I've traveled solo many times for business and several times on a much needed vacation. I've lost track of the number of times that I've been asked throughout my journeys, "Are you going alone?" "Don't you have a friend to go with you?" or "You aren't afraid to travel by yourself, I could never do that." Lets not forget this one, "Do you get lonely?"
I remember the first time I traveled alone for vacation. I was married and at the time my daughter was five years old. I decided to head to Los Angeles to visit my sister and her family. It was the first time that my daughter and I had flown. My husband made sure we got on the plane without issues, and the flight to Los Angeles was smooth. The next task was to get our luggage and find my sister. This too went without incident. I juggled luggage and a 5 year old through a international airport. We had a great time in Los Angles and the surrounding areas. We made our way back to Washington-Dulles, and it was at that point I was bitten by the travel bug.
I started making my way around the country for my job shortly thereafter. Getting in and out of airports became second nature to me as well as either renting cars and driving in strange cities or hailing taxis to get from point A to B. When you have a job that requires you to travel, your company doesn't pay for another person to accompany you so you don't have to go alone. You put on your big girl pants and you conduct business.
I'm no longer married, but I still love to do personal travel. Yes I have friends that I could travel with, but trying to coordinate a week's vacation with a friend or group of people can be taxing. I've been through that experience before, and it was by far worst than anything I've encountered while traveling solo. I made a vow to never go there again. I'm not one to sit around and wait for another person to get in a position financially to vacation or find the time for a vacation. Most importantly, because a person is alone doesn't mean they are lonely. There's a difference.
The people that I have met along the way have been insightful and have impacted my life immensely. On my last trip I met a lady at the airport that I have now become friends with. She called me her angel. I had arrived early at the airport and the United counter had not opened nor did they have a sign posted about their hours. I asked if she knew what time the counter opened. She didn't, but after a small conversation I could clearly see that she was stressed. She was on her way to the states as well; however, she was an inexperienced traveler. We talked and got to know each other and it turns out that she was from South Africa. In fact not far from where I would like to go on safari.
It's funny people see women who travel solo as courageous or brave. Why don't they see men this way? Actually I see myself as neither, I'm simply doing what I love to do. As a matter of fact, I believe traveling solo has contributed to making me who I am today. I also believe that every woman should travel solo at least once in their life. Here's why:
1. It Forces You To Step Outside Your Comfort Zone - It requires you to face your fears. I was quite nervous the first time I traveled alone, but I pushed through and marched forward. As a result, I became quite confident in my abilities to reach a destination and enjoy myself. It is definitely a self-esteem boost.
2. It Broadens Your Perspective - Traveling allows you to see that that there is another part of the world besides the little piece of paradise that you experience daily. It allows you to interact with people outside of your circle and allows you to get to know them and a little about their daily life. I have met wonderful people along my journey, some I have remained in touch with and some I've just had a pleasant conversation with. All remain memorable.
3. It Allows You to Experience Different Cultures and Foods - One of the things that I love most is experiencing different cultures and treating myself to local dishes. Eating out by myself the first time was a little uncomfortable, but I've learned to take my Kindle. I noticed one lady who was traveling solo doodling. People find a way to occupy themselves. I'm comfortable enjoying my meals alone and not feeling like an outcast. I've had people invite me to join them, but I've found I like relaxing and eating alone. I'm not obligated to make small talk and can focus on reading or getting on line and retrieving emails etc.
4. It Teaches You To Think About Your Safety - Safety should be a major concern when traveling solo. It forces you to listen to your intuition and to become aware of your surroundings. I always do my homework before traveling. I educate myself on taxi fares so I will have some idea of what I should be buying. If I will be driving, I make sure I arrive during the day so I can reach my destination before night fall. I make it a habit of checking my surroundings, and never venture too far my hotel at night. I always park under lights and always keep my doors locked when driving or in my hotel room. They make peep holes for a reason, I use it before opening the door for room service, maintenance etc.
5. You Return Feeling Like You Can Conquer The World - Traveling solo makes you stronger as a person. It enhances your leadership, planning and organizational skills. It allows you to get in touch with what you like and do they things you want to do. You get to plan and set your own schedule and not feel obligated to anyone. It's freeing and totally invigorating!
We've come a long way baby. We have women who are executives in corporations or own their own businesses and they travel constantly. It seems that traveling for business is acceptable, but there's still a stigma for a woman traveling alone for personal reasons. Females traveling solo don't want to be looked at sideways. We want to feel invigorated, and we're simply refusing to be stifled in any matter. Let us assert our independence.