When I tell people I traveled solo through Thailand and Vietnam, the response is almost always along the lines of “Oh wow, that’s brave of you. Why were you by yourself?”
I understand the response completely. It’s not commonplace for a woman to hop on an international flight and visit a foreign country alone.
But it should be.
Traveling alone was the single most freeing and empowering thing I could have done for myself in my early twenties. I learned to have confidence in my own decisions, trust my instincts, enjoy my own company, and be brave enough to break free of social norms in pursuit of my own happiness.
Whether you’re 23 or 73, now is the time to take a leap of faith in yourself and plan that bucket list trip you’ve been wanderlusting over.
Here are just a handful of reasons why traveling solo as a woman can be among the most gratifying things you can do.
#1: You Build Confidence in Yourself
Who will get you safely from one city to the next? You will. Who is in charge when something doesn’t go according to plan? You are. Who makes every decision on your vacation? You do. It’s incredibly empowering to navigate unfamiliar terrain on your own, figuring it out as you go. With every day and every decision, your confidence in yourself will grow. Suddenly, things that seemed so intimidating at the beginning — taking public transportation when you don’t speak the language, haggling at the flea market, figuring out where your hotel is when you can’t get a cell signal — won’t phase you anymore. Sometimes the best way to find your inner strength is trial by fire. Meet your new mantra: “You got this.”
#2: Quality “You Time”
There’s no better time to reflect and recharge than by having some quality You Time. And if that can happen in a beautiful new destination, then even better! You’ll be able to do exactly what you want to do, when you want to do it. Read a paperback with your toes in the Seine, take a siesta in the middle of the day in Seville, sit alongside a floating village in Phuket — your days will unfold however YOU want them to. You’ll start to enjoy your own company and end up learning a lot about yourself in the process. And you know what? You’re pretty cool.
#3: Make Friends From All Over the World
One of the most rewarding things about traveling on your own is the ease of making friends from all over the world. You are simply much more inclined to strike up a conversation with a fellow traveler when you’re solo, and other people won’t feel like they’re interrupting a romantic escape or girlfriends getaway by approaching you in return. I’ve befriended travelers from all over the world this way, and still keep in contact with them on social media. Now, when I’m planning a trip to a new destination, I always think “Who do I know know in this country?” Chances are, I’ve met someone during my travels that I can get fantastic local insight from or even meet up with while I’m there.
#4: Break Out of Your Comfort Zone
Author Neale Donald Walsch famously said that “life begins at the end of your comfort zone,” and I’ve found that to be spot on. There’s solace in doing what you know, but there’s elation in doing something that pushes you. Go ahead — bungee jump off a suspension bridge, eat something weird that you can’t pronounce, or strike up a conversation with someone from a different background. You may just end up with a new hobby, new favorite food or expanded worldview. Even if the effects of stepping out of your comfort zone aren’t as long lasting, the sense of accomplishment and pride you’ll have at the end of the day is rewarding enough.
5: You’ll Have a Story to Tell
I take pride in telling people I’ve traveled solo around the world. It makes me feel capable and strong to have done something that others consider brave, and I’m always intrigued by other female travelers who have done the same. If you’re looking to plan your first solo trip and have some uncertainties about safety, start small! Plan a weekend with yourself in Sedona or Santa Fe, then graduate to Tulum, Mexico or Vancouver, British Columbia and then … anywhere your brave heart desires.
For more travel inspiration, be sure to check out Emeri Callahan’s global adventures.
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