I’m going to Ireland for 10 days in March. By myself. It’s called solo travel and apparently all the hippest middle aged moms are doing it. Actually, lots of women are traveling solo these days. According to Google’s Keyword Planner Tool, average monthly search volume for the term “solo female travel” grew by 52 percent between 2016 and 2017. Still my decision has raised eyebrows.
“Are you having an affair?” one friend asked me. “Really, just tell me now. I’m not judging.” I reassured her that no, I was not going off to Ireland because I wanted to get away with a secret lover. My marriage is great. Traveling alone has nothing to do with my marriage. It has to do with me.
In fact, my husband is the only one who wasn’t surprised when I told him I was booking a flight to Dublin. He only said, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but take me with you.” And I knew what he meant. We’ve been married twenty-three years. He wasn’t asking to go to Ireland. He was saying, “This is new for us. Give me a chance to grow with you.”
My mom, on the other hand, flat out told me I could not travel alone. She loves me. She wants me to be safe, and she’d read something in the news about some girl who was raped and murdered. . . somewhere. I reminded her that that happened to women in America all the time too. (In fact I am 241 times more likely to be the victim of a violent crime in the United States than in Ireland.)
Maybe that’s a part of why I’m traveling to Ireland alone — I’m sick of being afraid. As women, we are fed a steady diet of fear. We’re given a set of rules that are supposed to keep us safe, but really they just keep us inside the lines so our loved ones don’t have to worry about us.
The growing trend for women traveling solo shows that we’re not buying it any more. We’re tired of being afraid. I know I am. I’m tired of worrying about being alone. I’m tired of the idea that following arbitrary cultural rules like middle-aged-moms-of-three-do-not-travel-outside-the-country-alone will somehow keep me safe. I’m tired of making myself smaller so that other people can feel comfortable.
Also, I’m really tired of waiting for my dreams to come true. Waiting until the timing is convenient for everyone else around me. Waiting until my kids grow up. Waiting to have the courage to try. Waiting for someone to give me permission to speak my truth, to live fully. Waiting until I’m more qualified or experienced or have earned the right to take up space in this world.
I know, I know. Ireland is not a dangerous location. Ten days is not so long to be gone. I’m in the enviable position of having enough extra money to travel. Whoopee. Good for you, you white, middle-class, eat-pray-love fan, progressive college graduate, wife of an engineer with a good paying job and health insurance and supportive family, none of whom struggle with addiction or debilitating mental or physical health issues.
I’m starting from a place of privilege. Also, playing by the rules has worked in my favor in many ways. The thing is, I’m also done with being guilted and shamed into accepting my place in life. “We’ve come so far; why ask for more?” doesn’t work for me. Yes, I’m blessed. Yes, I’m grateful. Yes, I want more. We all do, no matter where we’ve landed.
Denying our dreams will not help others reach theirs. But I like to think that going for our dreams will inspire other women to try too.
Thanks for reading —