Before I met my husband, I have always been the solo traveller. I loved the freedom, the independence and the possibilities of solo travel and I have had no regrets. I was loving it so much that it didn’t occur to me, until last year’s Asian Women’s Empowerment Conference, that many women don’t travel solo, with fear being one of the biggest reasons for not doing so.
Frankly, the question has always been “Is it safe?”, one question that is in most cases, utterly unnecessary and usually born out of ignorance.
What’s Stopping You?
All solo travellers hate the question “Is it safe?”, a question fellow blogger Nomadic Chick often wonder where these came from.
A friend recently posted on Facebook that she is planning her next escape. She is well travelled, have been to many parts of Asia and also happened to ‘bump’ into us in South America on the Inca Trail. She wanted somewhere new, exotic and different and it was between either Burma or India.
“I would prefer you not to choose India, especially if you are going solo. I am sure it’s not that bad, but I don’t want to have to worry about you” commented one of her friends (comment paraphrased and shortened).
What’s wrong with India? Oh, yes, the news of the rapes and its many problems. Similar responses were given when I previously planned trips to destinations such as Indonesia, Philippines and Cambodia (of all places!) and to be honest, the most trouble I’ve ever gotten into were at Sydney Airport when I forgot to take out the liquids out of my hand luggage.
Yes, the world is full of warnings, and yes many of these places have their issues and it’s all over the media. Then again, we never stopped going to London and Spain despite the actual terrorist attacks.
Media, that’s the problem. It dawned on me on my most recent trip to Malaysia, when I asked someone why they wouldn’t travel to Sydney alone.
“I hear that you just get hit in the face for no reason in Sydney, and they’ve bashed up a lot of foreigners!”
Needless to say, the problems of drunk violence hit their news and that was all they heard of about Sydney, and the unfortunate truth is that I also personally felt safer on the streets of many of the above destinations, than on George St of Sydney at night.
Why It Is OK
If fear was stopping you, it is ok, you are not alone. The first step is to recognise that there are differences in opinions and the media will only show what they want you to think. This can be for social and political reasons but it never hurt to speak to real people about their experiences before you make a judgement of a destination. There are plenty of bloggers, especially solo female travel bloggers out there whom would tell you otherwise, and trust me, these girls know what they are talking about because many of them have been travelling, solo, full time for many years!
It is ok because you are not alone. Now before I hear you say “But I am not as brave as you”, don’t be fooled. I am not brave. I just make sure I do my research and be prepared. Of course, nothing can prepare anyone for absolutely everything that could happen, but remember, anything can happen, anywhere, including where you live!
It is all about learning to judge the situation, and use common sense, because you would be surprised how many people don’t use common sense when they are travelling.
In this interview with Runaway Juno, another fellow blogger, says “don’t do think you wouldn’t do at home, then you’ll be fine”. This is in no way referring to being involved in new experiences. We are talking about getting trashily drunk and placing yourself in unnecessary risks like riding a scooter without license, provoking for a fight for the sake of a fight, and being rude and obnoxious to the locals.
When doing certain things are not ok at home, why do it abroad?
The Benefits of Solo Travel… Especially For Women
Travel has taught me many things, including happiness, respect, tolerance and value, as well as trust. It is also through travelling solo that I’ve learned independence and ways to combat limited resources and the ability to ‘make do’ (such as making my bed within a minute at hostels, and making a great meal out of canned soup and dried pasta): as a result, I’ve learned not to waste.
For women, travel solo also teaches us how to judge people indiscriminately, and develop our ‘six sense’. We learn when to go and when to stop and how to be cautious yet still be able to embrace the goodness of humanity.
The best lesson of all, we learn to be happy with ourselves. We don’t need pretty dresses and diamonds to make us happy, we don’t need a man to reassure us, and we certainly don’t need the latest and greatest in technology, because we have the entire world to experience and enrich us!
So do it. What are you waiting for?