“Wasn’t it scary?” is one of the first things that people ask me after I tell them that I spent almost a year backpacking solo. The first time I was asked this, I immediately responded saying no, not at all. To be honest, I was quite surprised at how quickly I was able to answer that question as prior to leaving for my trip, I won’t deny feeling a bit anxious about my ambitious feat of solo travel. My quick response only showed how much I have learned and grown as a traveler. Coming from someone who has hitchhiked (sorry mom and dad!), couchsurfed, and stayed in hostels all throughout, I strongly believe that every woman should travel solo at some point in their lives.
Yes, as a solo woman traveler, you have to be a bit more cautious about your safety, however, having said that, I was only as cautious as I would be back home in the Philippines. In fact, traveling solo gave me a sense of freedom and independence which I take pride in. Now, I bravely face any situation with a super(woman) like demeanor knowing that I had conquered my own fears in both life and travel. Whether it is a quick getaway, a week, a month, or a year, learn how to believe in your own strength as you learn and grow as a person. Here are a few things I learned from being a solo woman traveler.
I Learned the Real Meaning of Independence
From my travels, I learned the real meaning of independence. Sure, I was never the type of woman who constantly needed someone but only through my travels did I learn how to depend on no one else but myself. I made quick decisions, I learned from my mistakes, I became more confident and assertive of my rights. Everywhere I went I was faced with different challenges, from navigating a foreign subway system to going on 21 hour bus rides where I had to be smart, resourceful, and strong. I have carried my backpack through the rain as I tried looking for a place to stay, made friends with strangers, and learned how to never second guess myself and the decisions I make. If you find yourself always leaning on someone, whether it is a companion, a partner, or even a large group of friends, try going solo for a couple of days. Take the time to discover your own strengths and weaknesses as you embrace who you are as a person.
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I Learned How to Enjoy My Own Company
Only through my travels did I learn how to truly enjoy my own company. Before, if I was eating alone, I had to be in front of the TV or a computer watching a show. I would rush through meals because I found it uncomfortable to sit by myself. This all changed when I started traveling. Although I would meet people who I had the option to eat meals with, I found myself enjoying eating by myself. I would linger through meals, sitting in silence and contentment. I found myself people watching as I pondered about both profound and mundane thoughts. “Am I doing what I want out of this life?” “What makes me happy?” or even something as simple as “What do I want to do today?” Suddenly, I found myself enjoying my own company as I explored new cities and towns. Although now I travel with my partner Tom, once in a while, we both do things apart. It is not only therapeutic but also good for your relationship.
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I Learned to Believe in Myself and Trust My Instinct
Before I met Tom, my father would always be worried sick about me and I perfectly understood why. Despite his fears, I went anyways and realized along that way that traveling solo has increased my skill on how to read people, how to gauge situations, and how to ultimately trust my gut instinct. I have learned how to be more aware of my surroundings, how to be more mindful of my belongings and bearings, and ultimately how to be street smart. I found my confidence growing, my sense of direction (slightly) improving, and just overall growing as a person. I think traveling teaches you how to read people very well as when you are on the road, meeting people is all you do. You interact with people on a daily basis and you learn how to relate to strangers. Remember to trust your instinct and make wise decisions based on your experiences and the situation you are in. Believe that you are strong and capable to do the things that you never thought you could. Whether it is going out of your comfort zone by speaking to a stranger or learning how to read a map and find your way through a foreign city, believe in yourself and what you can do.
I Learned How to Do Things That Made Me Happy
One of the most beautiful things about solo travel is that I could do whatever I wanted. If I wanted to spend an entire day reading a book instead of joining a tour, I could. If I wanted to walk through the rain just to eat gelato for breakfast I could (true story). If I wanted to leave a place on a whim, I could. I was the captain of my own ship and I marched to the beat of my own drum. I slowly discovered what made me happy and did only the things that did exactly just that. I had no one to consult decisions with, I had no itinerary to follow except that of my own. Because of this, I got past what people expected me to do while traveling and only did things which I wanted to. Start your day by thinking “What can I do today that would make me happy?” and go from there. You would be surprised to see how many people do things just because other people are doing it as well. I have seen people trudge through temples looking like that was the last place they wanted to be, only because they were traveling as a group. Not only will you find yourself happier, you will also find yourself to be less willing to put up with other people’s crap and finally start pursuing the things that you want.
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I Learned How to Believe in the Goodness in People and This World
“I can never travel by myself because…” “I want to do it, but I am afraid because…” Every day, we get messages asking us how we do it. Moreover, I get female readers who are either too scared because they get consumed by the negativity of media and the world. Yes, there are a lot of scary things that can happen to you, but if you fill yourself with fear, you will never know what could happen. There had been so many times where I was faced with fear or worry, yet every single time, I have been shown wrong. Complete strangers have opened up their homes to me, people have gone out of their way to help me out, and on multiple times my faith in humanity had been restored. Yes, as a woman, you must be extra cautious about certain things, however, I have found that people will be willing to help you out, when you need it the most. Whether it was a couch to sleep on in Florence when all the hostels were booked, or a slice of pizza when I was broke and starving, it is all about putting yourself out there, believing in the good in this world, and projecting a positive outlook.
Because I believe traveling is one of the best educations that someone can have, I could go on and on about how traveling solo taught me how to be stronger, wiser, and kinder but in reality, nothing will happen if you just keep reading things. Take that leap of faith, gather up the courage, and go on a trip by yourself. Get to know yourself away from other people, and ultimately, learn how to believe that you are capable!
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