We were video chatting on Facebook when I asked a friend, who was traveling southeast Asia alone, how people responded to her traveling solo. She said people were pretty positive. One woman even told her, “You’re so brave. I could never do that.”
So many thoughts ran through my head. That’s not positive or supportive. It’s a euphemism for you’re crazy. It’s like Regina George saying, “I love your skirt! Cough.” And had my friend been a guy, she would’ve gotten a more encouraging, “Wow, you’re so brave and strong.” Let me break down how I see it for all my ladies out there.
Although the woman’s intentions were good, it’s not about what she said. It’s about what she thinks and why.
Her thoughts were, You’re brave to be traveling solo as a woman.
Um, as a woman?!
That’s an issue. We should not be refrained from doing anything just because we are women. But the fact that she said this and it’s not uncommon to hear, is revealing. Although traveling solo is having a moment, our culture perpetuates certain beliefs that prevent women from touching solo travel with a 10 foot pole. I’m here to knock that pole down with a light saber and help you BELIEVE that you can and would love a trip by yourself.
Misbelief 1: Solo travel is a risky, dangerous adventure for women.
All solo travelers regardless of gender need to take appropriate safety precautions. However, traveling solo as a woman is slightly different than men but so is living life. Unwanted stares or flirtatious comments happen to us abroad as much as it happens at home at our jobs, neighborhood bars or on the street. I’m not saying it’s right or even OK, I’m just saying we’ve learned to deal with it (either walk away or leave a red hand mark on their face). It actually might be worse at home since we have a man who allegedly forced himself on women running for President. Ah, I digress.
Regardless of where we are, as women we experience the world differently and thus take certain precautions. We should always feel comfortable walking away or finding solace in the next group of women we see. But many women believe traveling alone is like you’re putting a target on your back but that’s just fear talking. After traveling alone in Australia, Amsterdam, Italy and India, I’ve never been a target. Solo travel is not this dangerous, lonely walkabout with wolves and creepy men who look like the homeless guy from Dennis the Menace. The world isn’t out to get you. People are too concerned with themselves. So get that scary thought out of your head.
In reality, traveling alone is the biggest break you’ll get from life. It’s like this magical, spiritual world but it’s REALITY. You get to choose what you want to do every day and not have to consider what someone else wants or thinks. You don’t know anyone so you can literally do or be whoever you want.
You strip down your daily life and learn what you can live without — makeup, a hairdryer, or heels. You get to meet and have exchanges with locals who explain their traditions and offer you a different perspective on life. You get to meet fellow foreign travelers who will undoubtedly have questions for you about America, share their beliefs and in the process challenge your beliefs and values. You’ll make these connections with strangers that feel so honest, raw and real that it feels like you’ve known them forever.
And although you’ll meet a lot of strangers-turned-friends, there’s a lot of time to reflect and think about your life (which is always better to do sooner than later). You’ll come back glowing, bursting with new thoughts and ideas and stories, and grateful both for the experience and to be home. Of course, not all solo trips are life changing, but all of them absolutely give you a break from life and not just work.
Misbelief 2: Women shouldn’t want to be alone.
This is an old ass belief from the days when women belonged to their husbands and aspired to marriage. Hello 2016, a time when women have education, equality (almost), independence, dreams and don’t need special protection. Being alone should no longer be a fear. Alone should not be a bad word anymore, especially for a freaking ~7 day trip. I mean, that’s so short in the grand scheme of things!
But I get it. Before my first solo trip, the pressure to not be alone got to me. I worried people would think I didn’t have any friends or was weird for being alone. Seriously, I did! My worries went away as soon as I stepped on the plane. Traveling alone made me feel badass, confident and centered. I focused on me and broke free from caring what others thought. Alone felt empowering.
You should want to be alone with yourself. How else can you get a legitimate break? How else are you supposed to know what you prefer to do, what do you care to see, what you want? Traveling alone gives you the freedom to explore. Maybe you read all day or maybe you go surfing. No one is there to judge (or can judge for that matter). That’s the beauty of it.
Traveling solo also amplifies growth. It sounds super cliché, but traveling alone really does force you out of your comfort zone. It forces you to test your boundaries. At first you may worry about walking around alone, then you try it and find you’re A-OK. Then you think, next week I’ll try the bus. And so it goes. By the end of the trip you feel on top of the world. You’re like “Hey yeah, I conquered this sh*t!” The sense of accomplishment and independence is so important to your self-worth and confidence. It’s wildly revitalizing for your soul. You realize you really don’t know what you’re capable of until you try.
When you do feel homesick or lonely, which is totally normal, you find ways to fix it. You go to a cafe in a square full of people, make friends with folks at the hotel or FaceTime your roommate. You learn the difference between being alone and being lonely. Most importantly, you learn that all feelings eventually pass.
So what does this all mean?
Even though the idea of solo travel is trending and increasingly popular, what’s stopping many girls from doing it are outdated beliefs we need to question. If you’re a girl who has concerns about solo travel or has never considered solo travel, take a step back and understand why. Chances are your beliefs have been influenced by old school media. Then do a little research. Talk to girls who’ve done it (like me!) and ask them questions. Get the real story behind traveling solo from the girls who have done it or are about to.
If you’re an aspiring or current female solo traveler and someone says this to you, then tell them, “I am not any braver than you. You could travel solo too. Being alone as a woman is not scary as you think. It’s the exact opposite.
If you like this, please ❤ it.
I’m Michelle. I started GirlGoTravel to give girls the guts to travel solo through coaching sessions, women-focused travel guides, and ebooks on budgeting. Visit girlgotravel.com to learn more or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org ❤