Solo travel isn't just about having adventures, it's also about the personal transformation that you feel during and after your trip. Regardless of when you decide to travel alone, taking a solo trip gives you just what you need at that very moment. Eight women share their stories of how solo travel changes you…
Angelica from Things To Do & Eat
I think society conditions women to do a lot of emotional labour – for example, putting people's needs before their own or solving other people's problems. You see this in friendships, relationships, marriages, 9-5 jobs. You might enjoy it, and you might be good at it, but sometimes you do need a break.
I didn't realise this until the first time I traveled solo. Solo travel frees you from these expectations. You're able to go at your own pace, and you're able to put yourself first. There aren't other people around who are asking for your emotional labor. The biggest lesson I learned from solo travel is that it's important to take care of yourself (and it feels so liberating)!
Faith from Travel With Faith
Solo Travel is Transformational
A year of emotional stress led to my decision to follow my dream of planning for a 6 month trip to Europe. I learned that solo travel is healing, each day was better than the day before with beauty at every corner. For the first time in a long time I felt alive, The joy and happiness radiated from my face. Traveling solo allows the freedom to follow your own path, to be lost in contemplation and get to know oneself and enjoy your own company.
Confidence and Conquering fear
I was doubting my decision about traveling to unknown countries solo however was determined to not let the fears to me. I allowed my self to feel the fear but not to worry about the outcome and to be prepared for unexpected events.
A blogger inspired me to travel to Romania. There was minimal tourist infrastructure and many locals did not speak English. I discovered those who spoke English were happy to engage in conversation about the Romanian life, culture and economy.
I successfully travelled to 7 cities in 2 weeks. As I traveled, my confidence increased and added to my security to travel to other countries outside of my comfort zone. I learned that when things get rough I can reach down inside myself and know what I need to do.
Living in the Moment
After years of multitasking and looking forward to what is next on my agenda, I lived in the moment. I learned to slow down and hold that breath for 2 seconds longer. The time is only now, the place is only here. There are many special moments while traveling: listening to the street musician brings a song to my heart; evening wine in the main square in Brasov; watching the beautiful sunsets. I learned to stop and savour these delightful moments rather than rushing to the next sight.
Life is short! Learn and grow and travel while you can!
Lauren Monitz from The DownLO
The greatest thing about traveling solo is the instincts you develop. When you're on your own, you're hyper aware of the world. It becomes second nature to judge when a situation doesn't feel right or a neighbourhood feels sketchy. But also to learn to trust people.
This happened to me at the Mexico City airport. A guy wearing what looked like a Spanish security badge approached me and frantically in broken English said I was in the wrong terminal for my connection. It was midnight and there was not another soul in sight to ask. He claimed the only way to get there was to go outside and get in a black car and pay $20-25 US dollars to drive to the other side of the airport.
Everything in my gut told me it was wrong and that this was a scam (and worse I was going to get kidnapped and sold into slavery), but he was insistent, dragging me by the arm and showing me a map of the airport. After inspecting the doc and his badge and not knowing what else to do, I mentally pushed past my skepticism and came to accept he was right. While I probably could've negotiated the price or found another mode of transportation to get there, he did ultimately help me at a time when I didn’t think I needed it.
Olivia from Happy in the Hollow
As a cultural anthropologist, I’ve spent about two years alone “in the field” in Poland, plus I’ve visited a variety of countries fully or partially solo.
I feel a certain vulnerability when I’m traveling alone. On the one hand, it occasionally makes me feel lonely and anxious. Will I spend yet another evening alone in Białowieża, Poland? Is it too late at night to be walking around Shanghai by myself?
On the other hand, it heightens my senses and opens me up in a raw way to new surroundings and relationships. Undistracted, I can experience nature more profoundly, almost like a meditation.
And without a companion to lean on, I’m more likely to seek out other people and strike up conversations. That’s how I ended up driving around Istanbul with a former Turkish soldier and his best friend, a Kurd. It’s how I had moonshine and an apple for breakfast in a farmer’s kitchen somewhere in Maramureş, Romania.
I feel uniquely alive through these encounters. So I will always insist on taking trips alone or – since that’s not always possible with young kids – on spending a day, a few hours, even just a walk, by myself whenever we’re traveling.
Jessica Sern from Longest Bus Rides
I’ve been solo traveling on 90% of my trips for over 20 years (I started young!), just like my mom. She set me up with excellent (but a little boring) risk-averse advice that has proved extremely solid.
However, the best lesson is one I’ve learned on my own and strive to balance: take calculated risks.
I expect that the rate of death and injury from my risky activities is juuuuussst low enough that I’ll always survive to tell the story. So far, so good! And, some of my best memories have come from the risks! Here are a couple of my favorites:
In Myanmar I was wandering the outskirts of the tiny town of Mindat one sunny morning. A man on a motorcycle riding along the dusty road stopped right next to me—we were the only two people about. “What’s your problem?” he asked me. This meant, “How can I help you?” in his limited English. I explained my situation of looking to see if I could meet some women with tattooed faces and ask questions about the culture. He invited me onto the back of his motorbike.
Hoping for the best, I set off with this stranger and we wound along the mountainside. The end result was exactly what I’d been looking for. The women were wonderful, and through a translator we had a great chat and I learned so much!
Another time my SCUBA instructor in Hawaii, USA asked me during a break, “Want to dive in a cave to see a big shark?”
“It’s not going to eat us?” I asked back. And, today I can tell you I’ve hung out with a 12-foot long shark, plus a couple of giant sea turtles to boot. Pretty amazing, in my opinion.
Stephanie Craig from History Fangirl
I’ve been traveling full-time for almost two years, but it’s different than I thought it would be when I set out. I spent the first seven months on the road traveling solo exclusively, but then I started to make travel friends and form relationships with people. It’s so much easier to make friends than I thought it would be, that I am almost never actually alone when I travel anymore. Even though I am on the road so much, there’s always someone to travel with or a friend who wants to meet up somewhere or have you come visit.
Solo travel is more of a treat these days. I think when people start to think about being alone on the road, it can be overwhelming. But if you really network, connect with people online, and open your mind to making new friends, you’ll end learning that it’s actually easier to make friends when traveling solo than you think.
Michela from Rocky Travel
I started to travel alone as a young woman – and a student – in the 80s, when it was not so popular to go places by yourself. Over the years I have experienced solo travel through all stages of needs, perspectives and purposes. With all variations and escalations of the case, it has truly grown into my favourite way of travelling, and thirty years later I’m still travelling most of my time on my own 🙂
With so many lessons collected over the time, it is difficult to condense them into a few sentences. I would say that it has taught me to stay more focused on the important things and especially on my feelings and actions, become instantly aware of my surroundings and be more receptive for opportunities.
It has showed me that I’m more capable of what I had imagined and last but not least that balance in my life is the most important thing to me. It’s entirely up to me to transfer those experiences and things that I have learnt onto other domains of my life and make of those lessons the best out of them.
Stephanie Langlet from Ethno Travels
I have travelled solo since 2007 and I'm amazed how travel changed me. As a quite shy and introvert person, although I was a commercial manager, it wasn't always easy for me to show confidence. I especially didn't use to talk to people I didn't know.
Since I have travelled to Asia, people naturally come and talk to me. When I'm there, I feel so confident and relaxed that I attract local people. I'm always invited everywhere, for all celebrations: wedding, engagement, giving name ceremony, even funerals. I have a lot of incredible experiences to share!
In Cambodia, an event convinced me that my attitude had a huge impact on others' behaviour with me. I was visiting a Buddhist temple for the first time and didn't feel comfortable as I didn't know if the monks were open as the Burmese ones or closed as the Thai ones. Nobody talked to me…
I arrived in the second temple with a local guy. I felt confident, and was smiling and laughing. All the monks talked to me and I spent two hours talking with their leader.
Since then, I always make sure I seem confident and smile when I visit a new place. It has always helped me a lot in my trainer and manager job too. The mirror effect is very powerful both to attract the right people and inspire trust.
Dr. Esraa, Egypt: Solo Traveller & Adventurer
I am from Egypt, in north Africa. I am almost 34, I started my solo journey in this beautiful world seven years ago and I’ve fallen in love within travel. I love learning about cities, countries and faraway places and interacting with new cultures.
Since I began solo travelling I have visited 20 countries so far and almost 44 cities (including my own country). More than 80% of these trips I have planned myself. I’ve booked hotels, flights, trains and buses, and figured out how to navigate myself around cities, ate local cuisine and interacted with new people. I’ve enjoyed every place that I have visited. I hope to continue achieving my dream. It’s not easy but definitely worthwhile.
I have visited the Vatican, Greece, Belgium, Czech Republic, Malaysia, UAE, Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Hungary, Poland, Germany, France, China, The Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Thailand, and of course Egypt. One of the most important things that I did was to keep my beautiful photos as my memories. I have more than 10,000 photos of my trips.
I encourage women to travel solo especially if you have never travelled solo before. You just need to plan, research your destination and learn about the culture, attractions to see, and which areas to avoid. Plan your time well and learn what there is to do and have a travel budget too. Even if you don’t have a lot of money you can still travel for a few days on a lower budget. Everything is possible. Just plan for your dream and make it happen.
Need more inspiration to travel solo? Read these stories of other women who took the plunge and went solo. Read here…