A few years ago, I left my comfort zone to travel solo. For most of my life, I’ve had the desire to travel. After a magical four months in Spain during university, I was hooked. I got home and all I could think about was that next trip. Growing up and even through university, I never really had to travel alone because of family, friends and university tours providing the plans and the company.
However, at a certain point, everyone at home was staying put, building a life and growing in their careers. I, on the other hand, grew more restless. There was still more I wanted to do but if I was serious, I had to make the choice: wait for someone to come with me or take the plunge and go solo.
So, I started saving and planning and the more I researched, the more I realised that I was not alone in this sentiment. Other brave women had come before me, leaving a wealth of tips and knowledge as they went.
Shaking at my computer as I looked over flight information for the millionth time, I bought a ticket to Chiang Mai, Thailand, got on the plane and have been revelling in life abroad ever since. Looking back, many years and many countries later, I laugh thinking about the fear I held prior to taking that leap and how much easier, cheaper and better everything turned out to be in the end. The experience has been transformative in every way possible. While it’s been incredible, there are some things to keep in mind when preparing for your first solo journey.
1. There Will Never Be A “Perfect Time” To Go
You will probably never feel 100% ready. You just have to trust yourself and go. You don’t have to be fluent in the local language or an expert in their history before going. All you need is yourself, a bag with some personal belongings, your passport, wallet and ticket and you’re golden.
2. Everyone Will Tell You You’re Crazy
I heard it all when I told my friends and family my plan to move abroad. “You’re crazy!”, they said. “It’s too dangerous!” “A woman, alone?!” “Do they even have running water there?” Don’t take on the fear of people who have never tried it themselves. You can do it, as many before you have.
3. Every Day’s A School Day
Sooner than you can imagine, tasks that seemed dauting as a solo traveller will become second-nature. When you’re out on your own, you soak in new information and skills quickly. Starting life in a foreign country is like being a child again. We realize how much we do automatically at home. In a new place we have to learn little intricacies all over again and we learn quickly. This stimulation and learning process is so valuable for the brain.
4. There Are More Good People Than Bad
People take more interest in helping women and offering protection, especially when we’re alone.
The number of times I have been invited for tea, coffee, a place to sleep, a tour around the city etc, are innumerable. Most people react incredulously at first when I explain I am alone. They can’t believe it. But, instead of shunning me or taking advantage, most people want to help, protect and feed me.
Of course, there are bad people everywhere in the world, but there are a lot more good people.
5. Even in Bad Times, There’s Good
The times when things went “wrong” will be the times you remember most fondly. “Remember that time that everything went right?!” is not usually the start of a very exciting story. “Remember that time that everything went wrong and we had this epic adventure and didn’t know how it was going to turn out but everything was okay in the end?” is a more memorable story.
6. It Will Change You For The Better
You will face your demons on the road. If you lean into it, you’ll find many opportunities for growth and transformation.
No matter where you go, there you are. I believe, deeply, that your environment has the ability to instigate deep changes in these moments. The new space and the newfound time you have will give you a space to lean into these discomforts and grow, grow, grow.
7. Every Day Is A Gift
Being a living example of a capable solo female traveler is both a gift and a responsibility. I can tell myself everyday that I am capable, but taking action and really embodying that notion through action is where transformation happens. It is an invaluable gift, the reassurance that you can do it because you have been doing it. And that becomes a living example for others.
Once we have an example of other people taking on life, we start to run out of excuses not to live our lives to the fullest, too.