PSA: Don’t Say No to Solo Travel

Solo travel isn’t often met with eager applause; utter the words that you’re trotting the globe alone and it’ll almost immediately be assumed that there’s “something wrong” with you. You’re crazy and are dangerously oblivious, taking far too great a risk, or otherwise you must just not “have any friends” with whom to travel… As a woman, you’ll probably find that this social stigma is generally significantly more intense. But this archaic point of view shouldn’t deter you. Our comfort zones are infrequently stretched and we’ve become quite complacent within our little bubbles, myself included. It’s not quite until my mom told me she was proud of me for how well I had handled my time traveling alone that I realized just how unusual what I had done really is.

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It’s time we seized our independence – not over ferociously, friends are still important and adventures shared with them are hard to beat. We need to stop pushing back our own travel plans simply because everyone else had to take a raincheck and postpone. Having the luxury to travel is priceless – in more ways than one: from having the time to take off to the funds to sustain oneself and even just the passport to make it accessible – and if we could I’m sure we’d all opt to partake full time, foregoing the wanderlust… A girl can dream. Have time on your hands and an insatiable sense of adventure tugging you away from home? You really never know when you’ll have the time to go to all the places on your list again. So even if your friends haven’t just been handed a beautifully packaged bonus or don’t have the 3 weeks you’ve lucked upon in-between jobs, you shouldn’t let this stop you. You’re commitment free and able to go, so why aren’t your packed bags already waiting at the door?

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I’m equally as guilty as the next person for looking at someone with a vacant stare when they admit that no, they don’t have a travel buddy tagging along. But sometimes travel plans don’t go according to plan, and as a result, I recently found myself with two weeks on my hands, alone in Thailand’s buzzing capital, Bangkok. Yes, there are things I couldn’t do alone, like go out to bars or the sorts, for one… Given everything that’s been going on recently – yet another reminder of the uncomfortable truths still lurking in the shadows – it’s pretty evident why quite frankly, I felt that this would have been one step too far. We live in a liberated world but personal safety is something that you can’t forego; as mother always said, “just keep your wits about you”. Despite my words of encouragement and newfound appreciation of solo travel, precaution still needs to be exercised. Would I have spent 2 weeks backpacking across India – where escalating gender based violence has become an increasing problem – or volunteering in Uganda or Tanzania not under the umbrella of an international organization? Probably not. Sadly, there are very real obstacles facing our world and overcoming some of the gaping chasms in income, education, and other levels of development certainly isn’t going to be accomplished overnight. But if you plan wisely, solo travel shouldn’t land you feeling any more burdened than if you and your close circle were embarking on your annual friendscation. If anything, you’ve cut the number of differing opinions you have to take in to consideration considerably, and the guilt you’d normally feel for being slightly selfish no longer lingers. Mid-vacation emotional breakdowns don’t need to happen – being alone can be overwhelming -, so here are 3 top tips that got me through the slight wobbles I encountered along the road to becoming a fully fledged independent traveller.

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  1. Plan ahead: this isn’t to say that you need a concrete 9-5 itinerary – in fact there is nothing I hate more than having everything booked and locked down – but have some ideas, do a little research beforehand. You’re biggest obstacle is that you’ll have no one else to bounce ideas off, so having a few clues of where you want to go and what you want to do will help significantly in stopping potential indecisiveness from derailing your plans, wasting hours of precious time. The main thing to remember is don’t back out; feeling insecure is natural, after all you’re on your own. Remember going solo doesn’t mean you are any less deserving of being on that boat tour than the group of slightly overbearing gap year students who, after 6 months of traveling together, now never finish a sentence unaided by their buddies.
  2. Befriend the selfie stick: Yes, they’re annoying, possibly the most loathed invention of this decade. But that’s when they’re used incorrectly and obnoxiously. When used discreetly they actually wield some pretty great results and are well on the way to becoming your best friend. After all, how are you going to prove you really did jump off that bridge with nothing but some rope flailing behind your feet as you fly through the air, if you don’t come home with a single photo? #Picsoritdidnthappen. P.S. that’s not to say you have to use the selfie stick to take every photo… You shouldn’t be embarrassed to ask some other fellow travelers to take a pic or two of you. Rest assured they’d be asking you if they were in the same position.
  3. Learn to love your own company: More than traveling alone, it seems like just being alone has grown to sit uncomfortably on the list of our opinions. With a general fear of being alone spreading across the minds of millennials, disconnecting not just from our electronic goods and multiple social media accounts but each other has become harder and harder to do. I quickly realized it is not everything around me that I was scared of, but it was my own company that frightened me more than anything.  Nevertheless, take the plunge and you may just find that you’re actually pretty great to be around!