For those of you new to reading me, you might not know that I have been a solo female traveler for 3.5 years now. When I was 36 I lost so much – my business and building, my house and car, my marriage and even my dog. It took me three more years of struggling to realize that I needed a new plan. This waiting for a Prince Charming to come in and rescue me from my life wasn’t working. I had married a man who hated to travel and I longed for was to just take off in my car and start driving. So I did. At 39, I sold the rest of what I owned and drove off in my car for places unknown, road tripping over 30,000 miles across the United States. After that first year I realized I wasn’t done, so I solo road tripped from Arizona to Alaska! Yep, along the way I found that there were a lot of advantages of being a solo female female traveler.
With zero exceptions, every time I tell people I’m a solo female traveler, I get these looks of horror and then, gradually awe and respect. At first, my family was not very keen on this idea. But then it became my norm, my baseline. I was their daughter who was fearless, who questioned the world and set out to conquer it and my own fears. In the United States there is a stigma about traveling alone as it is much more acceptable in other parts of the world. Over the years, I have grown quite comfortable with traveling alone and prefer it at times. Traveling as a solo female has some incredible advantages.
Traveling solo allows me the flexibility to go wherever I want and stay for as long as I want and honestly, do whatever the hell I want. There is something to be said for not having to take another person’s feelings into consideration. I can pack up and leave a place if I don’t like. I can drive down the road and find something else I might like better. I can also buy a plane ticket for the other side of the globe on a moment’s notice without clearing it with anyone. If a place isn’t really speaking to me and I planned on staying for two weeks, I can leave after a day. On the other hand, if I’ve fallen madly for a town or state (like Alaska!) I don’t need to be in a rush for the next destination.
Confidence and Strength!
Let’s me honest, my divorce and the loss of my flower shop broke me. Broke me into tiny little pieces that I never thought would be whole again. I was a sad, pathetic mess. Somewhere driving across the northern states through Yellowstone to South Dakota to the East Coast I developed a deeper confidence in myself traveling as a solo female. Most people that know me, remember my strength and confidence in my 20s and early 30s. Then in my mid- to late-30s I became a shell of the woman I once was. Camping for over 100 days in National Parks putting up my own tent, taking care of myself including my personal safety was liberating. My self-confidence came back and that strength inside me bloomed.
On a side note, whether we like it or not, there is an inferiority stigma surrounding being a female in this world. As women, we grow up subconsciously relying on others or thinking we need to be taken care of. Too many women, nowadays, lack a strong sense of self-confidence and don’t believe they can handle themselves in tough situations. Well, when you’re by yourself and you’re stranded on the side of the road because your car stopped running, or you are approached by a stranger, you have only yourself to rely on to get you out of that situation. Personally, I made contingency plans for every (what I thought) conceivable situation. And then I made a Plan B, C, and D. I kid you not. At times traveling alone can be scary, but with enough research and planning I was able to avoid dangerous situations and be prepared with the knowledge that I could take care of myself should I find myself in a scary predicament. With every challenge I overcame as a solo female traveler, my confidence and strength grew.
Everyday I had the choice to meet others and make friends or put my headphones in and keep my head down if I wasn’t in the mood. Even if you are traveling with just one friend, it automatically gives you a security blanket. If you’re in a group you’re going to flock to the familiar, not necessarily start chatting with the cute guy to your right or the other woman drinking a great craft beer. Yep, I often struck up conversations based on what they were drinking. On the flip side, if they were drinking a crappy domestic beer I often steered clear. Kidding! (Not really!).
I have met people from all over the world during my travels. Being alone forces me to engage in conversation and push through my boundaries. I might have been traveling solo, but I still love meeting and connecting with others! Hearing other people’s stories has been one of the best parts of traveling for me. Most of the people are now even Facebook friends and sometimes it feels like I’ve known them forever!
Keeps me Healthy!
When traveling, I tend to be far healthier than when I travel with friends or family. Most of you know that I have an anaphylaxis soy allergy when makes eating a challenge. When traveling solo, I stock up at Costco or Fred Meyer and cook my own food. You should have seen my gourmet campfire meals! I still cook healthy, soy-free meals whenever I can. When traveling with others, peer pressure is a real thing. Often times, they are craving something and that is where we end up going – more times than not, there is nothing I can eat on the menu.
I also tend to workout or run more when I solo traveling. I will get up and do my squats, push-ups, and burpees (who am I kidding, I freaking hate burpees!). When I’m traveling with someone else I can be persuaded to sleep in quite easily.
Do you travel solo? If yes, what has been your favorite experience? If no, what is holding you back?