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TRAVELLER

International Women's Day: Celebrating Female Solo Travel

SOME OF OUR FAVOURITE FEMALE FREQUENT FLIERS SHARE WHAT SOLO TRAVEL MEANS TO THEM - AND THE SOLO TRAVEL DESTINATIONS THAT HAVE MADE A LASTING IMPRESSION.

RHEA SARAN EDITOR-IN-CHIEF OF CONDE NAST TRAVELLER MIDDLE EAST

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Five years ago, I landed at Havana’s airport on a charter flight (“Xtra Airways”) from Miami. It was 9pm, and due regulations, my phone didn’t work - nor, I knew, would any of my credit cards, which meant I needed to change my euros to cash immediately. I exited into the semi-darkness and a taxi driver stepped forward to secure his fare to the city, first escorting me to the money change counter. Armed with all my cash, I got into the taxi and we drove along largely street-light-less roads toward the city. What I marvel at most is how safe I felt throughout. I had no working phone to call anyone, I had a load of cash and I was a young woman travelling alone at night - and yet I felt completely safe. My instinct happily turned out to be right: the driver brought me straight to my hotel, I paid him the negotiated price and he helpfully hauled my suitcase into the hotel foyer. In the hotel, having checked in, I received a voucher for a complimentary welcome mojito so I took myself off to the bar, and as the only patron I ended up chatting with the amiable bartender who told me, among other things, that he often watches Bollywood movies. By the time I got myself to bed, I felt relaxed and at home.

It was a feeling that would continue throughout the rest of my trip. I explored the streets of old Havana, spent an evening at famed club Tropicana and headed to the outskirts of the city to visit Hemingway’s house. I ate meals by myself and went to a jazz club, sitting at a table for one. And never once did I feel out of place or threatened; at most I would get bemused curiosity - and that was just fine. Of course I took precautions like using a taxi driver known to my hotel for longer and later trips - and he ended up being one of the most interesting people I spoke with, giving me insights into the everyday lives of Cubans on our many journeys together. There’s a perception that poorer, less developed countries are inherently more dangerous than developed ones. I was happy to discover that’s not necessarily the case. It was a culturally rich, off the grid destination where I was happy and secure being a solo woman traveller. I’d do it again.

ASMA HILAL LOOTAH FOUNDER, THE HUNDRED WELLNESS CENTRE, JUMEIRAH

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Travelling is an incredible blessing, I love to discover different cultures, learn new things and find inspiration. One of my most memorable trips was in 2009, I went to Japan and planned the whole holiday by myself, it was such an adventure. I started in Tokyo, staying at the Conrad Hotel, and visited Mount Fuji and Osaka before Kyoto, where I stayed at the Hyatt Regency. The architecture was breath taking and I loved visiting the traditional parts of Tokyo, like Asakusa where it feels as though you are visiting the past. The beauty of the golden shrines of Itsukushima and Toshogu truly resonated with me, a sight that will stay with me forever.

Sencha Green Tea is my favourite drink, and in Kyoto I was lucky enough to enjoy the most incredible tea ceremony. I was also invited into the home of the emperor’s dressmaker, it was beautiful and filled with rows of colourful threads, I found it so interesting to see how he lived.

I was so impressed by the organisation and structure of Japanese culture, but towards the end of my trip I missed the chaos of everyday life.

RUTH BRADLEY FOUNDER AND MANAGING DIRECTOR, RUTH BRADLEY CONSULTING

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RUTH BRADLEY WITH DESIGNER RANA SALAM OUTSIDE OSLO GELATO IN MAR MIKHAEL

There’s one city that fills me with such incredible anticipation and excitement every time I visit, almost always on my own, and it’s Beirut. Over the last 16 years I’ve been so many times by myself that I’ve lost count, and each time I discover something new and inspiring, whether food, design, history or a new area. The last time I went in 2019, I extended my business trip by another 5 days specifically so I could have time to myself and see the city. I always stay at Hotel Albergo in Achrafieh, my favourite hotel in my favourite area. As a mother of three also running a hectic company, time by myself is a rarity but there’s something so incredibly exotic, infectious and seductive about Beirut - I have to go at least once a year by myself to soak up the vibes, the smells and the culture and recharge my creativity. I’m also lucky to have lots of lovely friends there and I had the most incredible day zipping around the city on the back of designer Rana Salam’s Vespa, laughing my head off. When you see a place through the eyes of a local, this changes your entire perspective. Maybe I was Lebanese in a former life, but for me there’s no place like Beirut anywhere in the world.

NADA BADRAN FOUNDER OF WANDER WITH NADA, A CULTURAL EXPERIENCES COMPANY FOR THE CURIOUS TRAVELLER.

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NADA BADRAN ON A RECENT TRIP TO CUBA

‘Wait. You’re going alone?’. ‘What if something happens?’. ‘Aren’t you nervous about sitting on your own in public?’. Those are only a few of the million and one (and I’m not even counting my mom’s) questions that I get asked when I tell my friends I’m off to my next adventure. To me, those all are excuses and self-imposed limitations. Almost everything can be figured out nowadays with some planning and google searching. But I can relate because the concept was also once so foreign to me. In my head, being my own friend sounded ridiculous. Silly. Awkward. Scary. Until I ran headfirst into my dreams, and took my first solo trip. One of the most extraordinary and empowering things I’ve learned to do is enjoying my own company is. What I’d probably describe as a life-changing moment. Not because I’ve crossed borders on my own, but because I’ve been able to learn things about myself such as my comfort with the relentless unknown, and my appreciation for the little elements in life. My most recent solo trip to Cuba was a storybook tale, one filled with chance encounters, roadtrips, and incredible conversations. It was a particularly meaningful experience because I learned to slow down and soak in the realities of life. My best memories of Cuba are of driving on its roads with my guide Mariano, talking history, reality, and documentaries, while listening to Al Green.

TUTUS KURNIATI FOUNDER, TUTUS KURNIATI RESORT WEAR

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I travel solo mostly for work. We source niche and known designers from all over the world – so I attend fashion shows and their boutiques as it helps me select the right pieces. Traveling solo works out for me for work – as it's efficient. I don’t have to rely on anyone and have a schedule that best fits my time. Because you are by yourself, you engage more with people – and you get to explore new creative ideas – time just flies by!

New York and Paris are hands down the most important cities in the fashion industry. I feel extremely safe and comfortable travelling to both the cities, but I strongly believe that any place can be safe to travel to if you adapt yourself to the local customs and expectations. A motto I always follow is “do as the locals do.”

Source : Conde Nast Traveller

@tutuskurniati official