Solo Travel Tips from Wanderess’ Co-Author

Do you ever wonder about booking a trip and exploring all on your own? But then maybe you contemplate if you can really do it, will it be safe, would you know what to do and where to go?

The authors of “Wanderess,” which was released in February 2022, answer all those questions and more.

“Wanderess: the Unearth Women Guide to Traveling Smart, Safe, and Solo” covers all the questions women might have about take a solo trip including tips for women of specific communities such as women of color, moms, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community, as well as what to do when traveling while experiencing menopause, pregnant, or on your period. This book includes advice from co-founders Niki Vargas and Elise Fitzsimmons, the co-founders of Unearth Women’s magazine, plus insights from travel experts and influencers who travel for a living. Wanderess will help you plan a solo trip that supports the local women and women-owned businesses, discover your specific travel style, find affordable travel, experience ethical and volunteer opportunities while traveling if that interests you, and build your own feminist city guide during your trip. There are also tips on how to stay safe while traveling and even practicing safe sex abroad—because you never know when you might encounter someone that will pique your interest.  In addition, you will find helpful checklists and packing guides, plus tips on how to reduce your travel anxiety when traveling abroad alone.

Vargas in Varanasi. (Photo courtesy of Nikki Vargas.)

I met Niki Vargas, one of the authors of this book, while on assignment on a press trip in 2014. Vargas is not only one of the authors and editors of this guide, but she also co-founded Unearth Women, which is a women-founded travel publication with a mission to lift women’s voices and show travelers how to support women worldwide. Unearth Women publishes “Feminist City Guides,” plus the latest in travel news, and tips for planning your next trip. Originally from Colombia, Vargas is a new York City-based journalist who is also currently an editor for Fodor’s Travel. Vargas has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America plus the New York Times, Vogue Spain, and Travel + Leisure for her work with Unearth Women. She has also spoken at various travel summits such as the Women’s Travel Fest, Women in Travel Summit, and the New York Times Travel Show as an expert in women’s travel.

We had the opportunity to chat with Vargas about what inspired her to publish Wanderess, what are some of her favorite solo travel destinations, what scares her the most when traveling, plus a few tips you might be able to use.

 

Q&A

What inspired you to write this book?

We were originally approached by the Clarkson Potter team at Penguin Random House with the idea for this book! They had come across the work my co-founders and I were doing with Unearth Women and really loved the concept of our Feminist City Guides, which they felt would lend itself nicely to a book. The rest, as they say, is history.

What did you hope to accomplish by publishing this book?
From the get-go, it was important that Wanderess be a diverse book that incorporated many voices and experiences of women across the travel space. The first step in achieving this was really stepping aside and realizing that I can only bring one lived experience to the table. I worked closely with our publisher to pull together a list of women to contribute to the book and lend quotes to the text, and from there I worked on editing the book into a distilled manuscript for publication. But to answer your question, what I really wanted to accomplish was putting out a new kind of travel guidebook that speaks to the nuanced needs of women and does justice to the work we’ve done at Unearth Women.
How long did it take you to put this book together? When did the idea first come up?

Like most travel companies, Covid really threw a monkey wrench into our timeline. Wanderess was originally set to release in Spring 2021, but my publisher (very wisely, I might add) delayed the publication date until the following year when travel was a bit more realistic. But pulling together the actual book—from start to finish—probably took about a year or so. The thing is, this book was truly a collaborative effort with many cooks in the kitchen, which made the task of writing and editing a book less daunting. For my next book, which is a memoir coming next year from Harper Collins, the experience is very different as it’s just me!

Have you ever had any scary experiences when traveling alone?
As an admitted hypochondriac, being sick abroad is truly one of my fears. While traveling in the Philippines, I got very sick with stomach problems and had a choice of whether to board my plane or be admitted into a local emergency room. Thankfully, I managed to pull myself together enough to fly home and get medical care stateside.

Vargas in San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua. (Photo courtesy of Niki Vargas.)
What has been the most surprising or most rewarding to you while traveling alone?​
The most rewarding part of solo traveling is the freedom to wake up each morning and decide what I want to do that day. Not what I need to do. When solo traveling, you’re beholden only to yourself and your needs. In short, you have full permission to be selfish, which is something we, as women, don’t often get when we’re caring for our children, our families, our work, and our friends.

When not traveling alone, who is your favorite travel partner and why?

My boyfriend of 7+ years, Jeff, is my favorite person to travel with. There is nothing that makes me happier than being in a new country with him and having adventures together abroad.

Vargas at the Laoag City airport. (Photo courtesy of Niki Vargas.)
Favorite vacation spot?
Cartagena, Colombia

Best vacation spot for solo traveling for women?
For a first-timer, I think London is a great option as you don’t have to worry about any language barriers and the city is easily walkable.

What’s one-not-to-miss experience women should try to do while traveling alone?

Take time to connect with a local woman! Whether you use online travel groups like Wanderful or Girls Love Travel to find a woman to grab coffee with or you strike up conversation in your hotel lobby—it’s amazing to make new friends abroad.

Packing must-haves for women?
Anything that brings you comfort.

How do you plan your trips?
I have a list on my phone of all the places and trips I hope to one day take. Whether it’s a train trip through Italy or hiking in Patagonia—I like to refer to this list whenever I’m planning my next adventure.

Do you have any favorite tours for solo female travelers?

Not one, in particular, but I do like to use Airbnb Experiences to look up women-led walking tours and food crawls.

Stay tuned for our book review on Wanderess coming soon. Here's the 4-1-1 on Vargas.
Age?

34

Hometown?
New York, NY
Occupation?

Editor, Fodor’s Travel

Founder, Unearth Women

Author, Wanderess

Company?
Unearth Women

Fodor’s Travel

Have you traveled solo? Where have you gone and what's your favorite destination to travel to alone? What was your favorite experience about traveling alone?

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