer service reps including cashiers can be very impatient if you look like you are Chinese and speak Chinese without an accent – but you can’t read everything or describe exactly what you want like me. Chinese people also really like to show you off if you’re from the US, so there’s no way I can keep that quiet unless nobody knows me.

It’s even more difficult for Chinese Americans because locals sometimes see Chinese Americans as Chinese people, and don’t understand why there are cultural or language differences between us.

I know lots of people have incredible times in China. I’ve had them too! There are places you have to go, like the Great Wall, and I definitely plan on going back, but there’s a slightly uncomfortable dynamic where there is always a disconnect between me and the locals when I travel there.

solo-female-travel-interviewsLet’s play a game, give us the first word or sentence that pops into your head around these words. (Think experiences on the road).

FUN – Meeting new people!

TRAVEL – A way to open your worldview.

FOOD – I wish it weren’t so delicious, or I would actually be able to lose weight from all the walking I do.

MEN – You’ll meet good ones, and then you’ll meet creepy ones. Know the difference.

EXERCISE – Walking everywhere is exercise enough!

INDIA – Somewhere people seem to have misconceptions about, but I’ve heard conflicting stories.

AMERICA – People have a lot of conflicted feelings when I say I’m American – both because of the country’s history and because I look Chinese.

PACKING – A monster task! I always seem to come back with 20x more things than I left with.

JOB – Traveling is my full-time job when I’m abroad.

ALCOHOL – I have conflicting feelings – but if I’m traveling alone, I don’t drink!

DANGER – Often subjective, and I’ve found it’s better to listen to your intuition. I love being different and taking risks, but with travel sometimes it pays to play it safe.

TAXIS – Always pay more for the official taxis. They’re worth it.

BED BUGS – Thank god I’ve never had them!

LOVE – Wanderlust is my love!

FAMILY – Accept what I do, even if they don’t like it!

NEW FRIENDS – Friends made on the road remind me of a specific time, place, and feeling – I love them!

OLD FRIENDS – Keep the ones that are supportive of you, wherever you go.

SWITZERLAND – The Sound of Music? I just picture the Alps in the background.

MEN – You’ll meet good ones, and then you’ll meet creepy ones. Know the difference.

What has traveling alone taught you?

There are lessons, and then there are skills. I think it’s taught me more than I can really articulate, but honestly there is a confidence I have now that I’ve traveled alone and conquered the challenges I had. I know that there are few things I can’t take on now that I’ve traveled to almost 20 countries.

Lastly what advice would you give to someone who is looking to travel alone but is too scared?

A lot of people think that you can only really travel or travel alone if you sell all your stuff and go abroad for months, or years, at a time. I think this is completely wrong! If you’re scared, take it a small step at a time. Try to do more things alone (even a weekend trip!), and even try to think of things that might go wrong. Picture those possibilities, and then come up with a plan of how you will respond to each one. That way, when something inevitably does go wrong, you already know what you’re going to do. I have more on this topic at How to Overcome Your Travel Nerves.

Honestly there is a confidence I have now that I’ve traveled alone and conquered the challenges I had. I know that there are few things I can’t take on now that I’ve traveled to almost 20 countries.


How to get in contact with Alice  and read more of her adventures:

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1 Comment

  1. Alice Chen says:

    I’m so happy to share this interview! Thanks for having me!

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