Traveling alone, whether you’re a man or a woman, is one of those taboo things for some people and is the most adventurous way to travel for others. It can be the single most rewarding travel experience that you will have or it can be lonely and depressing. Solo travel can make it easy to be outgoing and meet the locals and other travelers or it can make you go further into your cocoon and sit on the Internet all day chatting with your friends back home. It’s all what you make of it. Solo travel is all about your attitude. If you go into it with a positive attitude and excited to go out there and meet people and do cool things, then that is what will happen. If you are timid, scared or depressed that you’re traveling alone and feeling sorry for yourself then you will have a bad time. It’s that simple. Mix attitude with basic common sense and solo travel can be the best thing you’ve ever done for yourself.
I get the question, do you travel alone or with friends, girlfriend, family, etc all the time. The answer is yes to all of the above. Sometimes I travel with friends and always have a blast and have amazing memories. If I have a girlfriend at the time, I will sometimes travel with her. Sometimes I travel with family as well which can be very rewarding. All of these have their virtues and can greatly enhance a trip and you can share experiences with people you already know and love. But often something is missing when you travel with others. That thing is what I call “absolute freedom”.
Absolute freedom gives you the ability to do what you want, when you want. If you want to sleep until noon on the road, you can. If you want to sit in a coffee shop and chat with locals and tourists alike, you can. If you want to eat at a certain restaurant, you can. There is no negotiation, no compromise with others. You are in charge of your entire destiny for that trip. You are truly the master of your own domain.
That said, it allows you to get the most out of your trip in ways that perhaps you aren’t used to. Solo travel almost forces you to talk to people, whether it’s locals or other tourists and travelers. It forces you to come out of your shell. It forces you to take charge and learn about where you are, where you’re going and where you’ve been. It forces you to be uncomfortable with your surroundings, which is a great thing. Being uncomfortable means you will go out of your way to feel comfortable by meeting people and getting to know the city you’re in. That feeling of being uncomfortable and thriving at overcoming it is what separates travelers from tourists.
I also wanted to touch on the issue of women solo travelers. I get emails and hear from women all the time about how they’d love to travel alone but because of the fact that they are women, they won’t do it. To me, this is nonsense and here’s why.
In all my travels, I have met tons of solo female travelers from all over the globe. They travel the same way I do. They’re street smart, use common sense and are pretty savvy. The one glaring exception in these women that I usually come across is that they are rarely American (Obviously there are some exceptions as I know a few well traveled American women who read my site and are probably scoffing at this right now). This shocks me but I guess it really shouldn’t because as a culture, we protect the female more and discourage them from traveling alone. This is not the case in many other nations.
The Commonwealth countries are the biggest supplier of solo female travelers who travel alone. The ones I know don’t limit their travel to just Europe, Southeast Asia or Australia where it’s very well-touristed and there are a ton of other tourists. I know women who travel within Africa and the Middle East alone and thrive doing it. How? It is simple; attitude and confidence.
Like anything else in life, if you believe and project positivity and confidence, it will show to others and you will be fine. Obviously, you should dress modestly, not wear expensive jewelry and take all normal precautions wherever you are but traveling is no different than women walking around Manhattan alone at night. You stay out of the bad and dimly lit areas, keep your eyes open and don’t cause or look for trouble. It’s the same thing I do both at home in New York and on the road. That’s all I am saying, it’s not as crazy a thought as most women think.
One example that is fresh in my mind of something that drives me nuts is this. A female sort of friend of mine who is a “pain in the ass LA fashion type” girl was in Paris last week for work. She was alone, staying in a fancy hotel in St. Germaine and G-chats me saying she was bored. I, of course say how can you be bored in Paris, there are a million things to do and rattled a bunch of ideas off to her. She wasn’t having any of it. Then she said she can’t find any good food. Befuddled at her assertion, I suggested several amazing restaurants in Paris not far from where she was staying. Again she was apathetic and said she didn’t want to go anywhere alone.
When I said, it’s 9pm in Paris not Detroit, it’s safe, there’s a million people around and just take a taxi anyway, she replies and I quote, “I am American, I have high heels, an expensive bag, I’m pretty and have a vagina so I am not leaving the hotel”. I was speechless at the naivety and ignorance of some people. Obviously she’s not a good friend and likely mentally retarded but that is the wrong type of attitude I am talking about, albeit a bit extreme. So now she probably hates Paris, French people and all other things French because she refuses to step out of her shell. Poor girl.
The moral of the story is don’t have a bad attitude, get out there and do it. If you’re scared or nervous but want to travel solo, do it…that’s half the fun! Men and women; just get out there and do it. Embrace the unknown, embrace being uncomfortable, embrace absolute freedom!