Every time I hop on a plane and venture to the other side of the world my parents grow a few more grey hairs. It is not lost on me that they spend nights worrying in bed if, across the Atlantic Ocean, I am safe.
My adventures always seem to be more taxing for them than they are for me.
And while I understand that travel (and especially traveling alone) is a daunting thing, riddled with possibilities for unsafe situations, it’s also a thing of beauty. A truly liberating and empowering experience.
An experience I believe every women should have once in their life.
- You have your own back.
When you travel on your own, you are on the other side of the world where you don’t know a soul. This is intimidating, but also empowering. You quickly come to terms with the fact that you have to have your own back. Nobody else will be there for you; no one else will rescue you. You become your own significant other, your own best friend, and your own parent.
You learn to rely on yourself, and you recognize just how strong you are.
- You step out of your comfort zone.
If you’re not uncomfortable, you’re not traveling. If you’re traveling by yourself, you will most undoubtedly be uncomfortable 90% of the time. You’ll be navigating new places, eating strange food, meeting different people, learning foreign languages and exploring far off lands. From skydiving to conversations with the local people, every day you’ll be expanding your comfort zone.
As a traveler, the more you grow your comfort zone, the more comfortable you feel in your day-to-day life. After navigating the windy roads of Athens, your weekend road trip will feel like a breeze. Once you’ve haggled a hotel room in your best ‘Spanglish’, negotiating at settlement at your job won’t be so intimidating.
- You create long-lasting relationships.
Throughout your travels you meet a seemingly infinite number of people, all from different walks of life. As a solo traveller, you are in a circumstance that promotes the creation of strong bonds with new friends. When you travel, especially on your own, you make fast friends. You meet that morning eating breakfast at the hostel, discover you both want to check out the same museum, and by dinnertime you feel like you’ve known each other forever.
And while friendships like these are still possible if you travel in a group, they are much more accessible and common if you are on your own. Additionally, as a solo traveler you have no ties to your travel partner(s). So your new friend is headed to the coast tomorrow, and you feel like joining them? Sure, that could be fun! Hello, new life long pal!
- You become comfortable with yourself.
Even though you will form incredible connections and make magical memories, traveling alone is still a solo activity. You will spend time alone, a lot of it. And yes, that is a good thing. Being forced to spend time with yourself (and I don’t mean watching Netflix) is in fact really important.
It gives you the opportunity to do some much needed thinking, analyzing, and dreaming. Not only will you probably work out some of life’s dilemmas, but you’ll also become more comfortable with yourself. Time alone will no longer be unnerving; you will probably come to relish it.
Being alone doesn’t have to mean being lonely. And the more time you spend with yourself, the more you’ll learn to love it.
- You speak up.
Getting around while you are traveling requires sweet talking your way onto a full bus, bartering with a street vendor for a fair price, and speaking to the hostel manager when your stay is less than stellar. As a solo female traveler, you develop the ability to negotiate these situations. Why? Because you’re the only one who will speak up.
You become your one and only advocate. No one else is going to speak up for you; no one else cares how you fare. If you think the train ticket salesperson is ripping you off, you speak up. If you believe the hostel receptionist is doing a terrible job, you speak up.
Soon, after consistently speaking up, you begin to hear your own voice, and more importantly, you begin to respect it. Eventually, you learn that you are your own best advocate and need no one else to speak on your behalf.
- You gain confidence.
One of the best rewards of traveling alone is the confidence you gain. Every time you overcome an obstacle (like missing your train) or successfully manage an anxious-making event (having to make small talk with a stranger) you build confidence. You realize you can totally do this. You can wander the streets of Bogota on your own. You can jump off the cliffs of Cinque Terre into water. You can eat insects in Chiang Mai.
You know what else? You can probably do anything.
- You learn to trust yourself.
After traveling on your own for a long time, making decisions on the fly and using your judgment every day, you learn to trust your instincts. As you travel you gain confidence in your abilities, and as you gain confidence you garner trust. You recognize your abilities and stop second-guessing yourself.
Remember that time you survived driving through a Vietnamese rush hour on a motorbike? Remember how you navigated the back streets of Kathmandu? Yeah. You have good judgment. And now, when it comes to negotiating in the corporate world or navigating your own love life, you will trust yourself.
- You cater to yourself.
Personally, as a traveller I love waking up early every morning and going for a run. It’s a fast way to orient myself in a new place and a great way to see different parts of a city/village. I like cramming in lots of activates during the day, wandering the streets and trying to blend in as a local before I call it a day at 10pm. Others may enjoy a later, more leisurely, start to the day, or love experiencing a city’s nightlife.
To each their own. And on your own, you can do whatever you darn please.
You want cake for breakfast? Get it girl. Ain’t nobody telling you what to do. You can spend the day people watching in a park, soaking up the sun on a beach, or walking through every alleyway. You’re the captain of your fabulous ship.