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Traveling while female: 5 empowering things we learned from women travelers at ZafigoX

Everybody travels. No matter the distance – within the boundaries of our home country or outside of it – we travel for leisure, we travel for work, and we travel to grow. When it comes to the latter, in particular, traveling isn’t always smooth sailing.

However, traveling as a woman comes with its own unique set of challenges, the foremost on everyone’s mind being safety – especially when you’re traveling on your own.

Nevertheless, there are those who persist, regardless of the obstacles.

Last month, these very same women came together at ZafigoX, the first travel conference organized by Zafigo, a Malaysian-based website featuring a collection of insightful guides and fascinating tales dedicated to the woman traveler in Asia and the Middle East.

Bold, brilliant and fearless, these intrepid adventurers came from across the globe – the United States, India, Australia and wherever they’re currently based – to share their stories of how they overcame various trials and tribulations during their travels, as well as what they gained from their experiences… All in the hope of inspiring more women to travel.

Here are some of our favorite lessons learned throughout the three-day conference:

#1. Don’t let your fears hold you back

Source: / Unsplash

From the moment we first share our initial dream of traveling around the world, we will undoubtedly face anxiety, be it our own or that of well-meaning family and friends.

However, it’s been said that “A ship in harbor is safe — but that is not what ships are built for.” You’ll never know if you don’t go for it, so if you feel the call of foreign lands, don’t let your worries prevent you from answering that call.

One of ZafigoX’s speakers, Petrina Thong, for example, said that it was her curiosity about hitchhiking that led her to try it out for herself not too long ago. She ended up flying to Stockholm, Sweden with just USD200 on her and hitchhiked all the way back to her hometown of Kuala Lumpur.

“It’s okay to not know what’s going to happen… Freeing, even,” she said of her eye-opening experience.

Another speaker, Kelly Lewis, travel writer and founder of Go! Girl Guides, said that women often have a discouraging mental perception of travel – that it’s not feasible, affordable, or safe.

“But there are lots of different ways to see the world, and it’s up to you to determine your own path… If it’s your dream, you can make it happen,” she added.

#2. Be prepared

Source: Source: / Unsplash

Even if you prefer an element of spontaneity, when it comes to traveling, it’s best to be as prepared as possible, so before you go, be sure to do your research!

South Korean Jin Jeong, who has spent the past six years cycling around the world, can’t emphasize this enough. “When preparing for a trip, be sure to ask other travelers about your the safety conditions or the latest news of your destination(s),” she said, adding that you should also check things like visa requirements and currency rates.

The founder of Zafigo, Marina Mahathir, said she had come up with the idea of setting up the website back in 2014 because she noticed a lack of information for women who want to travel.

“Most travel websites do not address the gender-specific issues faced by women when they travel, so to address this gap, Zafigo was born,” she said.

#3. Use the negatives as stepping stones

Splash out to sea
Source: Danka & Peter / Unsplash

Many of the speakers at ZafigoX acknowledged that when traveling, there are often things that are out of your control and that mishaps will happen. But the resounding consensus is: “Don’t let that deter you from your dreams.”  

After they shared their personal tales of the difficulties they faced in their travels, all speakers reiterated that they took the experiences as lessons learned, but were never put off from their passion to travel.

Dr. Catheryn Khoo-Lattimore, a travel researcher, encouraged female travelers to seek out activities that will empower them. “Get outside your comfort zone, because research has shown that if you overcome risk, you will experience freedom,” she said.

#4. Listen to your gut instincts

Source: Heidi Sandstrom / Unsplash

While encouraging women to overcome their doubts, the speakers at ZafigoX also advised travelers to listen to their instincts and be sensible while traveling – it’s often been the very thing that saved them from a tight spot.

Jin, who has cycled over 67,000 kilometers through nearly 70 countries, said that above all: “You should trust yourself.”

#5. Don’t underestimate your resilience

Top of the peak
Source: Paul Gilmore / Unsplash

According to Marina, who shared her early traveling experiences as a young girl, going away to a different environment is “good for one’s soul”.  

“You have a basis for cultural comparison and it changes your views on people and places… or sometimes reinforces it. I came home a much stronger person, with more belief in myself,” she said.

In the end, at ZafigoX we learned that everyone has a different motivation and a different way of traveling – but no matter what, you can always find others who are in the same shoes as you. All it takes is reaching out to a community of like-minded travelers who are sure to welcome you with open arms.

Start your adventure today – visit to book your flights and accommodation. Next stop: the world!

A storyteller with an insatiable sense of curiosity. Travel junkie. Card-carrying member of many fandoms. Heavily dependent on caffeine. Loyal cat servant. Former journalist at the New Straits Times and Hybrid News.