Solo Female Travel

Paris is for Loners

Continuing with our “How did she do it?” series, we talked to Melanie about how she courageously embraced loneliness while traveling solo in Paris. Not only did she overcome it, but the journey back to herself on that trip became a pleasant surprise.

"When most people think of Paris, they think of old-world style streets and romance. A place you might go with the love of your life (or maybe just someone you want to have sex with in a fancy hotel. In Paris). Most people imagine beautiful buildings, bistro tables, slender cigarettes and wine glasses in the hands of slender individuals, European scooters buzzing past, and cinematic walks along cobblestone streets.

They do NOT think about dragging a broken suitcase up 5 very TINY flights of stairs to an Airbnb, alone. They definitely do NOT think about walking around the city (also alone) with headphones on because you don’t speak French and are too terrified to use Google translate because you pronounce everything so, so terribly. I am 100% positive they do NOT imagine dining alone at a bistro table in the 6th ward, surrounded by young, chic, men and women who are casually gossiping about why the woman next to them is eating a three course dinner alone, with headphones on.


My desire to see Paris in 2017 was eclipsed by the fact that I was single and had no available friends or family willing to accompany me. Everything else was aligned- the flights were cheap, the most perfect Airbnb was available (and cheap) and I had a long weekend to burn. Having never been to Paris, and speaking little to no French, I was a bit naïve in my confidence that I would have no problems finding my way. The minute I stepped off the Eurostar, I was smacked with the reality that yes, I was finally in Paris, and no, I did not actually speak any French. This was the moment as a single traveler when I felt the MOST alone. I could sense tears welling up in my eyes when I realized that I had no idea what to expect in this place and I felt like I really stood out in an awkward way. This is sometimes the moment when headphones become your best friend. With headphones on, you immediately blend in. “Yeah, I was just stepping out to mail a package, buy some wine, and pick up my takeaway. I have headphones in because none of this excites me anymore- I live here. Ignore the giant suitcase”.

Loneliness aside, a magical thing happens when you travel alone- you spend less time talking and more time listening. Listening to the sounds of the city, the conversations (in French) going on around you. To dogs barking, kids laughing, street musicians playing, birds chirping, and even the rain falling around you (yes it rained but trust me, that will NOT stop you from exploring Paris). Sometimes it can be exhausting to make small talk or to engage in the active volleying of words to avoid silence. Travelling alone automatically removes these things as options.

In Paris, I was forced to observe the world around me. If I wanted to buy or to eat something, I had to listen to the people near me and mimic their words and gestures. I was learning how to be a social being all over again. Every tiny victory felt like a huge accomplishment for me- I ordered an almond croissant and full fat milk cappuccino (yeah, they don’t do almond milk at the good spots), I walked to and from my Airbnb without getting lost. I purchased a decent bottle of champagne. I took a (terrible) selfie in front of the Eiffel tower. Alone.


Being alone is something that we all fear at one point in or lives or another. Traveling alone on vacation seems like one of the WORST things one could possibly do; especially to a city such as Paris. But I ask you, how often do you really spend time with yourself? When was the last time you actually observed the world around you and even “re-learned” how to be a human person? How many times has a vacation felt like a whirlwind of “doings” and “goings” and the only way you could remember your time in a foreign city was by looking at the 457 photos you uploaded to your Facebook Album “ I <3 France”?

Travelling alone doesn’t really require bravery or independence (although it DOES require money, just fyi). It requires a desire to spend time with yourself. To become a character in a bigger story. To close your mouth and open your eyes…and put your headphones in so that no one asks you for directions!"

Melanie currently resides in Philadelphia where she is pursuing her mba. You can learn more about her and what she's up to on Instagram @psychictears.

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Dusting off the ol' passport

In our first post of of the “How did she do it?” series, we talked to Erin Hendley about how she went from a busy professional life of no travel, to suddenly feeling inspired to explore the world and ultimately embrace solo travel:

"I've been very fortunate to have my own successful small business as a Makeup Artist. There were times I felt somewhat bitter because I essentially never had a social life on weekends. The demand for makeup usually always fell (and still does fall) on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. More and more, I am learning to appreciate my job revolving around such specific days of the week, because I can successfully plan my life to do whatever I want multiple days in a row on the other days. 

About a year and a half ago, I was cleaning my house and located my passport. I hadn't seen this thing for nine years! The last time I used it, I was on a family road trip to Niagara Falls and needed it to cross over the Canadian border. In fact, that was the only time in my life I had ever used my passport. Looking at the date on the booklet reminded me I had one year left before it needed to be renewed. Doing that very basic mental math, I thought to myself: "Here is this gateway tool to see the entire world, and I haven't used it in nine years!" That's when the "travel bug" began.


Since then I have: Traveled to California to celebrate my birthday | Traveled to Europe to celebrate extreme love as a Valentine's Day trip with my boyfriend at the time | Traveled to Japan with that same guy to celebrate our Anniversary, but we were actually freshly broken up by then (I got creative and used the hashtags #ExesAbroad #BreakupTour for that one) | Traveled with my 3 best friends to get away in Salem, MA for Halloween and Miami, FL "just because" | Traveled to Paris with an organized solo traveler meet-up group called Contiki | Traveled with a surprise company called "Pack Up + Go" where I didn't know my destination until the day I left | And most importantly and recently, I've traveled 100% solo to Iceland.

When I mentioned the plan of my solo trip to Iceland, I received comments such as "Why are you going alone?" "Why is this such a short trip?" "Aren't you scared?" "Don't you want company?"

I had 4 back-to-back days I didn't have makeup work lined up yet. Wow Airlines had amazing flight prices. Most people in Iceland know English and they drive on the same side of the road as we do in the USA. Why wouldn't I take the opportunity to see this amazing country on a whim? I knew if I waited around for someone else to be available to go with me, I would be waiting forever.


In my 4 days of Iceland I felt the mist from Gullfoss Waterfall, held shiny ice chunks on Diamond Beach, walked along the mossy aftermath of the Eldraun lava fields, swam in the hidden historic pool "Seljavallalaug" embedded in the side of a mountain, bathed in the milky water of the Blue Lagoon geothermal pool, hiked 4 miles to see the United States DC plan crash site, snorkeled between two continents at Silfra, and walked the Black Sand beach at Reynisfjara. 

You can do a lot when the only schedule you're tending to is your own.


Erin is a Makeup Artist based in Paducah, Kentucky. You can follow her travel adventures on Instagram @erinstop

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