Solo travel for women is essentially about grasping freedom with your own hands and wearing it like a Prada jacket as you sashay down the streets of Rio without a care in the world.
During my trip to South America, the most common comment I received was “I cannot believe that your husband lets you travel alone.” Even though I said I was married just to avoid possible harassment, I couldn’t help but feel quite annoyed about the misconception that I needed permission to travel alone or that I was unable to manage myself alone.
I saw this not just as an opportunity to further understand the machismo culture prevalent in South America; but also as a challenge to exemplify the huge benefits of being a solo female traveler. My main takeaways from traipsing around the globe by myself are as follows:
Solo travelling builds Self-Confidence and Independence
It can be scary being thousands of miles away from your home in a completely different country where you don’t know anyone or speak their language. However, this can be just as exciting if not more so.
You are in the perfect position to challenge yourself as you navigate within a completely different environment; one with people who grew up in a culture different to yours with a different set of social norms.
I was so proud that I was able to buy shampoo on the day I arrived in Brazil with just a phrasebook and terribly butchered Portuguese.
Amidst feeling nervous, you also learn to trust your instincts and adapt to events that might throw you out of your comfort zone. With every small accomplishment, you will gain confidence and so much independence as you slowly realize that you are indeed capable of so much more alone than you had initially thought.
Solo Travelling Takes You on a Journey of Healing Self-Discovery
From the moment we are born, our families, friends, culture and religion are the building blocks that build our identities. Depending on the country, women are especially susceptible to having their personalities, actions and desires formed by what is expected of them, so much so that they can lose sight of who they are outside of being someone’s spouse, mother, or occupational identity.
Traveling alone gives you a chance to really discover who you are outside of the expectations placed on you. You are free to make decisions on your own terms, without having to consider anyone else’s needs. Cooking classes? Yes! Shark diving? Go for it! Waking up at nightfall? You do you!
If you are caught in difficult and unforeseen situations, you will discover your strengths and weaknesses. You will know whether you will fight or take flight, and discover many other qualities like resourcefulness and diplomacy. You can then work out what to utilize to your advantage and what you want to improve in yourself.
Self-discovery can be confronting, but your inner peace will correspondingly increase as you free yourself to further grow into your authentic self, and become a stronger person in the process.
Solo Travelling Is Educational
Nelson Mandela stated that “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”
When you are traveling alone, you experience many things. You have to be aware of your surroundings and educate yourself along the way whilst adapting to the society you have touched down on.
Moreover, you have to learn to communicate with the locals, speak their language, read their words, and understand their culture. You might experience culture shock, especially if you have to operate within a completely different set of societal norms.
I remembered a nerve-racking bus trip whilst I was seating on the upper floor of a double-decker bus in Bolivia. Coming from Australia where road rules are so strict, I feared for my life sitting on this bus because the bus driver (who was actually a lovely man) was cutting across every car and pedestrian without hesitation. This was apparently normal.
This shocking unfamiliar setting is educational, because, for a moment in time, you are able to walk the steps of someone who came from a completely different journey. By experiencing life through someone else’s lens, you gain a perspective that is different from yours.
From there, you develop empathy and understanding of the circumstances of others outside of what you’re familiar with. With this newfound knowledge, you free yourself from the comfortable, familiar confines of the world you grew up in and allow yourself to become a more evolved human being.
Education is powerful, and I believe that travelling is one of the best teachers.
Travel Creates Experience; Experience Transforms
Solo travel is really an important and transformative journey that all women should experience by themselves at some point in their lives. It has the capacity to deconstruct who you think you are, and reveal your beautiful, authentic self underneath whilst evolving you in a myriad of unexpected ways. It frees you.
During the process, you might also discover that solo traveling is not your cup of tea, but at least you had an adventure finding out for sure!
Do you think solo travel equates to freedom for women? Comment your thoughts below.