Life is short — we have limited time to do the things that we really want to do. It’s also a voyage — or a sack of coins that are yours alone to spend. (Those are my metaphors for life, anyway.) And it’s supposed to be fun. For a lot of people, that means not waiting until retirement to travel but rather getting out there and exploring now.
If you want to travel now, but you’re scared to go it alone, you’ll be able to find excuses everywhere if you look for them. You’ll find ways to say you can’t do it right now: you’re not ready; your job, friends, or fears are holding you back; you have too many obligations.
Basically, these excuses mean you’ll never get on the road. Because at every stage of your life, you’ll be able to find a reason why it can’t work for you. It will never be the right time to travel — especially as a woman…
1) …because you’ll always be asked when you’ll settle down…
A common question I get from people back home concerns when I’m going to “settle down.” Don’t I want a relationship and a family of my own? My question back to them is: Why is traveling and having a family mutually exclusive in this day and age? Families travel all the time, and some even full-time.
Of course, I have had to make choices, and there are sister lives that I didn’t live because I chose to travel. I won’t know what could have been with the handsome Frenchie, because I didn’t choose to stop being a travel writer and move in with him. It might have been nice, and naturally I can’t ever be sure that I made the best call, but I do know that sitting on the beach in Tanzania, writing this to you, is one of the happiest moments of my life, and that I have these moments all the time, because adventuring is what gives me life.
I used to think that if I wanted a relationship I’d have to give up this life of traveling. But since something in me always whispered “go,” I always left. It hurt me to my core, but I had to. Because Mr. Right will only have one thing to say to me, and that’s “May I join you?”
2) …because there will never be an accepted time for women to travel alone…
We women don’t have it easy. We are expected to be smart, collected, beautiful, graceful, strong, and slightly independent, but still docile enough to be loved and cared for by a partner. We are supposed to chase opportunities — but only the ones handed down to us by the status quo.
What I always find interesting, though, is that the women in history who are heralded are the ones who did the opposite of all of that.
Think of Harriet Tubman, Joan of Arc, Susan B. Anthony, Rosa Parks, Amelia Earhart, and an endless list of other women who are pretty much universally loved and respected for doing the exact opposite of what society expected of them. We praise them for their bravery, and for having the kind of foresight and ability to question the system that made them into heroes later.
Now, traveling the world won’t make you a hero to the world, but what about to yourself?
3) …because you’ll always be a target…
In the week before I started traveling on my own, an article came out about two girls who died in Vietnam, supposedly due to poisoned alcohol. Everyone was sending this article to me, telling me to “be careful” — ignoring that a deadly movie theater shooting had just taken place in Colorado, much closer to home than Vietnam. I went anyway, and I’ve stayed safe through almost five years of solo traveling.
While are no statistics that pertain specifically solo female travelers, there are statistics on violent crimes globally, such as rape and murder, and they’re actually encouraging. According to the United Nations Economic and Social Council, “over the past decade, rates of homicides in the most populous cities consistently decreased in all regions.” Additionally, murders and rapes are most often perpetrated by someone the victim knows, meaning it’s more likely to happen at home. And according to UNDOC, men are four times as likely as women to be victims of homicide worldwide.
So maybe the world isn’t as scary as it’s so often portrayed.
Traveling safely isn’t rocket science. Do what you do at home to stay safe, follow a few important safety tips, and choose places that are great for solo female travelers. Start there, get your feet wet, and branch out as you gain experience and confidence.
4) …because you will never have enough money…
I used to think that I needed to retire before I could travel full-time, and even then, I’d need to be pretty rich. For my week’s worth of paid time off, I was easily spending $2,000 in Mexico or Hawaii, trying to do it all and come back with photos of me having a blast on the beach with a $9 cocktail in my hand.
What I didn’t realize back then was that my money would have been worth two or three times as much had I strayed a bit farther away from home. Southeast Asia, India, and much of Central America can be dirt cheap, especially if you’re willing to do it on a shoestring. Staying in hostels, eating and traveling like locals, and moving more slowly are all great ways to save money and turn that week of PTO into a sabbatical instead.
Even if you’re earning minimum wage, having trouble figuring out how to travel cheaply, or just think you’re too poor to travel, if you’re sitting at a computer reading this right now with a passport that lets you go to other places in this world, you have the ability to make it happen financially. Change your mindset, and the rest will follow.
5) …because your family will always freak out…
The toughest part of traveling solo is often the pushback from our parents. We wonder how we can get them see it from our point of view and support us.
The more important issue is what you’ll regret later. Will you wish that you’d stayed at home to please your parents, who — since they undoubtedly love you — do want you to live a happy and fulfilled life? Even if they don’t necessarily understand or support everything we do, our parents want the best for us. That’s what having a child is – understanding that you’re creating a human who will have her own brain, and eventually be an adult who is self-sufficient.
It’s your life, not theirs. Letting other people make monumental decisions for you is a great way to go down the path of regrets.
6) …because you’ll wait forever for someone to join you…
I understand not wanting to travel alone. I didn’t want to do it either, until I decided that I really just had to travel the world and it had to happen prior to turning 65. I knew my friends couldn’t do it with me — they had jobs they didn’t want to leave, and so did just about everyone else I could think of. Sometimes, the dream to travel will be yours alone, and that means you have to do it by yourself if you’re going to do it at all.
I was pretty worried about being lonely, but when people asked about that a few weeks into my trip, I laughed that I had ever had that fear. I was meeting other people constantly. It doesn’t matter if you’re shy; someone will probably start a conversation with you, especially if you stay in a social hostel. Once you get out there, you’ll see what I mean. It’s all about just taking that first step.
Every problem seems insurmountable at the time, but there are ways to get around those obstacles that keep you from traveling, no matter what. The key is to look for the solutions and break them down into manageable pieces rather than trying to tackle the entire thing at once. Save up, break the news to your parents, do your research so that you (and they) will be less worried, and let everyone else’s opinion stay with them. It’s your bag of coins, and your life. Get out there and spend it how you want to!