Why Traveling Solo is Something All Women Should Do

This post originally appeared on Inspirer.

There comes a time when you can become so obsessed with an adventure or visiting a place that you’ll do anything to make it happen.  For me, that city was Paris.  When the opportunity arose to make this trip a reality, all my friends and potential travel companions had other plans.  With slight trepidation, I did the unthinkable: I took myself to Paris.

The more people questioned and expressed surprise at my travel plans, the more confident I became that it was an experience I wanted to have.  I would explore the most romantic city on earth, alone.  Who knew that I would fall in love with solo travel in the process?

It can be daunting at first, but traveling by yourself is an incredibly eye-opening opportunity that every woman should experience in her lifetime.  Here’s why:

It’s an opportunity for self-reflection.

Not having anyone traveling with you equals a lot of time to think.  This can be terrifying for some; research has shown that most people prefer to endure electric shocks rather than sit alone with their own thoughts.  Once you get over the initial shock of not being constantly engaged with another person, you have the opportunity to reflect.  You may be surprised by how much you can learn about yourself when you’re not trying to keep up with someone else.

You can do what you want.

When you travel solo, your day belongs to you and you alone.  Want to sleep in?  Awesome, no one’s waiting on you to get going.  I loved the freedom to stop when I felt like it or to enjoy the Eiffel Tower for a second or third time.  When I became tired halfway through the Musee d’Orsay, I stopped to recharge in the cafe for an hour before finishing the rest of the museum.  That kind of freedom and flexibility only comes when you’re by yourself.

You get a huge sense of accomplishment.

Traveling alone means you’re in charge of everything: planning, execution and problem-solving.  It’s true that this can be quite an undertaking, and I definitely felt a bit overwhelmed at times. However, the challenge breeds a massive sense of accomplishment as well as confidence in yourself and your abilities.  I never thought I could navigate a strange city where I didn’t speak the language, but here I am writing about it!

Connect more authentically with others.

When you’re alone, you become more open and aware of the people around you.  You may not understand the barista serving your coffee, but you can give them a big smile and do your best not to butcher “Thank you” in their language.  Chatting with the people at your lodging or going on a walking tour and meeting fellow adventurers from around the world suddenly become a priority because they offer the chance to connect with the humans around you.

It’s a chance to break stereotypes.

Whether it’s other people telling you that you can’t do it or the voice in the back of your head, there’s an idea that women shouldn’t and can’t travel alone.  The fact is that you can and you will!  Don’t miss out on amazing life experiences just because you don’t have someone to go with.  Don’t wait for the perfect time or the right guy to come along to take you to the city you’ve been dreaming of seeing.  Just go, enjoy and prove to yourself and others that you capable and proud to be independent.

For more female solo traveler inspiration, check out boss babes Alyssa Ramos at mylifesamovie.com and Alex Baackes of alexinwanderland.com.

It’s okay to not know what you want

An object in motion stays in motion.  That’s one of the few things I retained from my high school physics class.  I’m fairly certain I was too busy flirting with the guy next to me to learn the rest of Newton’s laws, but at least I learned something.

Newton’s first law can be stated as:

An object in at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

Couch potatoes tend to stay couch potatoes unless an unbalanced force comes around and shakes things up.  We’re creatures of habit and we like to coast, but it’s when we stretch ourselves that we start creating a life we enjoy.

You don’t have to know exactly where you’re going or what you want to do with the rest of your life.  With the exception of my cousin who has wanted to be a pediatric doctor since she was at least 9, very few of us have that kind of clarity.  (She recently graduated medical school and is absolutely incredible!)

For the rest of us lay people, it’s totally okay and normal to feel a little unsure about our general life path.  Just start moving in a certain direction, it doesn’t matter which one!  The important thing is to begin something, anything.  Put one metaphorical foot in front of the other and get going.

At the very least you’ll learn what you don’t want – a valuable lesson in itself.  Alternatively, you may stumble upon something wonderful you never knew existed, but only if you get off your couch and put yourself out there.

In Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert writes about being devoted to inquisitiveness.

“Curiosity is accessible to everyone.  Passion can seem intimidatingly out of reach at times – a distant tower of flame, accessible only to geniuses and to those who are specially touched by God.  But curiosity is a milder, quieter, more welcoming, and more democratic entity.”

So ask yourself: What am I interested in?  It doesn’t have to be profound or the solution to world hunger, it just has to peak your interest.  

Go on a scavenger hunt and follow what makes you curious.  Take that dance class, plant a garden, start learning another language.  You do you.

What makes you curious?

2 steps to the life you want

We like to complicate everything, overthink situations and generally make matters more difficult for ourselves.  Clarity of vision can go a long way towards streamlining your success.

1. Decide what kind of person you want to be & the type of life you aspire to lead.

It’s easy to see glamorous photos of famous people or read success stories of the uber wealthy and think “If only my life were like that…”  It’s another matter entirely to visualize and decide who you want to be.  Get out a pen and paper and describe your ideal life in excruciatingly minute details.

What do you look like?  Are you happy?  Who do you spend your time with?  Where do you live?  How do you feel?  What does your day-to-day look like?  

Get clear, get focused, figure it out.

2. Live as though you already are that person.

What does an extremely successful business person do?  They’re up by 5am to get a few hours of work in before anyone else is awake.

Want to be fit and healthy with boundless energy?  Make exercise and eating well non-negotiable.

Want to be a writer?  You have to actually write. 

Whatever you chose in the first step as your ideal life, start living it.  Determine how those who already have what you seek behave and adopt their mindset.

Become who you want to be by acting as if you already are.  You won’t be pretending for long.

Why write?

Picture of coffee shop with people blogging and writing and taking notes. Coffee and tea on the table.

I’m somewhat embarrassed to admit that my earliest intentions to blog were not the best.  Rather than create for its own sake, I had a simple desire to emulate .

I wanted what others had: picture perfect lifestyles.  The bloggers I looked up to supported themselves from whatever beach they’d chosen to visit for the month.  Their bodies were flawless, their wardrobes enviable, and they had thousands of followers.

My eagerness to follow in the footsteps of these blogging deities led me to a rather naive conclusion.  It looked something like this: make a website, write about shoes, take pretty pictures.  Voila!  My life too would be perfect.

Except that’s not how it works.

It takes passion and a whole lot of grinding to give the appearance of effortlessness.  Hours of effort go into creating flawless.  Seeing the finished product and wanting it is easy – we didn’t have to do anything.

“I started with nothing and I didn’t make a dime for 2 years.” – Lauryn Evarts of The Skinny Confidential

Success comes from believing in our ideas.  It comes from being willing to out-toil the competitors because the belief in our work is beyond any doubt.  We must be willing to take our own path, not copy someone else’s.  Real achievement comes from a place of motivation more powerful than any incentive money can offer.

So I ask myself:  why do I want to blog?  Why write at all?

I’ve always had the aspiration to be an author.  It niggles in the back of my head like an itch that surfaces in sporadic bursts.  To make someday a reality, I need to improve my writing today.

Don’t wait for permission. Get started, write all the time — it’s the only way to get better, and it’s the best possible way to sounds more like yourself and develop your personal style over time. – Colin Wright

I want to have a record of travel and adventures.  The little details that are the best part of a trip are too often forgotten.  A well-written post with gorgeous photographs would provide a portal back to the experience.  It could also contribute towards others’ journeys.  By all means, please learn from my mishaps and varying degrees of packing success.

I’d like to share and explore ideas to reach a better understanding of them.  I’m looking to question and scrutinize and learn.  Blogging and posting provide a forum to achieve this aim.

On such an odyssey of inquiry, I look to connect with like-minded individuals. I can be a part of something larger than myself and pick up some knowledge along the way.  We all crave connection.  Maybe it’s possible to find it through writing.