Ever since the Eat, Pray, Love and Wild craze, more women are finding the courage to pack their bags, hop on a plane and embark on a life-changing journey as a solo traveller.
Embracing the ‘me, myself and I’ mentality can lead to probably one of the most exhilarating experiences you’ll ever have. The first time I travelled alone was during my third year at university when I visited London, Paris and Barcelona from Toronto. Many of my friends thought I was brave for going alone and others thought I was crazy. It didn’t hit me that I was actually going until I arrived at the airport and checked in my luggage.
After I went through security, I was at the gate and watched people with their friends, family, or partner. That’s when I had the ‘Fuck, I can’t do this alone’ moment. I realised then that it would just be ‘me, myself and I’ – no one else to share this journey with. After a little panic (and maybe a cocktail at the bar), I calmed down and finally started to feel some excitement kick in especially when I took my seat and prepared for takeoff.
My adrenaline was running high and a rush of emotions encompassed my entire body. The best part about it is that no matter how hard you try to envision what your trip is going to be like, there’s really no way of knowing the adventures that are in store for you.
Travelling solo means you get to do your own thing without the worry of pleasing others. It’s your experience, and there’s nothing stopping you from visiting that monument, seeing that famous painting in an art gallery or eating at that restaurant you’ve been salivating over for months. Plus you’re prone to meet much more nomads from all over the world who are doing the same thing as you. These people may just be a one-time encounter or can be a part of your life forever.
But still, no matter how many articles and blogs there are written about the incredible experiences one has travelling solo, women still feel more vulnerable when roaming a foreign city without another person to shield off the crazies. And of course there are parts of the world that still treat women as second-class citizens, and at times not having a man by your side is putting yourself at risk.
Unfortunately, there are more things to be fearful of as a female traveller, but holding yourself back from a life-changing adventure just because of your gender is a mistake. Yes, travelling on your own comes with some bumps along the road. There will be moments when you’re alone and some random creepy guy hits on you, and naturally, doesn’t take the hint. A piece of advice – never look lost in a random and deserted street. I learnt the hard way in Paris when a Fonzie lookalike approached me and asked me to hop on his scooter for a good time, um no thanks.
Then there will be times when you’re lost with no wifi and you think to yourself, ‘Why the hell am I doing this?’ when you’re lugging around heavy luggage in one of the busiest train stations. I can’t lie, there are going to be mishaps, second thoughts and times when you feel lonely, but that’s all part of the experience. Bad things can happen, but they can also happen right outside your doorstep. The difference is that you’re miles away from home and outside your comfort zone.
Whether you’re going through a quarter-life crisis or questioning your life’s decisions, being by yourself in new surroundings gives you a moment of clarity. Maybe it sounds cliché, but it truly can be therapeutic. You start to realise some of the things you want and don’t want in life. After all, being on your own means you have no choice but to make your own decisions on where to go, what to see, or else you’ll end up spending lots of time in the lobby of your hostel or cosy Airbnb flat.
When you have to do everything on your own with no one to turn to, you find out that you’re actually capable of doing so many things. Like if you can handle being pickpocketed and left with no money, or taking multiple buses and trains to get to your accommodation, you can conquer anything.
Travelling solo allows you to see more clearly, especially if your vision was blurred before. It allows you to think, to heal and to welcome random strangers into your life. Since my solo travels, I decided to move from Toronto to London all by myself for two years. I didn’t know anyone and I went without a job waiting for me. For a year and a half now, I’ve travelled close to 20 cities throughout Europe (with more trips lined up), and have been fortunate enough to meet some incredible people who will be in my life forever, no matter where I end up. The memories you make, the people you meet and the cities you visit throughout your travels is just another chapter added to your life’s story.
The next stop is…