Words by Lisa Hughes
September 13th, 2016
You haven’t travelled properly until you’ve done it alone. Navigating a new city’s streets, getting lost and stumbling across a cute café the guidebooks haven’t discovered yet, spending a whole day ticking off what YOU want to do instead of marching to someone else’s drum and getting under a city’s skin by simply following your feet. Now, that’s the way to travel.
Solo travel is empowering, intense and exhilarating. Sure, there are challenges and drawbacks, starting with the fear of loneliness to staying safe, and these are often daunting enough for many women never to attempt their own Eat, Pray, Love moment.
The good news is, the sight of a woman dragging her overpacked Rimowa or sporting a gigantic backpack on her own is (thankfully!) becoming less of a spectacle. More girls are being targeted by travel companies to jet off on their own, there’s a plethora of handy apps like Wandermates aimed squarely at solo female travellers and the dreaded single supplement isn’t the impossible-to-escape obstacle it once was. About time.
1. First thing you need to knock out of your head, not just for travelling but for life, is that being alone doesn’t equate to being lonely. Sometimes you just want to get away from everybody – and that’s OK. There’s no greater ‘me time’ than solo travel. Realistically, with the internet, Skype and our ever present smartphones, you’re never alone for long anyway.
2. Experiencing the world for yourself, as you encounter it, whether good or bad, creates a stronger memory of a place. When you’re flying solo, you’re seeing somewhere through your eyes alone. You have the time to dwell on where you are and what you’ve been getting up to. If you want to chill out after dinner and write up a blog post or go old school and keep a travel diary, now’s your chance.
3. Planning and getting your trip on the road is a million times easier. No more waiting around for your friend to get holiday time booked off at work. No more negotiating at least one other schedule. No more working within someone else’s budget. You’re the boss – and it feels GREAT.
4. You’re in charge. It’s your trip, you’re forking out for it and most importantly it’s your time so you can do what you like with it, without worrying about keeping other people happy. The itinerary is yours for the making. If you want to spend the whole trip visiting cheese shops, brunching at the exact same café each day or sipping Mimosas instead of sightseeing, there’s no one to stop you.
5. No drama. Chances are on every trip you’ve gone on with other people, someone drove you crazy. It could be that your boyfriend read the map wrong (but refused to admit it) or your friend whinged the whole time about the heat, the hotel, the food. Well, when you travel alone, you only have Number One to look out for – and the only person to kick when things go wrong is yourself.
6. You’ll meet new people. Just because you start out on your own doesn’t mean staying alone. Whether you’re finding yourself in Goa or scoping out the street style in Stockholm, there are many other fascinating people travelling by themselves, just like you, if you want to meet them. Apps like citysocializer are aimed squarely at newcomers to a city or the awesome Invite For A Bite is for women solo travellers who want to meet kindred spirits over a gelato or cocktail. On the flipside, being a solo traveller is a licence to be as antisocial as you like so if you just want to shut up for 5 days, that’s cool too.
7. It’s a learning curve. When you’re in a new place and thrown in the deep end you’ll not only learn a lot about the city but you’ll learn more about yourself. Alone on your adventures, you’re forced to be more outgoing, to appear confident and to just talk to people, much more so than you would if you were there with a gaggle of girlfriends.
8. Whether it’s ordering from a menu all in French or just getting on the right Subway, navigating your way around a city and not getting lost every two blocks is a major confidence booster. If just the thought of eating breakfast on your own freaks you out (FYI, it’s called solomangarephobia) solo travel pushes you out of your comfort zone and might just drive you to try more things you’ve been too afraid to.
9. It makes you a real travel expert. Instead of relying on someone else, you’re forced to be present, to pay attention, so you observe people, places and things. You learn the nuts and bolts of travel, like the speediest way through an airport, as well as the hidden gems like the amazing vintage shop down the laneway when you took a wrong turn.
10. Few of us are lucky enough to always have someone to travel with but don’t let this hold you back. Bite the bullet and book your trip, instead of waiting around for someone else to go, and give your independent streak a priceless boost. If you can head off on your own to an unknown country, especially one where you don’t know the language, and have a good time, you can do anything. If ‘Independent Women’ isn’t your life’s anthem, it will be after you catch the solo travel bug.
Wondering what to wear while you travel? Read our airport style guide for the dos and don’ts.
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