Traveling alone was never my intention. In fact, up until a few years ago, I would have considered myself quite the opposite of a “strong independent woman.” But after making concrete plans to travel with a partner two separate times only to have them back out at the last minute, I realized that I wanted to travel the world, I needed to see what was out there, and no one was going to stop me.
I discovered that I’m much stronger, braver, and more adventurous than I had ever given myself credit for.
Coming to that realization completely changed my life and allowed me to travel across six continents, discovering the best this world has to offer. From my firsthand experience, here are 5 ways you can expect to be changed by solo female travel:
1. Realizing you Don’t Need Anyone Else to Explore the World
For many women, the hardest part about taking the leap to travel solo is coming to terms with the fact that you don’t need anyone else to explore the world! Crazy, right? It seems fairly obvious, but recognizing that YOU CAN DO IT is the first step towards making a complete mindset shift and realizing your own potential. I came to this realization out of necessity, not through outright “girl power.”
I had made plans to travel with a friend for nearly three months all over Europe. Just a few weeks before we were scheduled to leave, I learned she could no longer join me. I panicked, scrambling to ask everyone and anyone to come with me, never considering going alone. Ultimately, I couldn’t find anyone to travel with and was completely devastated, my heart set on exploring Europe.
Finally, I decided that I would go on my own and just figure it out. I had to. It wasn’t my first choice – hell, it wasn’t even my second choice – but I was going to do it.
That experience opened my eyes. I am capable, I am strong, and I am brave. I look back on that trip and am amazed that my naive, 21-year-old self was able to navigate an entire continent completely on her own, remain safe and healthy, and have the absolute time of her life. Now when I travel, I typically prefer to go on my own.
I choose to be independent because I know that I can be.
As a fellow female traveler, you can expect to be amazed by the crazy, beautiful, unimaginable experiences you will have when you put yourself out there and go it alone.
2. Finding Confidence in Yourself
Solo travel will grant you the ability to find confidence within yourself. This means more than simply taking that initial leap into traveling alone; it means trusting yourself, relying on your abilities, and finding the strength to carry on even when you feel like it’s impossible.
You will inevitably face difficulties as a solo female traveler, but you’ll also undoubtedly discover the confidence to continue to push forward.
One of my proudest experiences as a solo traveler was born from disaster. My route from Prague to Krakow was a bit convoluted, I didn’t speak a word of Czech or Polish, and I was alone in a foreign country. The bus that was supposed to deliver me to my hostel stopped abruptly at a train station in a big city which I assumed to be Krakow, and I was hustled out of the van by the Polish-speaking driver, who handed me my luggage. As I turned to check the hostel address on my phone’s map, I realized I was actually 200 miles away from Krakow and the driver had already sped away.
I didn’t know what to do.
I was stranded in an obscure Polish city at dusk. I took a deep breath and tried to formulate a plan. I went to the ticket counter at the train station and asked if there were any direct trains to Krakow. The woman at the counter barely spoke English. Tears welled up in my eyes as I tried to explain with hand motions and the map on my phone what I needed. Fortunately, there was a direct train to Krakow leaving within the hour and I was able to buy a ticket and be on my way.
Though that experience was both frustrating and frightening, I became confident in my abilities to work through difficult situations and realized that no matter what I am faced with, I will be alright. That confidence continues to guide me through life and is something that you will certainly discover for yourself.
3. Choosing to Live Outside Your Comfort Zone
Contrary to popular belief, traveling is supposed to be uncomfortable. That’s not to say that you can’t relax while traveling – on the contrary, as a solo traveler, you have complete autonomy to do exactly what you want, when you want. If you want to relax on the beach and sip alcohol out of a coconut for two months, there is absolutely nothing stopping you!
However, the adventure lies in deciding what you want to do and then figuring out how to do it.
Travel is not a vacation, it’s an adventure. The second you step outside your comfort zone is the moment you begin to grow as a person.
One of the most extraordinary experiences of my life happened when I decided to step WAY outside my comfort zone. It was more of a leap, really. I arrived in Queenstown, New Zealand with only a day to soak up everything the city had to offer. The man working at the hostel desk convinced me that skydiving was “the thing to do” in Queenstown and that I would be missing out if I didn’t try it. Skydiving. Well.
I’m really not one for extreme sports, but I already knew I was going to do it.
I was genuinely terrified, but long story short, it was a success.
I jumped out of the plane 15,000 ft up, strapped to an expert skydiving professional, and had the absolute time of my life. I experienced beautiful Queenstown from a completely unique perspective and realized that if I can skydive alone, I can do anything. Not only do I have no regrets, but I discovered my own strength (and perhaps my own recklessness).
4. Recognizing That The World Isn’t So Scary
Yes, the world can be a dangerous place, but the dangers the media bombards us with are the exception, not the rule. While you do have to keep your wits about you, people around the world are mostly friendly, warm, and kind-hearted.
If you let fear of the world stop you from going out and experiencing it, you’ll miss out on the best things that life has to offer.
I realized that the world isn’t as terrifying as it’s made out to be when I backpacked solo through South America – another adventure I wasn’t planning to take by myself, particularly because I had it in my mind that South America was incredibly dangerous.
I made plans to travel for a few months with a male friend. As I should have expected, he backed out just weeks before the trip, leaving me to traverse the world on my own once again. I was intimidated by the prospect of traveling in South America alone, but had been in this situation before and knew what I had to do.
In the end, I was worried for nothing. It was easy to meet other travelers along my way, several of whom ended up traveling with me for a few days here and there. As travelers, we shared a sort of unspoken camaraderie, and the locals throughout the entire continent were nothing but lovely and welcoming.
I was always careful not to walk alone at night or put myself in unsafe situations but didn’t feel the need to take more drastic safety precautions.
5. Learning to Live Life on Your Own Terms
Solo travel comes with complete control. You’re allowed to be selfish when the moment calls for it. You can focus on your own wants and needs, and the things that make you truly happy. There’s no precedent for what your journey has to look like; you can plan it to a T or you can take each day as it comes. Living life on your own terms is totally freeing
Learning to live life on your own terms means embracing the freedom of solitude and realizing your power to do whatever you want whenever you want.
In the words of legendary solo female traveler, Cheryl Strayed, “Travel is a rite of passage, it’s something that teaches us who we are.”
When you go out into the world on your own, you discover what makes you strong, what you’re afraid of, what you’re not afraid of, and what gives meaning to your life. You have the right to be curious and to ask yourself, again in Cheryl’s words, “What is that place and who will I be in it?” It’s an amazing feeling to realize your own potential as a woman in this world and to create the life that you want to live.
Once I’d tasted the freedom that came with traveling alone, I never looked back. I couldn’t. I want to experience the world my way, with no one telling me what I can or can’t do. Now, I’m defining that for myself.
Traveling alone tests you; it holds up a mirror and shows you who you are. It forces you to become comfortable with solitude and to rely on yourself for absolutely everything. Travel shows you how crazy and beautiful and chaotic the world is, how different we are and yet that we are all the same. It teaches you how to react under pressure and allows you to take in the world as it truly is.
I learn what I’m made of every time I get out there, and if you’re reading this, you deserve to find out what you’re made of, too. Adventure hard, explore, and see what’s out there. Travel!
Inspired by this? We’ve put together 20 Indispensable Resources for Solo Travel to help you get out there!