The best part of being a hostel owner is the interesting people you meet. Travelers from all nooks and crannies of the world. Most come to St. Maarten to witness the spectacular plane landings at Maho Beach, others are here for relaxation, while some are just passing through. My absolute favourite type of traveler to welcome to our hostel is by far the female solo traveler.
I sat down with three ladies a few weeks ago to chit chat about their experiences as a female solo traveler. I wanted to pick their brains in preparation for my first solo trip, which I hope to take this year.
Meet Mercedes (24) from the Netherlands, Heather (25) from the US and Jasmin (24) from Australia.
Jasmin, Mercedes and Heather enjoying St. Maarten’s beaches. *Photo credit: Mercedes van der Weegh
When did you decide to try solo traveling?
M: A few months ago and this is my first solo trip.
H. About a year ago and I’ve traveled solo about three times now but this is my first international solo trip.
J: I’ve been traveling solo now for about 11 months. I was in the US and after that in France looking for a position on board a yacht. In between job searching I visited Croatia, the Keys and some other places by myself.
What was your reason?
H: I was tired of waiting on people, being able to match our schedules and finances to be able to go together. So I figured why not? What is the worst that can happen? And so I did a couple of places in the US first and this is my first trip outside of the US, so I’m taking baby steps.
M: My reasons are almost the same. There are places I really want to see but you always have to wait for others to make up their minds.
J: I was looking for a position on board a superyacht.
What is your experience so far?
H: Oh, I love it. By traveling solo you can do whatever you want, whenever you want, you meet really awesome people who might also be traveling alone. You get to learn so much about other people, about their cultures and about yourself.
M: Up to now very well. I was a bit scared in the beginning but once I made the first step it got easier.
J: People are more accepting of those traveling by themselves.
Heather and Mercedes at the CrewHouse Hostel, St. Maarten
What is the scariest thing about traveling by yourself?
H: I haven’t had any bad experiences just yet but the one thing that scares me the most is being a woman traveling by herself. I want to go to South America and all of these other places but I don’t feel comfortable traveling to these countries by myself but I would love to and that kind of sucks.
J: I was shit scared my first time. I actually had doubts. What if I didn’t meet anyone? Will I get lonely? What if I lose my money? Will I know what to do in a situation where I get scared?
What kind of precautions do you take to stay safe during your trips?
H: Just be smart about it. I trust a lot of the locals like cab drivers or people working at the places I stay at because they will warn you about where not to go to at night. Traveling in packs. Just be smart about it. When you take a taxi make sure it says “Taxi” on the license plate. Honestly trust the locals, the ones you can trust and above all else trust your gut.
J: You got to have your street smarts. Don’t go down a dark alley at night. If the situation is not right and you know it, then just don’t do it. Be really careful with your money and always hold your passport like it’s your first child. Don’t take it to a bar. Don’t leave it just hanging around and always keep your belongings close.
Jasmin: “Hold your passport like it’s your first child.” *Photo credit: Mercedes van der Weegh
What made you choose St. Maarten as your destination?
H: I love the beach, which is why I’m here
M: I was visiting Curaçao with friends who had to leave because of school and work. I wanted to explore a little bit more of the Caribbean while on this side if the world and I chose St. Maarten so that I can see some of the smaller islands in the area as well. I’m flying to Surinam next, also by myself.
J: I just finished 6 months on board a yacht and am currently looking for another position, which led me to St. Maarten. I’m trying to decide whether to stay in the Caribbean or head to the Mediterranean next.
The best part of solo traveling is meeting new people and making new friends. *Photo credit: Mercedes van der Weegh
What is the worst thing about traveling solo?
M: In the beginning, you feel a bit lonely and you are not sure how to handle it but this feeling disappears the moment you meet other people.
H: It can be lonely especially if you are missing someone.
J: Not having anyone to take photos with. You get really good at selfies or just location shots without yourself in it.
What are your travel essentials?
H: I pack light. You need your underwear, toothbrush, a couple of bathing suits, two pairs of shoes. Just the bare necessities. The one thing I don’t go light on is underwear. That is the one thing I do not want to wear dirty.
M: I don’t pack light at all. I always take quite some stuff along with me, a lot of different bikinis, hair products. And now that I have done my first solo travel I will still not change the way I pack.
J: Your medication or medications you think you may need, moisturizer, a good handbag and I have a travel book where I keep my passport, tickets, everything of importance. If I have that bag with me then great, if I don’t I stress.
Any other tips you can give others out there who want to give solo travel a try?
H: I would say do the research. Definitely, know the country you are going to. Learn what the locals advice you to do.
M: Make a list of all the things you want to do and see while in the destination.
H: I would start with Tripadvisor and Google.
J: If I’m traveling internationally I always carry just enough cash with me. Credit card companies tend to block your card whenever you’re traveling outside of your country as a precaution, which is annoying. I’ve always loved hostels. Yes, you worry about sharing a room with ten people and will they steal your things but it is always such a good vibe. Besides you are never in your hotel for long anyway, just for sleeping. As long as it is clean and you don’t have any scary roommates it’s great. And be safe. Always. Be careful drinking. Drunk girls make easy targets. You don’t want anything bad happening to you.
With these interviews, I hope to inspire not only myself but other women out there as well to take the step and try solo traveling.
Thank you to Heather, Mercedes and Jasmin for taking the time to chat with me. I wish you safe travels and who knows? Perhaps our paths will cross again.
Live, Love and Travel,
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