Nicole Brewer is a solo traveler who founded ILuv2GlobeTrot, a travel blog and community.
Traveling alone as a Black woman can come with extra challenges, but thorough research and finding a community go a long way.
Brewer shares her top tips on traveling alone, as told to reporter Yoonji Han.
I began solo traveling after I was laid off in 2009.
My solo travels began when I was laid off during the last recession and moved abroad to South Korea. As an expat who's lived in different countries since — like South Africa and Germany — I realized there were so many opportunities to travel and see the world. So far, I've traveled to more than 50 countries, around 30 of which have been solo trips.
Now, I live in Oman in the Middle East. I'm an English teacher by day and travel blogger by night, documenting my trips and tips on a website I co-founded in 2012.
I love solo travel because I like having control over my plans. One thing with traveling with friends or family is you have to compromise. I like having the freedom and flexibility of waking up one day and deciding that I want to chill at the pool, or go out and have some adventures.
I've also grown as an individual and learned so much about myself. Traveling in general is an educational experience, but when you navigate a new place by yourself, there's real strength in that.
Traveling solo as a Black woman can come with extra challenges.
You have to have a thick skin and be confident in who you are when you travel solo, particularly as a Black woman.
I fortunately haven't had any overtly threatening encounters. More often than not, people are curious — like kids in Cambodia calling me Beyonce or Michelle Obama.
But sometimes, you're a Black woman and you stay at a ritzy resort by yourself, and you feel like some people are giving you the side-eye. I've also had experiences in Europe where people thought I was a prostitute: I remember when I landed in Seychelles and went through immigration, and they peppered me with so many questions like where I was staying and if I was meeting anyone, even after I showed them my business card.
My number one tip is to extensively research a place to see if it's appropriate for solo traveling.
I'm a big nerd and used to work in market research, and I always thoroughly research destinations to see if it's fit or safe for a woman, especially a Black woman.
On top of normal travel research like tours and activities, one of the first things I do is look up is how many Black people are at the destination. I'll read up on other Black female travel bloggers' posts, reviews on TripAdvisor, and look through social media like Facebook groups and Nomadness Travel Tribe, an online community of Black travelers.
I like to plan for the best, but prepare for the worst. But I also take some things I read online with a grain of salt: Just because it happened to one person, it doesn't mean it'll happen to you.
I also try to find a community of expats or other travelers I can fall back on.
Another important part of my research is looking for my tribe — whether they're expats living at the destination or a fellow traveler who'll be there at the same time. The beauty of having a travel group is that people will post where they're going and have meet-ups, so that even though you're solo traveling, you won't be alone.
Knowing I have these networks and a community I can fall back on can be invaluable. Once, when I was solo traveling in Korea, I had a co-traveler who took care of me after I got swine flu. I've also met some incredible friends along the way, like the woman I started my travel blog with.
For extra safety, I'll send my itinerary to my mom or a friend.
It's important for me to make sure someone knows where I am while traveling solo, so I'll always send my itinerary to my mom or a friend. That way, I feel a little safer when I'm in a foreign country alone.
I'm big on respecting the local culture and will pack accordingly.
I always make sure I research the laws and customs of the destination I'm traveling to. For example, if you're going to a place where most of the community is Muslim, you'll want to pack some more conservative clothes.
When it comes to budgeting for solo trips, I always over prepare.
As a solo traveler, you always have to over prepare, and that's also the case with budgeting. You have to pay for the hotel room by yourself, with no one to split the cost with. I always have a little extra spending money, because you never know what can come up.
I also make sure I have a credit card with travel insurance and that I have a little extra spending money, because you never know what can come up. My go-to is the Chase Sapphire Reserve, which has tons of benefits for travelers. Hilton Honors and Marriott Bonvoy both have good programs. I'm trying to get better at building up points, so I can get a couple free nights on a trip.
A lot of people are scared of traveling alone, but I've learned there's more good in the world than bad.
One of my biggest takeaways over years of traveling to different places and experiencing so many cultures is that there's more good in the world than bad. More often than not, if you're lost, people are willing to help you.
I think there's this stigma around solo travel — fears that someone's going to try to rob you or something bad is going to happen. But I can count on one hand the negative experiences I've had, compared to all the beautiful, positive memories I have from solo traveling, and I want to inspire people to get out there and see the world, because it has so much to offer.
Read the original article on Insider