FOR ME, TRAVEL—MOST OF WHICH IS SOLO—IS VERY PERSONAL. IT IS AN ESCAPE, AN ADVENTURE AND A JOURNEY OF PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT. I REALIZED, AFTER TALKING TO MANY WOMEN IN VARIOUS CIRCLES, THAT I MAY BE A BIT OF AN ANOMALY. TRAVELING ALONE WAS NEVER A BIG DEAL TO ME, BUT IT IS TO MANY WOMEN.
I took my first big road trip to Austin, Texas. It was after an ugly breakup. Instead of sitting at home feeling sorry for myself, I reached out to a few outof- state friends to let them know that was looking to drive south for the week. I asked who wanted to have me as a visitor, and I wasn’t ready to say why. I had three responses within a few minutes, which was a boost to my self-confidence. Soon, I packed up my suitcase and my dog and started driving south.
The questions I started getting from family and friends went something like, “Aren’t you scared?” or “What if something happens to you?” My first thought in response to these questions was: “Would you ever ask a guy these questions?” I don’t know why these societal disparities still exist, but it’s not the 1950s. Lastly, dangers lurk in our own backyards as much as the next town over or several states away. So, respectfully, I kept driving the 21 hours there and back. I had a wonderful time and, as you can tell, am still alive.
DON’T YOU GET BORED?
My first solo international trip was less spontaneous and was planned for about six months. I had “won” a three-day stay at a resort in Canada a few hours north of Toronto. My only obligation was to attend a 90-minute timeshare presentation. Lucky me! I bit and decided to make a week of it to explore as much of Toronto as I could. With the discovery of Airbnb, I found this made it both affordable and easy to find a variety of highly rated places to stay in. However, the new set of questions cast upon me included, “Don’t you get bored? I could never spend all that time by myself!” Or, “Don’t you get lonely?”
BEING ALONE, BUSY ME
I have never once been bored on a trip. If I found myself wanting for conversation, I could always pop into a pub or recommended restaurant and make a new friend. Actually, some of my favorite people I have met on these solo trips are friends to this day. On the other side of the coin, being alone is a beautiful gift these days. Being purposefully unplugged is an even better gift to yourself. Even when you’re “alone”, your headspace can be invaded by texts, messages, emails, phone calls and your own anxieties or worries. So I make a point to digitally detox which takes willpower, no doubt. But it’s so worth it to be in a quiet room, or immersed in the white noise of the woods, ocean or a bustling city.
I started bringing a journal on some of my trips. I never thought I would be a journal person. On some of my vacations, I would bring a journal, and it would sit on a table the entire time. Eventually, I would stare at it, it would stare back at me, I’d pick it up, then put it down, walk around it and eventually I would pour myself a glass of wine and concede defeat.
I found that writing thoughts down took courage. Self-care isn’t always pretty, but it’s worth it. Writing your thoughts down gets them out of your head and makes them less overwhelming and more manageable. It’s also fun to look back and remember where you were before, during and after your trip.
DON’T BE NAÏVE
I reached out for some different perspectives on traveling alone internationally, as I have personally only been to tourist-friendly destinations. I did uncover some useful resources and tips that I believe are valuable to share.
I first reached out to Marcy Jacobson at Adler’s Rochester Travel. She echoed that she has not assisted many women who travel alone and felt the primary concern was that “women may feel out of their comfort zone.” She also shared this should not be a reason to be discouraged. She stressed the importance of becoming knowledgeable of local customs before booking a trip. She also encourages using mobile translation apps and apps that convert currency.
With that advice, I turned to the internet to see what sites and networks I could find that were relevant and helpful. It didn’t take me long to find various “tribes” of women who share their knowledge and advice for other solo women traveling abroad. For woman-to-woman tips on safety, dress, behavior and other travel resources from women who have traveled to these destinations recently, check out trip.skyscanner.com/tribes/solo-female. The site claims it is “Free of mansplaining and alarmist language.”
EMBRACE INDEPENDENCE, FOLLOW YOUR HEART
I found a lot of women are conflicted internally with guilt from their own self-inflicted questions of, “What about my job? Is this selfish? What about the children, pets, my significant other?” You could make a book just on excuses not to go on that trip. But as a quote from Buddha says, “You, yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
So, take the trip, do the things you love, ride the horses, zip the lines, eat the food, swim in the hot springs, pet the dogs, drink the wine and sleep in as late as you want. Take home with you what you want and leave behind what you don’t need anymore. Your life, as it stands, will all be waiting for you when you return. You’ll have so much to share when you unpack.
We can’t wait to hear your traveling solo stories. Please send them to editor@RWmagazine.com.
Kristin Hoefling is a Personal Banker 2 with Wells Fargo Bank, part-time dog sitter and travel enthusiast.