The following interview on solo female travel in Tajikistan comes from Jennifer.
I was born in Chicago and grew up in Florida. I studied ecology, and after two master’s degrees in California and Massachusetts, I went on to become a zookeeper in Boston for a couple of years. From there I took a year off to travel alone and spent the majority of my time in South America, Africa and Asia.
Returning from that trip, I decided to switch careers to one that would let me travel more often and live abroad, and I became a biology teacher. Within two years I started working at an international school in Switzerland and have been there for seven years.
I spend at least nine weeks each year traveling to new places, using the other five weeks to visit family back in the states. I’ve now been to over 100 countries, but I’m still looking forward to many new adventures to come.
Why did you decide to travel to Tajikistan by yourself?
I usually travel alone, and I always like to travel to new places. This part of the world was relatively unknown to me. Ten years ago, I met another solo female traveler and learned about her travels in Central Asia. It seemed like such a daring place to travel at that time, and she has always inspired me. This year I decided that it was the right time for me to go, and Tajikistan became a part of my larger Central Asia trip.
>>Traveling in Central Asia? Check out this packing list for trekking in Kyrgyzstan.
Did you have any trouble traveling solo there?
No, I didn’t have any real troubles. Language barriers were the biggest issues, but people were so friendly and interested in communicating that we made it work.
Did you ever feel unsafe?
No, I never felt unsafe. All of the people I came across were very friendly, and eager to help when they could. It’s really a great place to travel.
Tell us about one of your favorite experiences from traveling solo in Tajikistan.
Most of my time in Tajikistan was spent traveling the Pamir Highway with three other travelers I met along the way. We rented a car and driver for two weeks and took our time seeing the beautiful mountain views and hiking. Each night we stayed in homestays, and this was really a highlight for me, as it meant interacting more directly with Tajik people. I got the chance to see how they lived, meet their families, and in one place, the fourteen year old niece took me on a walk to show me her village and practice her English.
Were there any special precautions you took to feel safer while traveling solo?
It is a conservative part of the world, so I dressed in long pants and T-shirts, despite the 40°C temperatures, in order to be respectful of the local culture. I was obviously a tourist, but I didn’t want to draw more attention to myself than necessary.
Did you meet any other solo female travelers while you were there?
Yes, I met several. Many of them were cycling the Pamir Highway and camping alone.
What luggage did you bring with you to Tajikistan?
It was the maiden voyage for my Osprey Farpoint 40 and I’m really glad I upgraded to a smaller, zipped backpack. I really loved it. I also had a small daypack with me.
>>Check out another HPL reader’s review of her Osprey Farpoint 40 backpack here.
Were there any items you were glad you brought with you or that you wished you had brought?
I’m glad I brought sunscreen with me, as it was needed all day, every day. It wouldn’t have been as easy to get there.
What’s your number 1 tip for females traveling solo to Tajikistan?
Don’t be afraid. Take normal precautions like you would at home, but get out there. Be brave and meet the people there. Be goofy and talk with your hands when you have no words in common. It’s fun and hilarious, and you learn a lot along the way. And learn to read Cyrillic. It is super helpful to be able to read signs (on roads, on buses) by sounding them out.
About the author: Jennifer is an American high school science teacher living and working in Switzerland. She travels whenever she can and finally made it to her 100th country this summer. She keeps a record of her trips at www.mytb.org/jenni.
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Agness of Etramping says
I would have never guessed that Tajikistan is an excellent place for female solo travel and your post caused the travel guide to itch me, Ali. A truly comprehensive and practical guide which I really enjoyed reading!