When it comes to solo travel, there's a bit of a gender gap. I've known plenty of men that have embarked on solo trips, but very few women. I've traveled solo a few times, and each time everyone from my parents to co-workers have feared for my safety.
If you're a single lady who wants to see the world but doesn't have someone to travel with, don't wait for someone to join you. Just do it. Here are six good reasons why every single woman should travel solo at least once:
1. There's no better way to get to know yourself
When I spent a week alone in Paris last spring, I'll be honest: I was feeling pretty shitty. I was supposed to take the trip with someone else (a guy) and, for lack of wanting to go into the story again, let's just say that I got ditched - albeit for a fair reason, but ditched nonetheless. However, being alone in a place where I was cut off from phone calls and most internet activity forced me to work through everything that had been bothering me.
2. It's a vacation for your brain
If you make the decision to travel alone, go somewhere where you don't know much of the language. I've forgotten 90% of my high school French, and this was actually kind of a blessing. I knew enough to get by, but not enough to understand any of the chatter around me.
I'm a chronic inadvertent eavesdropper, and being able to tune out everything around me for a week straight was magical. The few times I entered into a touristy area and overheard people speaking English, I secretly got annoyed. They were hijacking my braincation!
3. You can truly "leave it all behind"
With no one there to bring up what happened last week at work, or why your friend Judy is being such a bleep, you can truly leave everything behind you and be in the moment.
4. You can do what YOU want to do
When I went to Miami solo, this meant sleeping on the beach all day, every day (hint: I was stressed). When I went to Paris, however, this meant walking... a lot of walking. In fact, the only touristy thing I did while in Paris was take a picture of the Eiffel Tower. I skipped the museums and whatever else I was "supposed" to do, and just walked for upwards of ten miles per day and took pictures of things I found interesting. And it was probably the best vacation I've ever had, save for our girl's trip to Puerto Rico a few years ago! Also, I think I got a better idea of what Paris is really like by skipping the touristy activities and just exploring day-to-day life.
5. You'll be pushed out of your comfort zone
Incidentally, I think this is the thing that people fear most when traveling solo. However, it happens to be the most beneficial parts of traveling alone. Anytime I've gone on a solo trip, I can't lie - I was intimidated. When traveling abroad with a friend or two, you have someone else to lean on, someone to get lost with - and someone else to look like an ass with when you try to speak the local language and fail miserably. However...
6. You'll come out of it feeling stronger
One memory that sticks out from my study abroad experience six years ago was part of an ill-fated trip to Barcelona with friends. Everything that could go wrong, did - the place we booked and pre-paid for didn't actually exist, the friend we were traveling with didn't know that we had to move locations and we lost her for a few days, and then she had a seizure and had to go to the ER. After a few days of this, I decided to head back to London alone. At this point in my life, I hadn't ventured out much alone and I remember sitting in the back of the cab thinking, "Holy shit... I just navigated my way home through a foreign country all alone."
At the end of every solo trip I've taken, I've come out of it feeling not only stronger as a person, but also accomplished. I've done something many people - especially many women - wouldn't dream of doing, and that's pretty awesome.
Don't get me wrong - traveling with other people is just as awesome. After all, I couldn't have experienced a hilariously awkward massage in France or a seriously scary-yet-funny moment in Portugal without the help of my friends. However, I truly believe everyone should try traveling solo at least once in their lifetime - particularly women.
If you're considering taking a solo trip but are a little nervous, start small. Book a weekend trip somewhere where you know you can occupy your time alone (for me, that was Miami). Once you're more comfortable with traveling alone, start building up to bigger trips. After all, life is too short to not conquer your "bucket list", right?
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