The view from here
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Find out what it’s like to be a solo female traveller exploring the world. Discover the honest truth about all the ups, downs, benefits and challenges. Meg, Week 5
Welcome to our series of Travelher's Most Frequently Asked Questions! This is the fifth topic in our weekly feature, which will be addressed first with daily posts on our social media channels and then compiled here at the end of each week.
Yes, of course. But I'd say I'm just nervous more often when travelling alone than I am at home.
Doing any kind of activity like jogging in a remote area, walking home after dark, or getting in a car in a poorly lit parking lot can be nervewracking - and therefore especially so when you're not familiar with your surroundings (a lot when travelling).
The truth is the world can be a scary place. The amount of energy spent on trying to avoid dodgy situations, planning escape routes and imagining self-defence is actually quite a lot. It is exhausting wondering if the guy who is walking just a little too fast behind you is going to stab you. "But be polite in case he's not!" 🙄
However, just as we can't hide ourselves away at home, we can't avoid danger at all times when travelling either. So doing the thing that makes me happy and feel the most alive wins out every time.
That said, I don't travel to high conflict areas or knowingly put myself in dangerous situations. Everything is a calculated risk.
Fortunately, my interactions with humans worldwide have been overwhelmingly positive. I always end up feeling better about the state of the planet after a solo trip.
You’re never really alone
You're never truly alone when you're travelling. Whether it's on the bus, plane or train, in your hostel or hotel, or on a group tour or cross-country hike, the opportunities to meet people are endless.
In many cases, you end up meeting more people than if you were travelling with somebody.
Instead of sticking to the people you know, you are forced to get outside your comfort zone and approach new faces. (But don't worry introverts - it happens very naturally.)
Talking to strangers becomes a necessity just to figure out basic things like how to find the bus stop or where to buy bread. You're out of your bubble and usual routine and therefore much more open to chat or trying something new. Plus you are much more approachable to others if you are alone (less intimidating, isn't it?).
The beauty of travel means that connections are made through circumstance, and sealed with a fantastic experience and a common love for seeing the world.
The locals are often thrilled to introduce you to their way of life and go above and beyond to make sure you are safe, informed and comfortable. I can't count the number of times I've had to rely on the kindness of strangers to get orientated in a new city or find my way.
I truly believe that most people are good and kind when it comes down to it. But of course, life isn't ALWAYS roses and lollypops.
When travelling alone, it's often the crazy, elaborate scenarios you make up in your head that are the most anxiety-inducing.
For example, me hiking alone in Patagonia, quite sure that I would be hunted and eaten by a puma. Or, thinking the Uber driver in Medellin was smiling maniacally and excessively, so therefore was clearly plotting my demise.
Truthfully, I've had more actual dangerous close calls when travelling with someone or a group of people than when by myself.
A group of excited idiots you love will easily convince you to jump off a cliff attached to nothing but a stretchy cord.
Whereas being alone makes you particularly risk-averse, knowing that, for example, if you fall down a mountain and break your leg, no one's coming to save you.
See - travelling alone gives you plenty of time to concoct horror stories.
But as is often the case, the bad things that do happen are the ones you never thought would.
Like losing a loved one back home.
I happened to be travelling alone when my grandmother passed away last year. On top of the world one day, and then crumbled in a heap on the floor the next. I was completely devastated and had never felt more isolated or utterly alone in my life.
I was in desperate need of a friendly face.
I found one when it was all I could do to buy a coffee in Starbucks. I found myself telling this empathetic cashier what had happened through glistening eyes, and she was just the kindest, sweetest most lovely soul that I needed at that moment.
Dark times bring out the rawest vulnerability, but the truth is we need each other more often than we want to admit.
The solo travel threshold
Being unable to share the small burdens of getting through each day is one of the tougher aspects of travelling alone.
Researching accommodation, finding places to eat, lugging your suitcase through a train station while trying to figure out which track you should be on are all minor tasks in the grand scheme of things, but would no doubt be easier with someone there to help.
Worrying about being scammed, relying on maps to avoid getting lost, or simply having to bring your suitcase, laptop, and purse into the bathroom with you. Every. Single. Time. can start to become tiresome.
I happily respect, enjoy and embrace the language and customs of other cultures, but what at first is quite new and exciting can begin to wear on you after a while. For example, negotiating prices when your Spanish is terrible, or worrying about how much skin you are showing when it is 100 degrees outside.
It can get thoroughly exhausting particularly where a woman's place in society is on the lower end of the spectrum. The extra care required of wearing the right clothing and generally maintaining a higher sense of alert begins to drain a person.
After a few solo trips under my belt, I've learned that I have a threshold for travelling alone. When the experience starts to tip from being a blast toward more of a struggle, I know it's time to go.
I sort of felt like a failure when I reached that point the first few times, especially when it seems like plenty of other people are unaffected.
But now I know better. Travelling is an education in different ways of life. It takes energy to learn and process.
Just as you need breaks from studying to absorb everything, you need time to rest and reflect from travel (well at least I do).
I personally love the feeling of relief I get when I can hand the logistics and decision making off to somebody else for a change after months of doing it all.
I love going home to recharge, sift through the memories, and feel extra grateful for everything familiar.
We're not alone in travelling alone
Did you know that:
✅ Women make 80% of all travel decisions.
✈ The majority of solo travellers are women.
✅ 81% of solo female travellers are over 45 years old.
✈The average solo traveller is female, 47, and wears a size 12.
✅Women will spend billions on travel this year.
✈🙋🏼♀️ Travelher is 4 years old today on International Women’s Day, 2020 🌏💞
***Statistics from Forbes, Girl Power Marketing and Gutsy Traveler.
Author - Meghan Advent
Meghan is a co-founder and the head editor of Travelher. She has been to all 7 continents, but her travel bucket list is never ending. From March 2020, she will reside in the Solomon Islands with her partner Jason and her cat Kahlua.