The 7 Biggest Myths About Teaching Abroad Alone as a Woman
At 25 years old, I heard Peru calling my name and could no longer ignore it.
I dreamed of moving abroad alone again after teaching English in France — and it was finally happening, with TEFL certification in hand.
Unfortunately, many friends, family members, and acquaintances had a different reaction. I saw wide eyes and heard words of concern.
Instead of sharing in my excitement, I spent most of my time fending off people’s fear-mongering questions or convincing them that my plan was actually a good idea.
Spoiler alert: it was a fantastic idea.
Women have all heard the warnings before: Don’t walk alone at night. Keep your purse close to you. Never leave your drink unattended.
We’ve been raised listening to these stock warnings, and then we hear them again and again as if they’re novel ideas. For women traveling alone, those warnings get even worse.
If you’ve decided to teach abroad alone as a woman, you might feel dismayed about the reactions you get. You’re probably excited and a little nervous, but mostly looking forward to this incredible event.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of myths out there that discourage women from traveling alone or pursuing their dreams in general. Not to fear — most of these myths are just that. And if you truly have the will to travel alone, you’ll still be able to do it in style.
Here are seven myths that women hear about teaching abroad alone (and why they’re totally wrong).
1. You’ll Be Unsafe
This line gives me the most eye rolls. To be fair, it’s rooted in a real and understandable fear: women face gendered violence everywhere in the world, and it’s happened to too many of us.
But here’s the thing: The United States isn’t exactly a safe haven for women. Take, for example, how one in every four women experience sexual violence during our college years. So, are your parents or friends warning you not to go to college because of that possibility? I didn’t think so.
The truth is, living in this world as a woman carries a certain degree of risk. Nothing is guaranteed. Yes, your safety might be compromised while alone abroad, but it is most likely to be compromised by an acquaintance or someone you know.
With that in mind, it’s necessary to be aware of the risks but decide to live life anyway. Life is a little unsafe. But traveling solo, and living out the dreams you’ve always wanted to? There’s nothing more rewarding.
2. You’ll Feel Lonely
Some people like solitude more than others, but it’s a straight up myth that women teaching abroad alone always feel lonely. That’s because when you’re moving abroad solo, it’s even easier to get to know people on the road.
When you’re traveling alone, you’re not tied to anyone else’s schedule. You can squeeze into group tours without taking up a lot of space. Your travel life is more flexible and open.
You’ll get to know other English teachers who are also eager to make new friends. And if you decide to do Couchsurfing while you find a new place, you’ll have even more options for staying with and meeting new people. That’s because it’s easier to take on one Couchsurfer than multiple people.
Long story short — the idea that women traveling alone are lonely is usually a big myth.
3. You’ll Be Taken Advantage Of
My family members feared this the most for me, especially when I moved abroad without a support network. And that fear is understandable.
But I still believe that just as anywhere else, you can quickly determine which relationships are worth pursuing, and which you should shut off or draw strong boundaries around.
For example, when I moved to France to teach English, I stayed with a Couchsurfing family. Giving me a free place to stay and eat was just the beginning of their kindness. My Couchsurfing host mom drove me to the bank to open up a new account, helped me find an apartment, lent me a bike for the year—she even signed as a guarantor on my lease. Can you believe it?
It’s incredible how people will open up to you and help you when you’ve landed somewhere new. I often found the gestures of kindness and generosity to be mind-blowing during my time abroad.
Does that mean nobody will ever try to take advantage of you? Of course not. But just like your life at home, you need to trust your gut, go where you feel safe, and firmly say no to situations you’re not comfortable with. Chances are, you will be treated with more generosity and kindness than you might expect.
4. You Should Never Go Out at Night
I’ve seen this piece of advice plastered all over women’s solo travel books and blog posts — never go out at night! As soon as the sun goes down, hole up in your bunker and don’t enjoy the city you actually came to see!
On this notion, I call B.S. Late nights out on the town are some of the best times I’ve had abroad. Often, it’s when you really get to see the city come to life and let loose in a way you can’t during the daytime.
As ever, all this requires is common sense that you would use anywhere else in the world. Again, the United States isn’t exactly the safest place in the world. But if you don’t go out at night every once and a while, you’re simply missing out on life.
So, as usual, be smart. Know where you are. Know how you’ll get home. Be prepared with some phrases in another language if necessary.
If you’ve already met some of your fellow teachers, go out in a group. When you’re traveling alone, you’re never really traveling alone.
5. You Can Never Drink
Oh, boy. How often do we as women hear about drinking, even outside the scope of travel? Always watch your drink at a bar. Don’t ever get drunk in public. Don’t go drinking at night.
NEVER HAVE FUN IN YOUR LIFE.
By no means am I telling you to get blackout drunk or totally smashed while you’re teaching abroad alone. I think we can all safely say that’s a bad idea when you’re in a new place, whether you’re a man or a woman. You’ll also have to consider the cultural norms for the country you’re visiting.
Some of the best times I’ve had abroad were when I went out and had drinks with new friends. The key is doing what you always do as a woman living in this world. Use your reason. Know where you are. Don’t drink to the point that your judgment or senses are so impaired you won’t be able to figure your way out of a paper bag.
You can have the best of both worlds. It just takes a little bit of smarts and planning.
6. You’ll Have to Pay More for Lodging
At first glance, moving abroad alone can seem expensive. You won’t be able to split the costs of getting established with a friend or fellow travelers. But once again, this myth isn’t all that it seems.
Women traveling alone have plenty of options to stay in low-cost or discounted places because they’re alone and not paired up with other people. While hostels and Couchsurfing come to mind, you may even be surprised at the affordability of Airbnbs in certain countries.
Don’t let your financial situation prevent you from doing what you want — you can definitely find a way.
7. You’ll Regret Not Going with Friends
I love my friends. They’re one of the best things about my life. And going on trips with them can be even better!
But there’s something to be said about striking off on your own, having new adventures, and meeting new friends. Whenever I move abroad solo, I’m more open to new experiences and meeting new people. And I’ve definitely never felt alone while traveling — in many ways, it’s hard not to meet people.
Teaching abroad solo also gives you the opportunity to meet up with friends on certain legs of your trip. You won’t be stuck with one or the other, but may be able to see a bunch of them instead.
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Are you ready to teach English abroad?
If your heart is set on teaching English abroad alone, don’t let these myths get in your way. Traveling solo will be an empowering, incredible, and unforgettable experience.
The best news of all? You don’t have to wait on anybody else to go do it.
Speak with an ITTT advisor today to put together your personal plan for teaching English abroad.
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