“Energy rightly applied and directed will accomplish anything.”
I get asked on a daily basis WHY am I traveling solo.
“Who are you here with?” curious people often ask when we become acquainted during my travels.
“Um, by myself,” I reply.
“Wow, that’s really courageous!” they exclaim, wide-eyed.
It really isn’t. Well, it’s no more courageous than simply existing in this world, on a daily basis, as a woman, and while I appreciate the intrigue, I’m sure you can understand the question is wearing a little thin (as is my patience) because as far as I’m concerned, solo women making bold moves to go it alone is nothing new. A woman traveling solo is nothing out of the ordinary in the 21st Century… and it’s here to stay.
Here’s the thing: I enjoy my own company; I’m perpetually in pursuit of the feeling of wonder that only strikes you when you’re walking alone. Some people think I’m crazy and even stupid to venture out on my own, but traveling solo is the best. It allows me to make all of my own decisions, promotes personal growth and independence, and can even be safer since I can take in more of my surroundings. Walking to the beat of my own drum, doing all the things I have wanted to do… solo travel has been one sense of freedom after the other.
Hiking up lonely trails, listening to the stories of other weary travelers or falling asleep alone while listening to the sound of waves crashing against the shoreline. Those things don’t require much more than an adventurous spirit and some money. In truth, I believe it is far more difficult to face life’s daily struggles than it is to hitchhike for hundreds of miles with complete strangers.
I’ve been quite a champion at being independent: I live by myself, I’ll go to shows by myself, I’ll see movies at times that work for me even if they don’t work for others. Forcibly putting myself into situations where I must fend for myself improves my overall self-confidence. I learn to speak to everyone and anyone, make friends with people from different walks of life, and have faith in myself.
Perhaps the most important skill I’ve picked up from my solo travels, at least the most important to me personally, is learning to be able to relate to anyone I meet on the road. As much as I am an Introvert at heart, I love talking to strangers and meeting new people. Everyone has a story to tell and everyone you encounter will change your life and way of thinking in one way or another. Without any companions or friends to lean on, I had to learn this on my own.
This is probably going to get me hate mail, but I have met sooooo many people over the years that are dependent, needy, first-class clingers who are basically incapable of getting around without a friend, family member or boyfriend/girlfriend in tow. I’m sure you’ve seen it, girls and guys who are incapable of being alone.
Obviously, I’ve met plenty of men/women who are the opposite too, there’s a massive range, but the ones that stick in my mind are the ones who either blow me away with how strong they are, or the ones that I can’t really wrap my head around how they function day to day.
I certainly don’t speak for every solo woman traveler when I explain my decision to travel alone… I don’t know about you guys, but when people tell me what to do or how to live, I immediately do the opposite. We’re not all waiting around for a knight in shining armor to sweep us off our feet. Either that or we have waited and he appears to be lost in a forest somewhere… so we’re off on our own adventure to find him. We want to go out, see the world, explore it, experience, and not be sorry. We don’t need someone to hold our hand while we do it. Besides, when the prince charming is eventually found it will make it all the more worthwhile.
I know it’s easy to be nervous before heading somewhere new and alone. There are a lot of unknown factors (will you make friends? will you be safe?) that you’ll turn over and over in your brain. But it’s all in your head. Your brain is creating worst-case scenarios that aren’t likely to happen. In fact, it’s more un-safe to stay inside your home and wait for a burglar to come and attack you. You are more at risk in your own home than being out there in the world exploring it.
While wandering, I don’t feel as if the likelihood of such dangerous encounters increase. As a matter of fact, oftentimes, I feel safer. When people hear that I am traveling alone, they seem to feel a sense of responsibility and concern for my safety and well-being. They take an immediate interest in my boldness; and all of a sudden, I become a woman worth protecting.
Women have the gift of intuition and trusting [their] gut[s] within the context of travel or even going anywhere alone. We have to take extra safety measures than we think we need and then gather experience along the way to reflect the experience we’ll acquire through time. It’s unfortunate that we have to take those extra precautions, but we have to.
I believe that it’s also good to listen to fear. Obviously, many will argue: why even put yourself in the situation to feel fear, out of our comfort zones? However, fear isn’t something that we can wipe away from our lives – it’s a part of being human. I don’t normally feel as if my life or body is in any imminent danger simply because I’m in new surroundings with people I may not know. After all, it has usually been in the most familiar places, like back home — in my residential neighborhood, at school or local nightclubs — where I have been stalked, street harassed or treated like an object.
If something or someone gives me an uneasy vibe, there’s no shame in walking away or saying no. If my gut is telling me that something doesn’t feel right, I listen to it. This sense naturally became more heightened over time. After a few years, I trusted my intuition enough to sound the alarm bells if something didn’t feel right. It’s surprising how much listening to that little voice in the back of your mind can steer you in the right direction.
I think a big reason why I never really have problems on the road is that I can read situations very, very well, and if I feel uncomfortable in any way, I’m out of there. Boom. Gone. I have some serious self-preservation skills and I have no intention of ending tied up in the back of someone’s van.
Nope, not going to happen.
It would be a case where the benefits will outweigh the possibility that you would be in danger. If you do the research and listen to your gut, you most likely won’t run into anything terrible. I’ve never been mugged or anything, and I’ve been to some pretty sketchy places. I might get mugged one day. I expect that someday that might happen, but I will take proper precautions to handle the situation in case it does. You have to plan for the worst when venturing on your own.
I stand by my statement 100% that over time, traveling alone will give you certain instincts; likely you’ll learn to read people really well, understand the difference between someone being friendly and when it’s weird, and when you are okay, or when you should run like hell. I feel safe everywhere I go now because I trust my instincts, and because I think being able to maneuver all the places I’ve been is such a powerful thing.
At the risk of sounding like a pretentious dick, Marcel Proust once said, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
Travel changes you; if you are open to it, especially solo travel. It’s one thing to take a pretty picture and have some adventures while traveling, but it’s a whole other ball game when it changes your life. When you are alone on the road with only your thoughts and experiences for company, you can’t help but start to think. It’s not so easy, and oftentimes you are forced to face those demons, thoughts or issues that you might have ignored otherwise. Solo travel has led me to experience more in a few years of adventuring around on my own than many people have or ever will in their entire lives.