It was in 2003 when I had my first taste of international travel. After that trip, I knew that I was bitten by this proverbial "travel bug". I've been to several other countries since then. I had fun during my travels abroad because I wasn't alone. Group travel was and is still fun. I have a great group of friends and I love traveling with them. The idea of traveling alone, especially as a woman, never crossed my mind. But the more I researched it, the more I came to realize that solo travel was something that sounded amazing. I decided to throw caution to the wind and just do it. After it was all said and done, I discovered how much I loved solo travel.
EUROPE -- My very first trip to the continent was in 2013 with a group of friends. We visited 7 countries -- Austria, Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Monaco, Italy, France, and had a short stay in Amsterdam. I considered it as my "introduction to Europe". I fell in love with Europe. I have always been fascinated with it's diverse cultures, customs, traditions, architectures, arts, and history. There is always this "I shall return" longing inside of me. And when I finally decided to travel solo, I knew I wanted to go back to the continent again. This time, Spain was on the top of my list. I also added England and The Netherlands to my itinerary.
Why Solo Travel is Great?
One of the biggest challenges of traveling solo is actually making the decision to book your flight and pack your bag. There are so many preconceptions that people hold about solo travel but, the reality is very different to what most people imagine. I can’t tell you how many times people ask me, “Aren't you afraid?”
THE TRUTH IS, TRAVELING SOLO IS THE SINGLE GREATEST GIFT I'VE EVER GIVEN MYSELF. Like me, many women will find solo travel to be empowering, enjoyable and a wonderful experience. And here are just a few reasons why, I think all women should travel solo, at least once in their lifetime.
The freedom is wonderful. I can eat what I want to eat, anytime. I don't have to wait for others to finish their stuff. I don't have to adapt to suit others in terms of what they do and where they want to go or visit. With solo travel, the ability to be "selfish" and do what I really want to do is WONDERFULLY LIBERATING. AND THIS SENSE OF FREEDOM IS A GREAT THING TO EMBRACE. And there is no one else to blame if I ended up on the wrong train or if I find myself struggling with a menu in an unfamiliar restaurant.
Meeting new people is easier when traveling solo. There’s a curiosity around it and people are usually more inclined to lend a helping hand and play a part in your adventure. It’s happened to me time and time again in the places I visited despite language barriers and cultural differences. There are also many people who will want to find out more about you and will want to make sure you feel welcomed in their city. This is the kind of experience that can really enrich your travels and restore your faith in people..
Solo travel will boost your confidence. As I mentioned earlier, the hardest decision I made with solo travel is to book a flight and pack a bag. Even that very first step, for me, is already empowering. While all of the organizing and hard work will fall on your shoulders, all of the pleasure that comes from a job well done when you have organized a life changing trip will be yours to savor. And I'm glad I did all that.
The world is actually not dangerous. If there is one lesson I value above all others from my experiences recently, it’s that it’s taught me to ignore all of the negativity (within reason) and realize that people are people, no matter what color their skin is, what their religion is, or where they are from. Of course, there are bad people everywhere and shit does happen, but in comparison to all the beautiful souls out there and all the amazing, positive happy things you experience traveling, the good outweighs the bad.
I can say that I was prepared when I embarked on my first ever solo trip abroad. My friends know that I am a "one woman travel agency". Yes, I always make sure that everything is A-OK before, during, and after the trip. There's nothing wrong with being organized. And based on my experiences organizing trips here and abroad, I am sharing some tips for all those who want to travel alone, whether you are a man or a woman.
Research, research, research. I did a lot of research before my actual travels and it made the trips less scary. I searched different travel websites, blogs and books about the area that I want to visit.
Be Friendly. Be friendly and open minded to not only new experiences, but the people you meet along the way. You never know who might end up being your new travel buddy!
Plan ahead to avoid confusion. I recommend having your accommodation arranged before you arrive in each city. This way you’ll know exactly where to go the second you step off the train or plane.
Ask people to take your photo. I have a thousand photos of Europe, but I’m only in about a dozen of them. I didn’t even realize it until I got back home and started looking through my pictures — I still regret not having more. People are more than willing to take your photo, but you just have to ask. (By the way, I'm must kidding when I said I'm only in "about a dozen" photo. I'm friendly….I have lots of solo photos.)
Pack light. The more stuff you drag along with you, the more difficult traveling becomes — especially when you’re traveling alone.
Pickpocket proof bag. Probably the biggest threat to traveling women is getting your purse or bag snatched. I only have one word to remember - Pacsafe. Yup! I brought 2 Pacsafe bags in my last travel and it's worth the value. Served me well. They have features like puncture proof and lockable zippers, steel mesh sewn into the bag’s fabric the bag can’t be cut open, and a few other anti-theft features. I already have one and used it in my first Europe trip. I bought another one - same style, same size, new color - before I left for London … just to make sure that I'm "covered".
Make digital copies of your travel documents. I always make sure that I have photocopies of my passports, plane tickets, travel insurance, hotel names and addresses, contact names and numbers -- in my bag. Not that I am being paranoid, but I do keep photos of my travel docs in my iPhone. Better ready than sorry.
No matter what your gender, race, or background, if you have itchy feet and want to travel the world, don’t let anyone or anything stop you. Follow your heart, and those that truly love you will respect you in the end for doing it.