Amanda Black (32) is the founder of The Solo Female Traveler Network. An online community for women of all ages with wanderlust who travel around the world alone. With more than 200 000 members in their Facebook group, it is one of the largest growing groups dedicated to female travellers only.
The Solo Female Traveler Network was established in May 2016 and started as a Facebook group. Besides serving as a platform for female travellers, the community also organizes trips to different countries around the globe. These trips are for women who want to travel to a country but also want to meet new people. It is possible to come solo and get together with like-minded women. It is designed to make traveling easier and to bond with each other. ‘We already organized a meetup in South Africa, Morocco and India. This month, in May, there will be one in Cuba and next year we are planning on doing one in Antarctica. The trips happen on average once a month and can take eight to fourteen days. Within the trips we also build in solo time to explore the country’, says Amanda Black.
An unexpected twist
The main motivation behind this network is to provide each other a community, inspiration and support on the road, at home as well as everywhere in between, says Amanda. ‘I felt a great need for women like me who travel alone to have some sort of support system to go back to.’ A few personal reasons made her start this project. ‘While traveling I had experienced a couple of unfortunate circumstances alone as a female and I needed help. There were two things that happened that motivated me to start this network’, explains Amanda.
‘Firstly, I was traveling to a country where I happened to know a local who could show me around. He was kind and I trusted him. Little did I know that he was the one that tried to drug me when we were in a club. When I realised what had happened, I tried to approach a group of women and quickly told the situation. But instead of helping me, they thought it might be a scam and left me there alone. I was completely shocked and confused. I wondered how there was no sisterhood and how they could do this.’
‘Another thing that happened was when I was traveling alone in Mexico, I got robbed of everything I had. Someone broke into my room and took everything except my passport. I didn’t have any money so I wasn’t even able to go to the police station. These two occurrences made me wonder if this was a common situation. These were the major things that motivated me to start this group, in case other women found themselves in this situation’, says Amanda.
‘The Solo Female Traveler Network is a support group where we all understand each other and our passion to travel alone. I don’t want people to think of it only as a dangerous thing’, says Amanda. ‘By exchanging tips and advice all the doubts about safety disappear. It is a great way to acknowledge the country and culture you are going to. And of course is it also nice to keep in touch with all the cool women we meet on the road.’ (laughs)
The van life
Amanda Black is an American who left the United States seven years ago. That was the beginning of her living in different countries while traveling in a nomad sort of style. She is currently settled in Melbourne, Australia. Her travelling background also makes her acknowledge the different living alternatives. It is currently very popular in Australia to buy a van, pimp it out and hit the road. This is called the van life.
‘The van life is the absolute solo female traveller’s dream’
‘We have a few women in our Facebook group who live in a van. Some globetrotters live in it full-time but the majority takes long trips’, explains Amanda. ‘It is now also becoming more popular in the USA and in Canada. It is the absolute solo female traveller dream. If you are really a true female solo traveller, then you are going to love this. It is absolutely worth trying once in a lifetime.’
‘I explored the van life a bit more during the vacation. I drove all the way from the Gold Coast in Australia down to Sidney for three weeks and it was absolutely worth it. The van life might scare a lot of people because of the solitude, but it gives you the time to reflect and be yourself. You don’t have wifi and you are alone with yourself. It are the best and worst things of living in a van. It is not something for beginning travellers, but more for the savvy ones. But of course every person, male or female should try it if they have the chance.’
‘The great advantage of living in a van is that you can do whatever you want to and go wherever you want to. You have this little space all for yourself and it is great because it the most spontaneous living and travel experience ever. It makes you able to access places you really couldn’t if you just had a car and especially if you took public transportation. You can go for a hike, explore beaches and even discover that weird pink lake that is too far to explore if you were travelling differently’, says Amanda.
The Solo Female Traveler Network grew very fast. ‘It all started with a few members of women that I met on the road but now we welcome new members every day. Every member enjoys giving each other advice. It is some kind of support group where questions and help are always welcome. Our Facebook group and Instagram account now both count over 230,000 members.’
‘Besides our online community, we also have an office and guesthouse in Bali, Indonesia. We would like to create a community vibe and a home for our members. Whether it is your first solo trip or if you are a seasoned tourist: every woman is welcome. The guesthouse is a place to make friends, relax and enjoy a safe space to plan your adventures.’
‘It’s a great achievement and I am very proud of myself and all the beautiful women that helped in the long run. It’s a lot of work but it is also very rewarding. I wouldn’t have done it without the twenty volunteers who work hard on keeping the Facebook group alive. They love the community and keep the integrity intact. They are all fantastic women and experienced solo travellers. I would like to give a big shout out to them because they are the absolute heart and soul of the community’, says Amanda proudly.
‘My ultimate goal is always to create the most supportive, uplifting and honest space for women who travel solo. Whatever avenues that we discover those are the avenues we want to achieve.’
For more information about The Solo Female Traveler Network and it’s meetups click here.
Text Anne-Sophie Verkoyen, photo © Pexels