It’s no secret that travel is a wonderfully advantageous experience- you get to see new places, try new food, learn about different cultures, connect with others, and have a much more diverse, broad-minded view of the world that you wouldn’t have if you stayed in your comfort zone. I’ve been lucky enough to travel to 13 different countries so far, and would strongly encourage everyone to travel as much as they can. However, this is easier said than done as a woman.
As women, we’re urged to be much more cautious than men are- traveling in groups, not staying out too late at night, carrying our keys a certain way in case we get attacked, always keeping an eye on our drink, avoiding parking garages, etc. With how far feminism has come and how much women have achieved, it’s still somewhat surprising that most people claim that a woman needs a guy or group of people (aka an escort) to go out at night (or in this case, to travel).
While I believe that being cautious has its advantages, I also think it can prevent someone from reaching their goals or doing something a little out of their comfort zone because they’re so focused on what could possibly go wrong. When I (or my female friends) talk about traveling alone to other cities or countries, we hear so many people talking about how dangerous it is, how X, Y, and Z happened to a friend of a friend of a friend who went there, how we could be kidnapped when often, the dangers that exist in other places usually exist in our home country as well.
In short, the benefits of travelling usually outweigh the risks as long as you take time to plan ahead, read about the culture beforehand, and learn the language (which Rick Steves highlights here). And here are some reasons why.
You will likely see more places than people who stick to just travelling in groups.
I have about 60 different cities and countries I still want to travel to on my bucket list- it’s safe to say it’s going to be nearly impossible to find someone to come with me on every single one of those trips. And even when you find someone else who has the desire to travel to the same place, you still have to work out finances, work, vacation time, different agendas for the trip, and the like. While traveling with friends and family can be fun, it’s not always realistic. And you shouldn’t have to miss out on a great trip just because you’re afraid to go it alone.
You learn to stand on your own two feet
When I was in London by myself for a week, if something went wrong, I had to find a way to deal with it on my own. I had no international cell phone plan- my only way of communicating with anyone back home was to find Wi-Fi, message them on Facebook, and I still had to account for the 5 hour time difference. So I didn’t get much of a chance to talk to anyone back home during the trip, much less if I was in a crisis or freaking out over the tube delays. And you know what? It really helped me become more confident in my abilities and being able to handle things myself. Like many women, I consider myself to be independent, smart, and capable and prefer to handle situations on my own. It’s one thing doing that at home- it’s an entirely different thing to do that in a foreign country where you’re by yourself, adapting to the culture, and can’t always call or text a friend or family member at the first sign of any obstacles. And while it can be a bit daunting at first, you become a better, more capable person because of it.
You have time to reflect
One of the things that is so great about traveling solo is that because you’re by yourself, you have time to reflect on things (even more so if you forgo being glued to your phone or laptop). With the stress and commotion of everyday life, it can be difficult to take time for yourself, meditate, or reflect on things that are occurring in your life. Being by yourself in a foreign place gives you the wonderful opportunity to reflect on any big decisions you’re weighing, come to peace with certain events, or just reflect on the things you’re grateful for in your life.
You become braver and more confident
After I returned home from my Semester at Sea trip, something that surprised me was that things I wanted to do and places I wanted to travel to seemed much more within reach than they did before. A couple years ago I only hypothetically talked with my best friend about how we should visit Japan someday. Now? We’re reading guidebooks, checking flight prices, and saving up enough money to go. After you travel alone for the first time, once you come back home, you feel like you can accomplish anything. You successfully navigated a different country and culture with an open mind all on your own, and have wonderful memories, pictures, and souvenirs to prove it. Once you overcome that first hurdle, that initial anxiety over everything that could go wrong, traveling solo again (or just traveling in general) seems much less intimidating and much more feasible.
In short, while there are certain safety precautions to take and some places that ideally you’d never want to travel to alone, crime happens everywhere and you shouldn’t psych yourself out of what could be the trip of a lifetime. Enjoy your life and live your wanderlust dreams femmes.