Continuing with our “How did she do it? “ series, we heard from Rebecca Ashley about how solo travel unexpectedly found her when she wasn’t looking for it. 14 countries later, she proudly wears the “Solo Female Traveler” badge and shares her top reasons to try it for yourself!
“I caught the travel bug in 2008 when I went overseas for the very first time at the ripe old age of 21. It was to Thailand with my friend, and we spent two glorious weeks travelling around the country, taking in the sights, smells and tastes of Bangkok, Chiang Mai and Phuket. We went to Bali the following year, and my passion for travel grew even stronger.
But, while Southeast Asia is undeniably beautiful and exciting, we knew we wanted to venture further afield on our next overseas adventure. I’ve always been good at saving money, but my friend? Let’s just say saving money isn’t her superpower. So after ‘making a plan’ to go to Europe and talking about it for over a year without actually going, and with my friend’s bank balance looking less than healthy, I made the decision to go it alone. A solo traveller was born!
Since then, I’ve travelled to 14 countries on my own, and have come to realise that travelling solo is actually my preferred way to travel. Solo travel is so rewarding, but it comes with its challenges. And these challenges are what make you stronger, happier, and more driven than you thought possible.
Here are my top three reasons why all women should travel solo . . .
1. You’ll realise you are much stronger and more capable than you thought
This is the big one. While I knew I wasn’t some useless weakling dependent upon others for my very survival, I didn’t realise just how capable and independent I could be when put to the test. Navigating foreign airports and transport systems, communicating without knowledge of the language, making decisions about where to stay/eat/sight-see, being aware of your surroundings and personal items, it all takes a lot of energy, organisation and determination. And, believe it or not, it was all so much easier than I thought, and the feeling of accomplishment and empowerment I felt afterwards can’t be beaten. It’s funny how self-reliant I’ve become, even in my day-to-day life at home, preferring to figure things out on my own rather than relying on someone else to swoop in and help. Travelling alone promotes you to a level of independence that even Destiny’s Child would be proud of!
2. You’ll learn to love your own company
Being an introvert, I already knew that I enjoyed spending time on my own and never craved the company of others, but I was still apprehensive about whether I could cope with being completely on my own, in a foreign country, with no familiar faces to keep me company and no one to rely upon in those sticky situations. I was worried I’d get lonely, or that the things I experienced and the sights I saw wouldn’t be as special because I didn’t share them with anyone.
Well, I needn’t have been concerned. Being on your own gives you time to really soak in the experiences you have, to reflect on your day, to savour moments that you don’t have to share, that are made just for you. You’re in charge of your own schedule, which means you can go where you want and do what you want, when you want and how you want. You can travel as fast or as slowly as you want, without having to justify your choices to anyone, and you don’t have to compromise on things like which sights you’ll see, where you’ll eat, how long you’ll spend at each stop, etc. You’re free to meet new people, or not, and enjoy your holiday in the exact way you want to. There is no one else to please but you, and that is extremely freeing.
3. You’ll never settle for second best
Once you’ve seen the world as a strong, independent traveller, you’ll return home with a new-found sense of who you are and what you want in life, and you won’t be willing to sacrifice your time and energy for anything that doesn’t make you happy. My favourite quote, and life motto is, “whatever you decide to do, make sure it makes you happy.” And I try to live every day with this in mind. Because life is made for living, not just existing, and if you’re not truly happy then you’re not living your life the best way that you can.
For me, right now, the thought of being in the one place for any longer than two years gets me down; it makes me yearn for faraway places that I’m yet to experience and for adventures I’m yet to have. Travelling solo has given me an insight into the person I am when I’m free and happy and curious about the world, and this is in stark contrast to the person I am when I’m at home and at work, where I feel tired and restless and trapped. Travelling gives me new life, new energy and new outlooks on the world, things that I can’t achieve if I stay in one place and continue to live the day-to-day monotony.
If you feel the same, if travelling is your passion, your dream, your purpose in life, the thing that makes you happy, then don’t let anything hold you back. Don’t wait around for someone to go with you, create your own experiences, live the life you want to live, get out there and see the world. There is nothing and no one to stop you.”
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