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I remember the first time that I realised I was temporarily but glaringly completely alone. I had no one around me, at least for thousands of miles, that I knew, no one to save me if everything went horribly wrong.
I was terrified – I stayed in my room for 28 hours before I plucked up the courage to venture out of my budget hotel room in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and explore…
It kind of happened by accident. The friend I was travelling with at age 19, ran out of money and decided to book a flight home, I still had money left and decided that I wanted to carry on going for a month or so.
I truly believe that that snap decision changed the way I thought about travelling (and to a certain extent, life).
Since then I have taken no less than 5 trips solo across India, Indonesia and Australia, and moved to Fiji for six months knowing absolutely no one. It just takes that first click in your brain to realise that you can do it – nothing can guarantee that it will work out well, nothing can guarantee that there won’t be hard times, but you can do it, it is possible and you may even come out of it stronger than before.
Here’s how solo female travel can change you – for the better:
1) You Learn About The World
Sure, you can do this when you’re travelling with someone else too, but in my experience your awareness of the world around you is enhanced when you travel alone. You notice more things, you ask more questions, you meet more strangers. Something about being alone makes you absorb information more vividly – I tend to write it all down, little observations whilst travelling on a bus or train. You may notice these things when you’re with someone else but perhaps be less inclined to write them down, to digest them at the end of the day, to have them imprinted on your brain, free from any other distraction.
2) You Learn How To Trust Yourself
Whilst it’s terrifying at the beginning, being on the road solo makes you trust your intuition and decisions more. You learn that you are capable of making confusing bus or train journeys and navigating another language to take you halfway across a country. You learn that your intuition counts for more than you think, as you make decisions about who to trust and who not to. You learn that you are capable of being in unfamiliar and sometimes unnerving situations and coming out stronger the other side.
3) You Learn How To Trust Others
My first approach to travelling was to trust no-one really. If someone offered friendly advice I would automatically think they were trying to scam me, or worse.
At the age of 19, perhaps this was wiser than being recklessly trusting, but as I travelled more, I began to realise that you HAVE to trust some people when you travel.
I believe that 95% of people are good and for the 5% that are going to try to take advantage of you, you should be aware, but that doesn’t mean that you should forgo all of the positive opportunities to connect with other well meaning people. Some of the most amazing experiences I’ve had whilst travelling involved trusting people I’d just met.
Treat travelling like the rest of your life, don’t make reckless decisions and take risks, but equally don’t approach everyone with suspicion. In a lot of places in the world, they are genuinely just friendly people who are trying to help, and you never know, you may make a friend!
4) You Learn How To Let Go
Most of our adult lives we are tied to routines and time constraints – we have an on-going list of commitments and deadlines which can make it easy to forget to just be. I’ve always found that the first few days or weeks of a trip when I’ve come from my normal working life can be a mental tussle of feeling like I’m not doing enough floundering in a directionless haze.
Once I’ve allowed my mind to settle and begin to appreciate where I am, I experience a sense of calm and openness that I don’t experience elsewhere. Free from the restraints of deadlines and commutes, you notice more about the world, about yourself and breathe a little deeper.
5) You Learn To Appreciate What You Have
One of the perhaps unexpected impacts of travelling solo for me is a deep appreciation of the life I’ve left behind. Whether that’s due to having periods of being alone and missing the people close to me, or appreciating how privileged I am to be able to travel, travelling makes me more grateful and appreciative of what I have. There’s no better feeling than reconnecting with your loved ones after weeks or months away with hugs to give and stories to tell.
If you ever wanted to travel solo but don’t think you have the courage – feel the fear and do it anyway! There will be ups and downs but you may just learn something new about yourself. Despite moments of being lonely, I can honestly say that I haven’t regretted any of the travelling I’ve done – life’s too short to wait around for the right person or the right moment, there’s a whole world out there waiting for you 🙂