On more than one occasion I’ve had family members, flight attendants, hotel receptionists, and many absolute strangers, gasp at the idea of me traveling on my own. “You’re going where?! Alone?!” They warn me of the dangers of countries they’ve never visited and cultures they’ve never encountered.
After long stints traveling on my own, I know better. I know that I’m not only safe traveling on my own, but I’m even more empowered for having done so. This wasn’t always the case.
I remember a time when I had never even met a woman who traveled on her own, let alone considered becoming one of them. “Is this something people even do?” I wondered. My first long term trip abroad, in Costa Rica with my best friend, changed this mentality entirely.
In Costa Rica I met women from all over the world who were traveling on their own. They had done anything from sky diving in South Africa to volunteering in Guatemala to island hopping in Indonesia. They made it look and sound easy. The thought of doing it myself appeared more possible.
So one day, I finally did. First in Costa Rica, then in Morocco, again in Colombia, and eventually all over the world. Surprisingly, I never felt afraid. Rather, I felt confident, fearless, and completely liberated. Though I know that for the many women out there who want to travel on their own but haven’t, that fear still exists. And not just women, men too.
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been lost and confused about a million times. Nearly scammed in countries where I didn’t speak a word of the language. Followed by random strangers at night. In the wrong place at the wrong time way too many times.
Yet despite all of that, I’ve never for one moment hesitated that I am more than capable of traveling this beautiful world on my own. Here is why:
I Am Actually Rarely Alone
Traveling opens people up. Without the distraction and busyness of “work” and schedules, we take the time to connect with one another. Locals, other tourists, expats, long term workers and volunteers, want to know your story and want to share theirs with you. Most people travel the world because they want to learn, and engaging with strangers (particularly those from other cultures) offers more insight than years in a classroom.
Hostels in particular create social environments where you can meet others interested in connecting. There has rarely been a time where I didn’t receive invitations for dinner, outings, and even extended travel plans with people I met in my hostel. You’ll quickly see that it’s actually easier to meet people when you’re on your own.
As soon as I got off of the bus in Seville, on one of my first solo trips, I met a couple of Canadians. Totally lost, we navigated the streets together and found a hostel. At the hostel, I was greeted by a group of Americans who generously fed me the dinner they had just prepared. A few hours later I went on a pub-crawl with a group of twenty travelers and as the night became dawn I found myself dancing in a club with four Australians. I would say that experience was pretty typical of how it goes on the travel trail.
There are More Good Humans Than Bad
As human beings we find safety and comfort with other people from our “tribe” and fear among “others.” It’s part of our deep, centuries old programming for survival. But we don’t actually need that survival mechanism anymore. We’re evolved enough to move beyond it. Part of the freedom of traveling the world comes from breaking down those barriers and seeing that you are not only a member of your native tribe, you are a citizen of the world.
Over the years I’ve had my bag stolen once, been nearly scammed another time, had a few creeps follow me, but more often than not, my experiences have been positive. Generally, I have been treated with profound kindness in countries that some people would never even consider traveling in.
In Morocco, on a long train journey by myself, a local woman in the same car as me handed me a candy bar because she was worried I was hungry. Bear in mind, this was during Ramadan when the entire country was fasting. In Vietnam I had a horrible wound from a motorcycle burn and a local spa owner stopped me on the street to clean and dress the wound for me, free of charge. In Indonesia walking by myself on the beach one afternoon, a group of locals having a BBQ insisted I come and drink their beer and eat their fish with them.
These are just a few of hundreds of stories where I’ve connected with and received unbelievable generosity and support from strangers. The more I travel, the more I witness how many wonderful human beings exist on this planet.
I Take More Caution Abroad
How often do you make statistically unsafe decisions at home? Walking to your apartment alone after too many drinks? Spending the night with someone you have only just met? Telling strangers where you live? Getting into a car with someone you hardly know?
We tend to take bigger risks when we feel more comfortable. Personally, I take considerably more caution in unfamiliar places, which I believe puts me in less risky situations than when I am at home. It all comes down to awareness, and nothing brings my attention to the present more than exploring a foreign place.
Bad Things Can Happen Anywhere
This is not to say that you should approach the entire world with fear. Rather, to show that simply because you’re somewhere unfamiliar and foreign, you’re not necessarily less safe. In fact, the most endangered I’ve felt was in the USA while living in Seattle, in a safe neighborhood. What happened? I was beaten and mugged, right in front of my own apartment building.
Bad things can happen everywhere in the world. Even in the safest of neighborhoods, in the safest of cities, in the safest of countries. However, we can respond to that reality by living in fear, or learning to trust our instincts over news reports and travel warnings.
I Listen to My Intuition
Fear can be your best friend, or your worst enemy. When it comes from outside influences, excessive mental chatter, or general anxiety, the chances are, it’s not serving you. Biologically we are designed to experience fear in moments when we need to respond quickly. In this case, fear is an important tool for survival. Connecting with that form of fear over the anxious mental fear, is the difference between listening to your gut over your worries.
I’ve noticed that the less I feed my irrational worries and fears, the more in tune I become with my actual animalistic intuition. Think about times when you’ve had that strong gut feeling and it turned out to be true? Or the worries you’ve had that turned out to be nothing? What was the difference in the way that you felt in each situation? Connect more with the feelings in your physical and emotional body, and likely your intuition will speak loud and clear. We can all access this voice, we just need to trust it.
I Accept That There are Things I Cannot Control
The world is not a perfect place. Things may happen that we have no control over. Sometimes planes crash. Sometimes cars collide. Sometimes tsunamis sweep their waters over populated paradise beaches. Sometimes people hurt and take advantage of one another. Sometimes we are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The fact is, we don’t know when we are going to die. This inarguable truth inspires me to take charge of my own life. To make the most of every moment. To live it to the absolute fullest. We each have this particular life to live in this particular human form, and we can limit ourselves out of fear, no matter where we are, or we can choose to take risks that make us feel more alive. I choose to feel alive.
I Trust That the Universe Has My Back
All of us have heard the term paranoia, and perhaps we’ve even used it to describe our own behavior. But how many of you have heard of its opposite, pronoia? (I’m guessing very few, if any.) Paranoia believes that the world is a scary place, out to get us. Actually, that sounds quite a lot like the way the world has been painted by the media. On the flip side, pronoia believes that the world is out to help us. Call it a delusion, but I believe that planet earth, the atmosphere, the many planets and stars, the entire universe, WANTS us to thrive.
Consequently, that has been my experience. Mostly I’m greeted with beauty, love, generosity, appreciation, kindness, and magic. The times when I feel like I’m not? I’ve realized those times, the hard times, the challenging times, are simply opportunities for growth.
So, what about you? Do you feel safe traveling the world on your own? If yes, what makes you feel safe? If no, what fears do you have?