Like anything, types of travel go in and out of fashion. Solo female travel seems to be one of the hottest trends right now and I’m all for it. But I feel conflicted.
When I first started traveling by myself, it was 2007.
A lot has changed since then. Being a women traveling alone is no longer strange to most people in the western world. Even if they don’t understand why you do it, most understand that you can.
For me traveling alone back when I was 23, I felt very alone. Like I was adrift at sea in a lifeboat with no idea which direction was land. Pinterest and Instagram didn’t exist until 2010 and Facebook was still used like AOL away messages.
I had no guidelines, no blog posts or articles to pin about how, why and where to travel alone. I was completely making it up as I went along.
Now it’s everywhere. I can’t go onto any social media without seeing some link about how you too can sell all your possessions and travel the world. Alone! Free!
Most of me thinks this is amazing. I truly wish to see strong, capable women ready to take on the world.
Part of me feels like I’ve lost a part of my identity. Now that “solo female travel” is a searchable phrase, I feel no distinction between something that feels like a part of my soul and a top ten list of things to do.
Right or wrong, that makes me sad. I used to feel like part of a tribe of women who really wanted to stretch and challenge themselves. To learn more about the world outside their bubble, to learn from other people different from themselves.
Women who took to the road and didn’t care what anyone thought.
Now it feels like a contest to see who can take the best selfie. My concern is that it doesn’t feel like a community anymore but a competition.
Of course I support other women traveling alone. I am not here to suggest that there is a right or wrong way to do it. Taking a good selfie is an art from after all. (One that I suck at for real and would totally love pointers).
This is me realizing the world has changed. How social media connects us all but really we don’t know anything about each other. That we look outward for some sign that we are doing it right, instead of looking inward.
We are never really alone but have no relationship with ourselves.
I reminisce about times when being a solo female traveler meant something else. That you had been somewhere, dealt with challenges and learned more about yourself in the process.
Travel does not have to be challenging to be fulfilling. But solo travel will test you, whether you want it to or not.
I am sure a lot of this makes me sound like an old fart lamenting the times when she was young. But the current concept of “solo female traveler” feels like an tagline not a lifestyle, with most people taking off on adventures for no other reason than to update their Instagram feed.
It appears to lack substance. Maybe that’s just me. (Maybe, definitely?)
If you want to travel the world and see the top sites, please do. If you want to take a hundred photos just to get one you like, I know that feeling. But remember why you’re taking the journey in the first place.
There is nothing wrong to travel just for travel’s sake. In fact, the amount of times I feel pressured to have learned some amazing life lesson when I travel annoys me. That I have to emerge a beautiful transformed butterfly. But that’s never what traveling alone meant to me.
I didn’t quit a corporate job to live an alternative life. This is my life.
I never went to find myself. I already like myself and wanted to spend more time with someone I liked.
I wasn’t running away from anything. I was running towards everything.
Every year that passes, women gain more power and insight into their right to be on this earth. And to see every corner of it. And there has to be some place for these ideas to live.
An airplane is useless without an airport. If there’s nowhere to land, then you can never even begin.
Eventually you’d run out of fuel.
But now instead of sharing stories and fueling each other’s desire to explore, we share posts on Facebook and forget about the people behind the story. We curate our lives to look like the most remarkable version of it and ignore the rest.
Traveling alone isn’t always pretty. It’s hard and sometimes sad. You can get lonely. Or scared. Or tired.
But it’s worth every moment- if it’s something you truly want. If you want to see what if you’re good at it, then seek it out. And forget what everyone else thinks.
Because the hard moments won’t make you pack up and go home. The sad moments won’t make you forget why you left in the first place. When you’re tired, you take a deep breath and try looking at things a new way.
I hope that women will continue to travel and to travel alone. I also hope that women will continue to support each other and celebrate their successes. We are stronger together.
But mostly I hope that the trend for solo female travel isn’t a flash in the pan. I hope that really, true, deep down traveling alone because you want to is always popular.
I have to let go of the idea that traveling alone with minimal help is better. Maybe it’s just better for me. There were plenty of other women out there doing it when I was and I am grateful for it. Their stories inspire me.
If I could teach every woman how to do it, I would.
If I could give every woman the confidence to do it, I would.
And if you need advice, there is nothing wrong with looking for it. Or asking for help. Or getting inspired by others. Clearly, I write about it all the time.
In the end though, no one but you can make the decision.
I managed to spend nearly a decade on the road alone and didn’t die. I always found food and a place to sleep. Although I do try to travel smart, no amount of research can prepare you for everything. Know your strengths and follow your instincts.
The point is no matter how many articles you read or pictures you look at, you will never know how much you are capable of until you try it for yourself. And you are capable of so much.
Keep sight of why you want to travel alone and you won’t need anyone else to tell you how to do it. And you won’t care what anyone else thinks.
Trust your gut. You’ll know when you’re ready.
Let me know how it goes.
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