#1 “‘It’s scary doing it by yourself!”
Over the last couple of months, I have learned that it is a common perception that solo travel is not something that can be easily done as it is too scary. As many people have informed me, I must be either very mad or very brave to tackle such a thing. It is often a venture which they admire without ever considering it as something achievable for themselves, particularly among my female friends. I don’t believe that solo travel is a result of bravery but instead, an all-encompassing determination to see the world no matter what. The travel bug is personal, you either have it or you don’t.
#2 Having nothing holding you back is a huge advantage.
It’s easy to think that you can put off travelling until you’re retired but it’s not always that simple. A regret I’ve heard from older people is that they didn’t go when they were younger and when they weren’t tied up in the commitments of work and family that they have now. While travelling in retirement or with a family is certainly achievable, having nothing to hold you back as a solo female traveller is certainly a huge advantage. It provides a precious window in time when you have no one dependent on you. Yes, you can wait until you retire but relying on certainty in the future is a risky business. Plans change and the window closes causing many people regret it in the long run.
#3 It will never be the perfect time to go travelling.
I have learned that you could wait a very long time someone to come travelling with you. And if you let it, the wait could hold you back indefinitely. In truth, you can always find an excuse not to go travelling. Perhaps, you don’t want to go alone? Or maybe you got a job offer, or a partner doesn’t want you to go? At every moment in your life, there will always be something that could potentially get in the way, whether it’s the job you have now or the expectation to settle down later. Everything is an obstacle, it’s how you work around it that gets you on the road. My travelling plans are my own so instead of waiting I’m going solo.
#4 You are your own boss for better or worse.
Travelling solo means that you are your own boss and you make the plans as no one else will. This is bittersweet for a beginner as you are faced with not knowing where to start and knowing that your trip is reliant on you figuring it out. It’s a challenge having to plan, not to mention sorting the insurance and the flights, and that’s before you’ve even left! Luckily there are travel agencies out there to give pointers for every step, so it doesn’t feel completely like you’re the first person ever to go travelling. Planning a trip felt like a mountain of a task and it’s surprising how quickly it all comes together. Even so, the money that you think you’ll need never feels like it’ll be enough.
#5 “Won’t you be lonely?”
I’m often asked if I think I’ll be lonely travelling solo. Honestly, I have no idea but I’m okay with it. I believe it’s healthy to spend time alone with yourself and learning how you adapt to different situations. After all travelling is the thrill of gaining new experiences and it really depends on what you want to take away from it. I also have a sneaking suspicion that I won’t be lonely for a minute. One of the biggest observations I’ve made reading about other solo travelling experiences is how many friends are made on the road. In particular, hostels are well-known for being global social hubs.
#6 Having anxiety about the trip is normal it’s how you deal with it that matters.
I found the idea of going to New Zealand easy but thinking about the practicalities of organising and going on a trip extremely nerve-wracking. It only worsened when a couple of weeks slid by and I hadn’t researched a single thing. If left unchecked, that anxiety can put you dangerously on the edge of giving up, and the only way to deal with it is to plan. Research the nitty gritty boring details of the trip such as hostel bookings, transfers to and from the airport as these are the most likely troublemakers. Another tactic that helps me is reading other blog posts and advice by solo female travellers. The anxiety soon dissolves into excitement as I look enviously at pictures of them trekking through tropical rainforests or relaxing on sunny beaches!
#7 Nothing can really prepare you for the reality of travelling.
You can read all the tips and tricks in the world about solo travel, but nothing can really prepare you for the reality of your own lived experience. Copying a specific itinerary and expecting the same results as a travel blogger could potentially set you up for disappointment as it’s not your own trip you end up doing in the end. The beauty of solo travel is that you don’t have to follow any other itinerary other than your own. If you don’t want to plan a visit to a major must-see tourist attraction, it’s fine! It’s your trip. It’s personal to you so you’re entitled to just go with the flow. In fact, I know that parts of my own itinerary will end up getting abandoned as plans will inevitably change.
#8 That essentials-only packing list that just keeps growing…
If you’re like me and if you ever go for a weekend away you always pack a spare ‘just in case’ outfit or two (which never gets worn), then backpacking becomes a bit of a conundrum. Backpacking, as many travel writers highlight, is the resistance to packing like you’re going to the ends of the earth while actually going to the ends of the earth. It is important to pack the essentials as there is nothing worse than having to carry excess weight around whilst you’re trying to enjoy yourself. However, when faced with the challenge to pack for ‘all weather’ as was the advice for New Zealand, the possibility of packing lightly seems near impossible. I’m still trying to figure it out…
#9 “Can you be in a relationship and be a solo traveller?”
The answer to that is yes you can because having your own aspirations and independence is healthy in a relationship. I believe it’s totally normal if sometimes you need to do something personal for yourself, or if you have a difference in interests. After all being in a relationship shouldn’t mean that you become chained to your partner. Having said that, many of my friends in relationships say that they could never go travelling without their partners and they find it odd that I’m going without mine. Needless to say, it will be a challenge, but more important to a relationship is the space you give each other to pursue personal ambitions. If you see a future together, not holding each other back will only make the relationship stronger.
#10 “Isn’t it dangerous for a woman to go travelling by herself?”
As a female traveller, there is the added assumption that travelling alone will be inherently dangerous. Of course, news outlets are guilty of fanning the flame by broadcasting stories of disaster befalling young female travellers in faraway exotic places. But what is often overlooked is that such stories are reported because they are not all that common. In fact, a very easy way to never leave the house again would be to remind yourself that the same disasters could just as easily happen on your own turf! Home is a lot less scary than travelling because there is no mystery attached to it.
I’ve learned that the best way to challenge this assumption is by choosing a destination you feel you can manage. As great as the road less travelled sounds, as a beginner, I don’t quite have the confidence or experience to pull off unravelling the mysteries of language and navigation it will lead me down, yet. In the face of uncertainty, danger always seems the most probable outcome, especially if you’re a woman. It doesn’t have to be if you tackle what may seem easy at first so that you can develop the confidence to explore further.
Thanks for reading,