MY EXPERIENCES AND OPINIONS
Since January I’ve spent most of my days on the road, and many of those days were traveled solo. Solo but usually not alone. Actually I’ve been home in Louisiana since early August, and I spend much more time alone here then I do while traveling. So for me, it wasn't such a great leap. For all of the people (women and men) who are considering or toying with the idea of going at it alone, here are some of my experiences and observations as a solo female traveler.
People will go out of their way to help you. Obviously I don't know if this is as true for men, but I have experienced it in every country I’ve been. I get away with a lot and people are always willing to assist. When stranded, I’ve had strangers call or offer me a taxi. I’ve been allowed to take water past security at the airport and more than 3oz of toothpaste.(whoops) People have welcomed me in some form or another with open arms everywhere I go. I am not special or lucky, for the most part people are just helpful and nice. I take full advantage and even welcome this perk. Although, I’m pretty sure being a fairly young women has gotten me through customs and immigration in a hurry more than once.
You will always have someone to talk to, whether you want it or not. On tours, in restaurants, on buses, in airports, people are always around eager and willing to hang out.You will meet locals, couples, other solo travelers and may actually have to make a concerted effort to be alone. I can’t go to a bar and drink alone. Someone will always come over to chat, and it will be a guy 100% of the time. There are few reasons for this phenomenon. One is women rarely drink at bars alone, so instead of chatting with me they are hanging with their significant other or girlfriend. Secondly, other patrons are interested in why I (a female) am sitting alone, and are bold enough to come over and ask me. Some of my fondest memories are talking to randoms in pubs.
Speaking of randoms in bars…Is it safe? Am I scared of getting mugged, abducted, raped, or murdered? Yes and no. I worry about these things while traveling exactly the same amount as when I am home. I take the same precautions and try to be smart about my choices. It bothers me that this is the big reason why many women would never consider traveling alone. Take a look at the headlines where you live, it is probably far more dangerous in your city than anywhere you may be traveling. Of course bad things happen and some places are more dangerous than others, especially for women. But there are sooooo many places where this is not the case and you are missing out.
I do get homesick. Just like when I’m home my moods shift. Some days I don’t want to do it anymore. I’m tired, bored, or just depressed. If you are traveling for a short time this isn’t something you would need to consider, but I have to deal with it every now and then. Even though I'm tempted, I never book a flight home when I’m feeling homesick. I force myself out of my hotel/apartment and inevitably it passes without me noticing.
I spend a lot of time explaining where I’ve been, what I do, and why I’m doing it by myself. I’ve gotten every response imaginable. The most common comes from women who say, “I couldn’t do that.” Which is hard for me to fathom now that I’m on the other side. They can absolutely travel alone, most of these women have been in far more difficult situations and survived. Many are just scared and that’s the best reason to try.
I am the sole brains of this operation. There is no one to rely on, no one to carry my bags, or to make plans and preparations. I am responsible for everything. As a control freak it’s refreshing, and as a person who has no sense of direction it’s worrisome. I walked around Belfast for an hour before realizing my map was upside down. The funny thing is I always figure it out or find someone to help, and you will too. I know my weaknesses, and I’ve made changes to the way I travel because of them. A major problem is I haven't mastered the selfie, but I refuse to carry around "the stick." So if you want to follow me around to take photos, the position is open.
What I do miss is someone to share my experiences and stories. So many funny, exciting, and crazy things have happened to me since I’ve started traveling solo, and I’m the only one who holds those memories. It’s a little sad, but I think I’m fortunate to have them at all. If it’s a choice between traveling solo or not at all, I will always go alone.