For those of you who might have followed me along my travels in 2013 or read various excerpts from my personal blog, you can probably already tell that I am an advocate of solo travel. Specifically solo travel for women. The topic of solo female travel is front of mind, following an interview I had recently with the editor of Stellar Magazine.
Growing up in a multi-cultural household and living in various countries around the world, travel has been a huge part of my life and of how I am able to truly feel free and in touch with myself. Over the years I have taken many trips on my own, I’ve had many adventures, some I’d welcome again….ok all I”d welcome again (life’s an adventure after all!), but most importantly for me I have learned an incredible amount about myself, life and the world around me, by traveling solo.
Now don’t get me wrong, I may be somewhat introvert by nature but I do love the company of other people, I”m fun loving, sometimes loopers, a risk taker, as well as someone who often craves solitude. I don’t travel solo because I have to, but because I choose to. I value the experience of following my own lead and reflecting in the peace of my own company. I like who I am when I am free to be who I am without fear of judgement or commentary, and taking trips alone once in a while is how I reconnect, re-set and rejuvenate!
Here are the benefits of Solo Travel for Women as I see them:
1. Courage – making the decision to head off on a solo adventure takes courage, even if you are a well seasoned traveler. As women there are important considerations we need to think about. Whether we acknowledge them out loud or not, sub-consciously we are evaluating, imagining, deducing and analysing what the ‘reality’ of travelling alone might mean. The mere process of assessing the possibility, thinking of where you’d like to go, when you’d like to go, how you’d like to get there and then making the decision, is courageous. A healthy boost for our self esteem, our self image. Taking things into your own hands and making your own carefully considered decisions is empowering and satisfies a secret part of you that craves to hear you inner lion roar!
“Be daring, be free”
2. Confidence – (The mere fact that you have had the courage to take an adventure is a confidence booster). Traveling solo means you have to make decisions. If like me, making decisions can sometimes seem like the most difficult thing to do, then take a trip traveling alone and see how quickly you learn to trust yourself. Each day, each moment will be filled with decisions that have to be made. Decisions as simple as, what do I feel like eating for lunch? what part of town will I head to? What will I do today? Will I go do a walkabout or stay in bed a little longer? Do I want some of that ice cream? should I walk down that street or go this way? Will I take a red bus tour through the city or take a cycle tour? and on and on it goes. With no one around to interject or to take into consideration you are free to plan and decide on your day, your route, timing and dining and everything in between. The entire experience and enjoyment of doing things on your own terms, is a fabulous opportunity for personal development. Learning to make decisions quickly or intuitively as you discover what you really like or don’t like helps the confidence meter soar.
“Traveling solo forces you to figure out and trust who you are and how you want to live your life”
3. Connection – People frequently tell me they’d “hate to be alone all the time” or that they “would get so bored” or would be “so scared” to travel solo. I always say – and this is from experience – yes, you are travelling solo but you are never really alone. There are people all around you, there are families, other solo travellers, couples young and old, people on trains, planes or in ticket booths at train stations, there are dogs on leashes or running in parks, there are baristas in funky cafes or hotel receptionists, people sit at tills in supermarkets, on ferries, and people welcome you and also stay at B&Bs, hostels; literally everywhere around you, there are lives of others playing out. Other people who you can choose to connect with, at any time.
The beauty about this is the choice you have to engage in conversation, share a smile or a laugh, when you feel you need human interaction. Or the choice you have to bury your head in your book, find a corner in a park and reflect on life when its time to be in your own company.
I have found over the years of various solo trips that I behave differently when alone to interact with people around me. I am far more open with the world, more engaging, more aware of all thats around me, more willing to make eye contact, share a smile or stories, and hold conversations with other like minded people. Likewise, the world around you will engage differently with you. As a woman travelling solo you will find that people are interested or intrigued by you. They are inspired, want to talk, hear where you’ve been and where you’re going to. I for one learned to love and trust people again by traveling solo – truly. As social beings we have an innate need to connect and bond with others; trust that this innate desire will ensure you have just the right amount of human interaction that you want while on your solo adventure.
“You are the master of your own experience, you get to decide on every moment”
(Heres what I do/don’t do to help with the safety factor to enhance my own feelings of security while travelling solo)
1. Info Sharing – Email my full itinerary and dates to family or close friends. I don’t share full details of where I”m going, or staying with anyone except those I trust implicitly and those who might be called on if I was in a pickle.
2. Careful Social Media – I don’t post detailed updates of my movements moment by moment on social media. The odd selfie and sharing of awesome pics or thoughts is enough. If writing a travel blog and making it public I write posts after I have been somewhere.
3. Do the background work. – I find it helpful to know a little bit about the city, town or country that I am travelling to. Do you best to gain as much insight into the culture you are travelling into, and be understanding that the cultural norms and expectations of how women should behave or indeed how one interacts with women could be very different to what you’re used to. Read up on the areas or locations at your destinations to gain an insight into where the popular places are, places that sound like you might want to avoid etc and of course find the places of interest that you might want to visit & how best to get to them (chose the one you are most comfortable with) I always find subways or busses are good choices during the day if walking is too far and budgets are tight.
4. Smart phones – If you have one, these are great for finding directions, maps, reviews on places as you go. I tend to use #Yelp quite a lot while travelling and of course google map has come in handy
5. Find your safety hub – Stay in populated areas where you can duck into a cafe if you’re feeling uneasy or nervous for any reason. Sometimes I’ve darted into the nearest church I could find just to get away from loud crowds. Religious or not, a church of any denomination can help to bring calm. I use cafes or bistros all the time. I find one and either keep going back as a daily thing or duck in to one when I feel uneasy about anything at all.
6. Stay Alert – Staying safe comes down to being aware of your surroundings and listening to your gut and how you feel about whats going on. Know where you are and how to get back to where you’re staying or back to your safety hub. Be aware of who’s around you and how people are acting. The people around you may be good to talk to or run to if you really get scared of something. But people around you may also cause you a prickle of fear or unease, decide what you think and act accordingly. Learn to say no or be comfortable walking on in silence, ‘no I don’t want to buy a bracelet thanks’ ‘no I don’t have the time’ (to the lone man asking for the time late at night on a street in paris) ‘no I don’t want company, I’m just leaving’. Staying alert means staying wise. Make decisions that you are comfortable with and be aware of how you appear to people around you. Sometimes knowing where a towns tourist office is can be comforting, and if you are prone to attract dramatic situations on the Jason Bourne scale, please locate and know the address & number of your nearest embassy!!
“Worry is a waste of imagination”
The Grand Adventure – My personal favourite. Whether it begins as one, these trips usually turn into adventures of self discovery, not to mention the incredible stories and experiences you’ll come home with! Dare to Live! provides services for those women seeking assistance with planning options for solo female grand adventure travel (firstname.lastname@example.org)
A two week trek – A two week vacay in Europe, USA or Canada is great – several countries or places to choose from all within easy access of each other. Book your hotels ahead of time or while you’re on the move. Railways, buses or small airlines are good options when moving from place to place.
The small group trip – There’s plenty to choose from and you are sure to find something to suit your fancies
The Staycation – Explore where you are. There is more than likely whole lot of your own country that you have yet to experience. This is a good option for those who find comfort in the familiar but would like to travel solo for a bit. At least you know if you’re getting ripped off when you vacation in your own country!
A Quick City Break – Pamper yourself with a spa, dinner and hotel weekend in Paris, or London. Book a Bnb, hostel or go self-catering with Air BnB, and discover the culture, essence and traditions of a city you’ve always wanted to visit. With all the cheap and discounted air fare options we have these days, a quick city break is within reach for most of us.
Retreat Escapes with Dare to Live! – 3 or 5 night escapes for women to connect, relax & rejuvenate. Give yourself permission to be taken care of and to take care of yourself. Leave empowered and inspired; you deserve it.
Still have the jitters about traveling solo?….
Maybe thinking about it this way will help… life really is too short to not take adventures. Doing anything despite the fear is an adventure and you deserve adventure in your life. Go for t!! step outside your zones of comfort just a little and Dare yourself to live a little! 😉
Ceili Fitzgerald – Founder&Owner Dare to Live! Retreat Escapes and Adventure Travel for women