The first time I traveled by myself was a complete accident. I was twenty-two years old waiting for my friend at the Greyhound station in downtown Toronto, about to take the overnight bus to Chicago, only she didn’t show. I called my dad, “What should I do? I already paid for the hotel". A massive sigh came from the other end of the line, “If you are confident you can do it, then go”. The United States Customs and Border Officer questioned me hard, looked through my bag, counted my cash, asked me why I was by myself and why I didn’t have a return ticket. I looked like a proper runaway with my backpack and young naivety. I told her the whole truth and nothing but the truth, she wished me luck and let me through. Those five days by myself in Chicago were the freest I had ever felt in my young life. After that experience, I have never hesitated to travel by myself and have since travelled all over the globe on my own (and with partners). So here I share a few lessons I’ve learned along the way, and hope I can inspire other women to find their own confidence to travel (near or far, long or short) on their own at least once in their life.
For art lovers, there is nothing better than going to a museum by yourself without anyone badgering you.
(National Gallery. London, England)
You can do anything you want to do
I once walked ten kilometres in the sweltering Australian heat to see 'The Big Banana' on the side of the highway. No one is there to tell you no. There will be no rebuttal to your suggestion to sleep in or stay up late. Eat a popsicle for lunch or have a pint (or two) of local craft beer for dinner. From small decisions to huge ones, such as volunteering at a hostel in Portugal in exchange for room and board, you are in control of your destiny.
Travelling alone, you are able to take on a persona you never would at home
Have you always wanted to be a “meditating, yoga-practicing, surfing vegetarian”? Well you can. There is no “past you”, just you right now. If you were travelling with a partner, they would expect certain choices, actions and reactions from you but alone, you are free from anyone’s pre-conditions or judgement. No one is looking over your shoulder to make sure you are being “you”. You represent yourself with your actions.
You stop caring what other people think
Travelling alone I feel I can speak freely without fear of judgement. I have been able to go off and do what I wanted without asking for anyone’s permission or opinion. In this day and age, we are so occupied with social media and upholding our curated image. Disconnect when you’re travelling solo and you will become your truest self (although I highly recommend this in daily life too).
You are more capable than you think
When you are out of your comfort zone and don’t have any other choice, you quickly learn to overcome your fears and hesitations. Asking for directions in a foreign language is hard and scary, but when you’re standing in the pouring rain, its dark and you haven’t got a clue where you are, you will quickly conquer these fears. The biggest lesson: just try and you will be proud of yourself.
Be a human of the world, appreciate the diversity of different languages around the world. (Yoshino, Nara Prefecture, Japan)
Lots of people ask me, “Aren’t you scared to travel by yourself?” Do you think they ask this same question to men? Of course not. Somehow, I am able to live my daily life in a major city with no inquiries, but all of the sudden when I go to another country people assume my safety sensibility goes out the window. Especially in Morocco, a country infamous for its attitude towards non-Muslim women. Yes, I was a little nervous to cross the Gibraltar Strait on my own, but respecting the local customs, trying to blend in as much as possible (by not wearing revealing clothing), being smart (not walking around alone at night) and being firm with men’s advances (it happened a lot), I was able to enjoy myself and learn a lot about women’s rights around the world and re-assess my own privileges back home. Feeling powerful as a woman is something we unfortunately feel we have to earn and practise. You will meet other solo female travellers on the road and you will form friendships that will motivate and inspire you. Many of us believe in equality of the sexes and consider ourselves to be independent woman of the 21st century, so take a chance and practice that equality and do things that women and men have been doing for the past millennia, travel.
Travelling solo, you will meet the most interesting people from around the world at hostels. (Tamraght, Morocco)
The world is a big place
It's full of different people, environments, religions, food, shelter, clothing, etc. I lived the life of a French organic vegetable farmer for two months because I believe in learning about where our food comes from. Practicing my elementary school French and picking tomatoes, it was the most educational summer I’ve ever spent in my entire life at age twenty-nine. Travel to learn and experience, not to take selfies. Expand your horizons and get cultured.
Have a solitary experience that no one can ever take away from you. (St. Nauphary, Occitanie, France)
It’s not all rainbows and dolphins squeaking and smiling at you, of course there will be moments where you want to give up and book the next ticket home. But it is these moments that define you and make you realise how far you’ve come on your own. You will look back and realise how strong, brave and crazy you were. You took a chance and it was worth it in the end.
Seek your own pleasure and practice self-love. (Salvation Mountain, California, USA)
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