Forget wedding plans -- Pinterest's massive 'wander women' trend is all about travelling solo

Woman backpacking travel alone mountains hikingShutterstockMore women are dreaming of travelling solo, according to Pinterest — despite the inherent risks.

When you hear about how women use Pinterest, wedding planning and style inspiration likely come to mind.

But there’s also a huge new trend percolating on the platform that focuses mainly on fantasies of independence and living freely: female solo travel.

Travel inspiration has always been big on the platform, but the focus on travelling alone is recent.

“Since Spring 2015, we’ve seen a marked increase in women Pinning solo travel ideas,” Christine Shirmer, consumer communications at Pinterest, told Tech Insider. “Pinners of all ages tell us this is less about self discovery and more about simply not wanting to compromise on where and when they want to travel.”

It’s unclear how many women have actually been inspired to take the plunge and travel alone thanks to Pinterest, but they’re certainly dreaming about it. There’s been a rise in Pinning the topic of over 350% since 2014, according to Pinterest, with the biggest surge starting in April of this year. A spokesperson also said that it’s much more popular with users in the 18-34 range than the 35-55 range.

Some of the most popular destinations are Spain, Chile, Italy, and Scotland, where the women in the Pinterest boards wander down colourful, winding streets, savour gelato, or gaze at the ruins of old castles.

Channeling the best-selling solo travel memoirists Cheryl Strayed and Elizabeth Gilbert, “wander women” post photos that show them with their arms spread wide, taking in the saturated scenery around them, and looking incredibly free. With their on-trend backpacks slung over their shoulders, they pose with locals, don’t bother with makeup, and ride elephants. The photos make travel seem like a boundless, epic adventure.

Commenters gush, saying things like, “Wow! How inspiring!” and “Awesome!”

Pinterest travelling alone soloPinterestPinterest has seen a staggering 350% increase in women Pinning solo travel ideas.

When I reached out to blogger Kristin Addis of Be My Travel Muse, she wasn’t surprised at all by the increase in women dreaming about travelling by themselves.

“Women are more empowered, educated, and independent as a whole than they ever have been before and the world is only becoming more and more connected,” Addis, who has been travelling around the world by herself nonstop since 2012, told Tech Insider.

She said the best part about travelling alone is having the freedom to explore and get immersed in another culture. So it’s not hard to imagine why women would fantasize about this online just as much as they dream about other aspects of their future.

And now, scores of female travel bloggers like Addis make a living writing about their trips and disseminating their advice through Pinterest — similar to the men who made careers out of writing about their travels for decades, even centuries. Addis is no different from the Jack Kerouacs and Bruce Chatwins who came before her. Those men’s readers also lived vicariously through written travel tales.

“I genuinely don’t see a huge difference between women and males travelling solo,” Addis said.

Turban tying competition held as part of the celebrations of Holi, also known as the Festival of Colours, in Jaipur, the capital of India's desert state of RajasthanREUTERS/StringerA woman celebrates after winning a turban tying competition as part of the celebrations of Holi, also known as the Festival of Colours, in Jaipur, the capital of India’s desert state of Rajasthan.

Of course, the rosy image presented by Pinterest’s stunning travel photos and chipper advice posts sometimes obscures the messier aspects of international travel. Travelling costs money. It also takes time. And sometimes, it can be dangerous.

It’s impossible to discuss women travelling by themselves without talking about the dangers. Global news coverage frequently highlights these sexual assaults, gang rapes, and even murders.

And there can be an added layer of danger for women of colour. In 2012, the U.S. Embassy in Athens, Greece, released an advisory, still in effect, that warned there was a rise in harassment and attacks against American tourists of colour.

Nadine Duncan, who wrote the book “Diary of a Travelling Black Woman: A Guide to International Travel,” told Tech Insider that she believes she gets more attention while travelling than a white female tourist would. For example, locals in certain areas will ask her to pose for photos with them for no apparent reason beyond her looks.

“As a Black woman, particularly one with [dreadlocks], I definitely stand out,” she told TI. “It seems that most countries expect white tourists, so the ‘fascination’ may not be as strong [for white tourists].”

Nadine Duncan travel bloggerCourtesy of Nadine DuncanNadine Duncan, author of ‘Diary of a Travelling Black Woman: A Guide to International Travel.’

Pinterest does provide tips for travellers who want to stay safe.

“Some of the concerns are different and important to discuss, such as dress code and women’s legal rights, but otherwise I’d say the same to both sexes: look around, stay aware, don’t get too intoxicated, and think twice about going out alone at night,” blogger Addis said.

Travel boards are filled with meme-ified and aesthetically pleasing lists that explain how to be cautious while travelling. Whether they’re sourced from BuzzFeed or travel blogs, there are plenty of Pins about “safety tips for women” and “female solo travel tips,” such as wearing a fake wedding ring, checking in with friends and family, and trusting your intuition.

Women are pinning tips about how to stay safePinterestSome of the most popular Pins for women travelling alone are about safety tips.

In addition to the safety tips, Pinterest users will find even more specific travel instructions. There’s a female solo travel guide to the Yucatan Peninsula, for instance; a list of tips and disclaimers for women who are thinking of couch-surfing; and a beginner’s guide of sorts for women travelling alone for the first time; and even a list of the best careers for people who want to travel full-time.

Of course, it’s impossible to tell how many of the users Pinning this advice are actually going to take the plunge and travel alone to another country. But then, the fantasy of getting away from it all for a week or two can be just as fulfilling as the reality.

Christy Woodrow, a female blogger who quit her job in 2009 to travel the world and writes the blog Ordinary Traveller, often pins her own tips and tricks for other travellers.

“I think with the amount of travellers online — writing travel blogs and sharing their lives on social media — it’s easier for women to see other women travelling solo and learning from them,” Woodrow said. “In the past, many women would wait until they have someone else to travel with. That’s not the case anymore.”

So as women grow more and more confident when it comes to travelling alone, Pinterest and the blogging community are there to tell them exactly how to do it.

But one thing’s for sure: Pinning blog posts and photos about solo travel is way more popular than actually buying a plane ticket.

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