In this guest post, author Leyla Giray Alyanak explains why every woman should travel solo–whether or not she’s partnered.
A solo travel adventure should be part of every woman’s life, at least once. It may seem more natural to travel on your own if you’re single, but even if you’re not, don’t discount this type of travel.
A solo trip away from partners, responsibilities and daily chaos, even for a short while, can turn into a life-changing event.
Solo travel is one of the fastest-growing segments of the travel industry. Here are five good reasons why:
1) Solo travel makes you more independent, less fearful and builds your self-confidence.
Solo travel develops your coping skills – from finding your way around, to whispering something in a pharmacy, to ordering from an incomprehensible menu in a foreign country. Imagine how you’ll feel, map in hand, once you’ve survived the labyrinth of Zanzibar’s Stone Town or the Fez medina and emerged close to home. You may have had to use sign language or a phrase book but doesn’t it feel great to communicate?
At home we know our way around places and things – where to buy something, who to call when something goes wrong, where to get support when we’re lonely or tired. On the road, on your own, none of these things are obvious. They’re there, but you’ll have to work at finding them. The unknown can be scary but if you need something badly enough—food, medicine, companionship—you’ll find a way to get it, however scared you might feel. The rewards are tremendous, that feeling of victory and overcoming odds. Because you will.
I was recently on a hike when I developed two huge blisters, one beneath each foot. There wasn’t much I could do—so I kept limping on. At home I would have been pulling out the bandages and disinfectant and foot cushions. Here, I waited until I found a cool stream and rested my feet in it for a while. Not great, but I coped.
2) Solo travel teaches you to enjoy your own company.
Battered as we are by responsibilities and competing priorities, it’s hard to imagine a precious moment of solitude at home. Yet solo travel does that: It teaches you to enjoy being yourself, by yourself.
It’s rare to be lonely but when you do end up on your own, tell yourself this is a special moment, one that will never be repeated. Savor every second because soon enough you’ll go home and plunge back into the whirl of everyday life.
This is a time to nurture yourself, to listen to what you want rather than what everyone around you thinks you should want.
3) Solo travel opens you to the world.
Traveling with others can close you off from your surroundings. You might end up traveling in a bubble, happily sharing impressions and words with your immediate travel companions. Why look outward when you don’t need to? When you travel on your own, the opposite happens. If you want to share a beautiful moment and there’s no one around, you might reach out and talk to someone.
Being on your own makes you more approachable. People can reach out to you more than if you were accompanied. Have you ever tried to interrupt a self-absorbed couple or cozy group to see if they’d like to get to know you better? Probably not, because you don’t sense they’re open to welcoming you into their circle. A woman on her own would be far more approachable—that could be you.
Local people often want to know more about me—who I am, where I’m from, and especially why I’m by myself. All these encounters open windows into new cultures. You’ll probably meet other travelers as well. Some will remain passing acquaintances, but a few may become friends you’ll cherish. Traveling on your own may actually fill your life with more people.
4) Solo travel is liberating.
I don’t know about you, but I love the sense of freedom I get from making my own decisions without having to negotiate or compromise. Want to go to a museum? Go! To the beach? Ditto. Don’t want to do anything at all? That’s fine too. Just grab a book or a journal and head for the nearest café, and watch the world go by.
Being on my own also helps me shed a few social strictures. Perhaps I shouldn’t be doing ‘that’, whatever that is, but what the heck. No one’s watching.
(And you’ll learn to take great selfies!)
5) Solo travel helps you find yourself.
Sometimes life at home can be hectic. It may be the job, the family, the commitments—and perhaps you feel you’ll never get on top of everything. Taking a solo break will re-energize you and empty your mind for a while. If you’re on your own (and I mean on your own, not on Skype or on your cell) you won’t be rehashing the same things you do at home; your thoughts will be somewhere else, coping with new realities.
Solo travel will give you some breathing space and time to put the rest of your life into perspective, if you need to. If you don’t, it will simply give you a chance to step off the treadmill and be still. When you return, you’ll appreciate everything more and that feeling of being overwhelmed will be attenuated, like the serenity that envelops us after a long walk in beautiful surroundings.
Getting away will help you appreciate what you left behind, whether a relationship, a job or a home.
By traveling solo, you’ll be pushing your boundaries and stepping out of your comfort zone. You may be scared at times, but it will pass. You may feel a bit lost or confused, especially if you’ve always had someone else to lean on during your travels. That will pass too, and things that made you fearful will eventually become sources of strength and inspiration.
Because—you can do it. And you should.
About the Author:
Leyla Giray Alyanak is a journalist and development worker with a passion for travel and improving people’s lives in developing countries. At 43, she made a major decision to reinvent herself and travel the world solo for six months; she was gone more than three years.
She shares her travel knowledge on her website and in her book, Women on the Road: The Essential Guide for Baby Boomer Travel, which shows baby-boomer women how to plan and take the independent trip of their dreams.
Also on More Time To Travel: