Why Every Woman Should Travel Solo At Least Once In Her Life
Happy International Women's Day!
It seems that, every day, we hear stories about the dangers women face when travelling alone. Whether it’s cultural realities, freak accidents or urban legends, these tales can do a great job of making us think twice before strapping on a backpack and heading fearlessly into the world.
But with a little bit of forward-thinking and a touch of common sense, travelling by yourself as a woman can be both safe and an immensely rewarding experience.
You play by your own rules
When travelling alone, you can do whatever you want. And, maybe most importantly, you can chose what not to do. Not into temples? Skip ’em. Want to eat two breakfasts? Do it. More shopping? Fine.
So often when travelling, we find ourselves strolling through art galleries, visiting an endless stream of churches or tramping through swamps when we would never do these things at home. And while trying new things is an important part of travelling, it’s also easy to spend your holiday doing things you don’t actually enjoy because you feel like you should.
But travelling alone flips all those pre-conceived notions about travel on their heads. When you wake up in the morning, you ask yourself, “What do I want to do today?” If the answer is to sit in a beautiful park and read, do it. Likewise, if it’s to climb every mountain in the region, you can do that, too.
You are empowered to do whatever you want, because this is your time. You make the rules. No one else.
You see more
Ever notice some of the outrageous advertising on the New York subway? Probably not, because you were chatting to your travel buddy about where to eat dinner that night. When you travel alone, you observe every situation, with your attention focused outwards to the world, rather than inwards to a group. You see more, even at otherwise mundane or unexpected moments, like eating breakfast or waiting for the bus.
When travelling alone, you can listen to the pulse of a city, or absorb the emptiness of a desert, because you’re actually present. You’re not doing anything other than being there.
You learn yourself
When was the last time you introduced yourself to someone without referencing your job, your partner or your family? If you had to do it now, how would you describe yourself? When you meet people overseas, you’re far away from your life back home, so you’re not Tom’s girlfriend, or Lucy the lawyer; you’re just you. Travelling alone gives you the opportunity to think about who you are outside of those key areas, and to work out what other factors you value and want people to know about.
You’re also going to have a lot of travel time for quiet contemplation about big decisions or problems in your life. It’s amazing how much more clearly you can think about an issue when you’re physically removed from it. Not having friends or family around to cloud judgement or opinions can help, too.
Sometimes, there’s nothing better for the soul than a few hours alone. Want to find out who you are? Take a 12-hour bus ride without a phone, book or iPad – then you’ll really get it.
You meet people
Being by yourself forces you to make friends. Whether it’s the person sitting next to you on the plane, sleeping in the bunk above you or in line behind you at the hostel bar at happy hour, when you’re by yourself, there are so many more opportunities to get chatting to other travellers. Meeting people from other cultures expands your world view, enriches your experience and often helps you to see the the place you are visiting from another angle.
Other travellers are an incredible fountain of information, whether it’s the best hostel to stay at in Santiago (insightful), which train to take from Copenhagen to Berlin (useful), or how to order beers in Vietnamese (essential). While blogs and guidebooks can be helpful, the freshest information is always going to come from the guy who was there yesterday.
Just remember: you’re much more approachable as a single person than a pair or a group.
You actually do it
Your partner can’t get time off work. Your bestie hasn’t got any money. Your brother has already been there and your parents don’t want to go. So what? You don’t need to wait for others to go on the trip of your dreams, you just do it. Got a week off work? Get online, book your flight, and work the rest out from there.
Don’t sit around at home waiting for a time that’s right for everyone else. If the time is right for you, make it happen. Never put off a trip just because you don’t have anyone to go with. After all, you might just be the best travel buddy you’ve ever had.