Perspectives

Why Every Woman Should Travel. Alone.

I’m not always adventurous. I tried my first yoga class about three weeks ago. I’m afraid to eat ham because it reminds me of a dog’s tongue, and if it were up to me, I would still own a VCR. But there are some things that I do with gusto and gonads which surprises people, the main one being that I travel. A lot. Abroad. And alone.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been looked at as a bit of a rebel. No, not in an Easy Rider type of way, but if I was told one thing, I generally did the opposite. So it probably isn’t a surprise that well into adulthood I’m the same, especially when it comes to travel. I don’t mind travelling with other people, but I often prefer to go it alone and to places that many people wouldn’t.

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I understand the general concern for those who travel solo because of the potential obstacles, but I’ve always been perplexed at the level of shock and even criticism I’ve received from some people – not because of their concern about my personal safety, which I actually appreciate – but because I think the reaction would be different if I were a man. But not only do I think it is okay for women to travel alone, I think it’s important, essential in fact, and I hope that every woman does it at least once in her lifetime. Here’s why…

It Opens Your Eyes. As women, we are unfortunately not on equal footing with men in many parts of the world. You  don’t even have to venture to the other side of the pond to feel that inequality; however, in many other countries you’ll see the sharp gender divide up front, and it will likely shock you and perhaps piss you off. Good. It should.

It Offers Perspective. Travelling allows you to see the world and be exposed to other cultures, people and most importantly, points of view. The bonus is that you can internalize and interpret it all how you like. Your perspective is just that, yours, and what better way to gain perspective than to experience the world in real time – not from books or TV or the telephone game – but by being out there.

It Makes You Better. Through this perspective you become better, smarter. How could you not? Exposure to such diversity will undoubtedly teach you greater tolerance and understanding for others…unless of course, you have ice through running through your veins, in which case you’re screwed. Stop reading.

It Gives You Strength. I consider myself a feminist, which does not mean I’m a man-hater any more than liking a door being opened for me, makes me a hypocrite. It means that I believe in gender equity in all spheres of society, and what I consider ‘gender responsibility’ in what we teach girls about themselves, their limits, their role.

I believe that we’re often fed messages that we’re supposed to be meek and shy and follow a certain path that involves conforming to pre-defined gender roles which society has thrust upon us. When it comes to travel, among other aspects of our lives, I say we ignore those messages, however persistent they may drone on.

I travel where I want, when I want and how I want. I take no more precautions and exercise no more common sense than I do walking the streets of Montreal, and I’m still here. I know that in many countries you also face language barriers, a lack of orientation and the societal position of women that may differ from that of your own.

However, if you don’t go, you run the risk of regretting it, perhaps based on those external and internal messages that cautioned you not to, for no other reason than some unfounded ‘what ifs’.

The first time I ventured overseas solo was in my early 20s to Spain. I only had a few days before meeting up with some girlfriends already in Europe, but that plane ride, that taxi to my hostel, those few days where I was alone in a strange place did something to me that I can’t adequately explain. The feeling of freedom and accomplishment was overwhelming, and it laid the foundation for who I’ve become. With all major decisions in my life, I think back to that feeling of pride and achievement and try to recreate it every time. And if I can’t, regardless of what it is, I tell myself it’s not worth doing.

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It Shows You Who You Are. I think you can’t help but learn a lot about yourself if you’re alone somewhere, out in the world, and everything around you is new and different. There’s nothing like navigating through the chaos of a packed market or a train station. There’s nothing like befriending strangers where the only common language you speak is beer. And there’s nothing like seeing your hygiene standards plummet and still be okay with it. Trust me, there is nothing like that one. Ugh.

It Makes You Feel Badass. Being your own leader, making your own decisions, carving your own path, and of course, making it to your destination in one piece, can feel pretty badass, especially if you’ve been fed the message that you can’t do it.

It’s Fun. I’ve had the most exhilarating experiences of my life traveling alone. I’ve bused it across East Africa, taken trains all over Morocco, zipped around by tuk-tuk in much of Cambodia and used every mode of travel through Europe many times over. I’m climbed mountains, visited ancient sites and been up close with wildlife that could have eaten me for lunch. I’ve met the most amazing people and a ton of crazy mo fos too. I’ve seen some of the most bizarre things I can’t explain and other things I wouldn’t want to because I’ve kept the memories for myself. And sure, I’ve had a few close calls and times where I’ve uttered a “holy shit, what have I gotten myself into”!? but it’s always been worth it.

And I’m not saying every woman needs to trek through the Ugandan jungle for the travel high or sense of accomplishment. I know plenty of women that have taken a solo road trip or spent a quiet weekend alone somewhere local, and that’s okay. It’s great in fact – as long as it’s what you want to do and not in any way hampered because it’s not what you’re supposed to do as a woman.

Because You Can. Because you can.

 

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29 Comments

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    Reply Kelly Aj February 3, 2015 at 12:34 am

    Amazing article Maia!

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    Reply Soph February 3, 2015 at 3:23 am

    I hear you, sister! I believe “freedom” is the keyword. For some reason, everywhere I go, I need to climb up a mountain, a pyramid, a bridge – whatever there is to climb -, which makes me feel free and out of reach and, therefore, at peace. It’s funny how your behaviour, as you travel, teaches you a lot about yourself. You may be traveling to learn about another culture, but you are really finding your true self.

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    Reply Juliana Jurenas February 3, 2015 at 8:34 am

    Your words ring true…always. I like to think I’m one of the crazy mo fos you met, too.

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    Reply jennifer February 3, 2015 at 2:12 pm

    I wish VCRs were still a thing too! Sigh.

    The whole thing about people would view it differently if you were a man thing is so true. Surprise, people see the world through their eyes and not their penis. Sigh.

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    Reply Margarita February 4, 2015 at 12:08 am

    Fantastic!!!! Totally agree

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    Reply Anna Flight February 4, 2015 at 5:35 pm

    Awesome blog post, Maia – I agree with you for sure 😉 xx

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    Reply ReAnn February 5, 2015 at 5:07 am

    Maia – as I get ready to depart on May 1st for my round-the-world trip – solo – I’ll take with me your words of wisdom and encouragement. At the ripe and wondrous age of 68, I have traveled long and far in my lifetime, normally with a husband, kids, girlfriends and for 25 years groups of women in tow to destinations all over the world. Now it’s finally my turn – my time to see, do, enjoy and embrace the world on my own terms, at my own pace, with only myself as my traveling companion. Your words only go to reinforce what I have learned during my years of travel and living abroad and I will stride forth with my head held high, filled with the knowledge that I will see wonders and have moments of ‘awe’ wherever I chose to wander.

    You are so correct – every woman SHOULD travel alone at least once in their life.

    Safe travels…..

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    Reply Karen February 5, 2015 at 9:15 am

    Well done:-) I have travelled on my own a few times and it is an amazing experience and on my last venture I met my futures husband:-) Some would think I would only ever travel with him now (which is also great) but he knows and appreciates my free spirit and would be happy for me to go off alone if I wanted to.
    Travelling to other countries and also in your own as a solo traveller is a marvellous experience which every woman should do. I have met and made life-long friends and never felt unsafe as people usually admire your zest for life and make your journeys unforgettable. I
    I must begin writing down my trips as although my son has heard all.about them I would like to have a written keepsake:-)
    Also I notice there are mainly younger women than me (I am 56) and I would like to say I have travelled solo mainly since my son was older but I did spend many amazing trips just him and I from him being 5 years old to 22! Hopefully he can remember all of them!

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    Reply Kollin Lephart February 5, 2015 at 12:23 pm

    I agree with you 100%. Traveling isn’t as scary as a lot of people think and traveling alone can give you a whole new perspective than traveling in a group. Nice post 🙂

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    Reply Jodi February 5, 2015 at 5:14 pm

    Freedom…you’ve got that right. Most of us women always feel the need to be looking after someone. It wasn’t until I traveled on my own that I realized I’d NEVER felt such freedom. I had no one to look after but myself. I’m in my 50’s and don’t remember a time I didn’t feel responsible for another person’s safety, enjoyment or happiness. I feel it’s a freeing experience and total escape that only helps you feel fulfilled able to be a better caregiver to your loved ones. I’m now addicted and can’t wait for my next trip.

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    Reply Tailia February 6, 2015 at 11:51 am

    Another brag blog from a priveleged white chick- yawn

    • Maia Williamson
      Reply Maia Williamson February 7, 2015 at 2:40 am

      Thank you so much Tailia for reading my blog! Since I’m new to the whole blogging world, every time I see the little orange-coloured comment icon light up on word press, I shriek with excitement that I’ve been privileged enough to get another comment from a reader, so thank you for that! I’d also like to thank you for noticing that I’m white….because I am! Let’s face it, you could have noticed that I could stand to lose 30 lbs or that I’m without make-up or fancy clothes or how uncomfortable I am getting my picture taken regardless of the situation, but you didn’t. You instead chose to focus on the objective fact that I am Caucasian. Very perceptive! It also means that you took the time to read the whole blog since my three pictures are placed at fairly even intervals throughout. You fell for my strategic visual move. Mission accomplished! I would also like to give you a big thumbs up for your spelling of the word ‘privilege’. That one is a toughie with a capital T. As an English teacher for the last decade+ I can’t tell you how many students I’ve had put a ‘D’ in there. You didn’t. You chose to double up on the ‘E’ which is a more sensible error. Why would they put a ‘D’ in there when you can’t even hear one!? I can only assume it’s because of words like ‘knowledge’, of which you have plenty, so I don’t need to tell you….
      In response to the “yawn” end to your comment. I hear ya on that one. I am suuuper tired today probably because my privileged ass worked 3 jobs today as I do pretty much every day. I am fortunate enough to love my jobs teaching, but I’m a workaholic out of necessity. You see, I come from VERY humble beginnings – raised by a single mom who was both mother and father to me and my brother, who also taught me that I would never get a free ride in life. She would say to me endlessly, that all success comes from integrity, honesty, hard work and kindness. I think I’ve always lived by those philosophies but even more now since my mother died eight years ago. You clearly grasp these concepts fully, so I won’t ramble on about how they make you a better person. You’ve clearly got them locked.
      I will confide in you that I find myself in a bit of a conundrum because I LOVE to travel, which is not always doable when you have to work for every penny – hence the 3 jobs. I’m not complaining though because I get to use my 2 Masters degrees that I also worked really hard for. Yeah, you read that right – I have 2 Masters degrees (and that right there is bragging, btw).
      In terms of your attempt to highjack my blog which is clearly a personal passion and created to inspire, I must say it is ironic that you chose the post that you did to try to knock me down. I wrote that post specifically for you and others like you. It all started a week ago when I was on the phone gabbing away with another white friend of privilege who has also recently started a blog about her passion of yoga. We were discussing how surprising it has been how many people we know who have not supported us. I was expressing shock that some of my closest friends and family members post pictures of their food and comment on cat videos on social media without showing their long time friend or family member one drop of love.
      The conversation eventually turned to why we, as women specifically, seem to go out of our way to not support other women for their successes and passions. And sometimes we even feel the need to cut other women down overtly in public forums or otherwise. We summed it up that with our new blogs we would never do that, instead making it our mission to nurture the female spirit and boost the confidence and capacity of women. We get enough of the opposite from men in society.
      So I end my response with an apology to you. I truly am sorry that you missed out on that valuable life lesson that I thankfully did not. Nurture your fellow women. Lift them up, show them love, and give them praise for putting themselves out there and spreading positivity. It doesn’t mean you gotta like it all and agree with it, but you can still toss up a ‘good for you’, for trying.
      I sincerely hope you read this response… 1) because it’ll have meant that you visited my blog twice (my google analytics will loooove you for that), and 2) so you know that the only bragging I was doing in my blog, was how we as women can do anything we want “with gusto and gonads” because after all, we’re women.

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    Reply Neel February 6, 2015 at 3:15 pm

    You are 10000% right and this article is so true. I am 24 from India and have been living by myself for 3 years now in US and have traveled to Prague and Paris alone. It is such a “high” to be FREE. Making your own decisions, living on your own the way you want to and not regretting a single thing.

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    Reply Brooke Vlasich February 6, 2015 at 8:53 pm

    I agree with you about being OK with being along, whether your traveling across the world or just going on a road trip or somewhere local. Doing things builds your confidence immensely and makes you stop wondering, “Am I good enough? Can I do this?” Yes, you can and you don’t need others to determine your path or destination. I run into many women (and men) who settle and constantly tell me this about their relationships: “Who else am I going to find who has (list characteristics)?” By doing things on your own, you start to realize you don’t have to be a certain person, you can be yourself and that is good enough. You have flaws, like everyone else, but when you start doing things you love, the right person will come around who will want to be a part of that. I like that approach to a relationship better than feeling like you have to stay because you won’t meet anyone else.

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      Reply Grace Mungkaje February 11, 2015 at 8:50 am

      Yiu are spot on!

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    Reply Michele T February 7, 2015 at 10:12 am

    Great article, and excellent reply to the negative comment! When I went to a Greek island alone for a week (I am married and have two grown children), some people commented to me, “Alone?!” Though I really enjoy traveling with family and friends, and recently started my own blog to share my travels, I really enjoyed the “me time” week on Skopelos–a beautiful island that everyone should visit; put it on your bucket list! My own bucket list seems to grow though each time I check something else off!

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    Reply Carina February 7, 2015 at 10:33 am

    Hi Maia,
    thanks for sharing that great article with us, I also have the travel bug and I could relate to so many things you mention! 🙂 What I love most apart from the freedom I feel when I travel is that I have met so many wonderful and genuinely good people who are nice without wanting anything in return or having a “hidden agenda”. I catch myself thinking quite often “the world is a good place, after all”.. and that’s such a great feeling! 🙂

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    Reply Roniece February 7, 2015 at 1:20 pm

    What a fabulous read and an even more fabulous response to Tailia! Women can do anything they want! Hell, I moved to Paris after 30yrs of marriage.. loving my new life! Travel on my friend! Safe journeys! xx

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    Reply Enora February 7, 2015 at 2:26 pm

    Thank you so much, Maia, for this article. I kind of experienced that freedom and achievement feeling you describe on one specific travel occasion, and could’nt quite figure out what made me feel like that and how to recreate it. You just opened my eyes to what was standing right in front of me. So THANK YOU so much for that. I will keep on checking on your adventures! Take care of yourself xx

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    Reply Koketso February 7, 2015 at 3:07 pm

    That’s very true I am so glad to finally know that I am not the only South African women who loves to travel the world alone and enjoying her own freedom I have done it myself and I have enjoyed it so much although sometimes it’s risky but there’s a lot to learn and with me I only traveled the neighboring countries and it’s so beautiful and the truth is God is always on our side.

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    Reply Koketso February 7, 2015 at 3:22 pm

    You have said it women that’s very true some people think I’m one of those crazy South African women when I do the same traveling alone while enjoying my own freedom at the same time.

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    Reply Victoria Cheng February 7, 2015 at 10:53 pm

    I totally agree with everything you said! I am currently doing a world trip by myself and have gotten all kinds of reactions from friends. A lot of people say this and that could happen to you, but honestly, I am not naive, and I have weighed the risks and rewards. And the rewards are well worth it.

  • Maia Williamson
    Reply Maia Williamson February 9, 2015 at 1:45 am

    Thank you all so much for your feedback and kindness. I especially love your personal anecdotes and stories. It’s all very inspiring! xo

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    Reply inger February 10, 2015 at 3:45 am

    I really admire your reply to the negative comment, Maia. That was most thoughtful and inspiring. I plan to start my solo travels this year ( age 61) and I hope I will love it as much as you do. Thanks for sharing.

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    Reply Debora February 12, 2015 at 10:47 am

    Maia, thank you so much for this post. I’m a 33yo brazilian teacher who decided to step out of the comfort zone to go see what’s out there. Last year I left everything behind and came to Dublin to study English, which made a lot of people tell me I was too old for that. I came anyways. Now my time here is almost over, and I’ve decided to travel before going back home. In the end of March I’m going to backpack in Europe, which is something I always wanted to do, but didnt have the money. I’m afraid of how this adventure is going to turn out, but I’m going anyways. And when I came across your post, it gave me the extra push I needed.

    Thank you again.
    Best regards,
    Debora

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    Reply great content February 13, 2015 at 4:14 am

    I’m glad I discovered this post. Emailed it to myself to read later on from my desktop. Will try to connect with you on Facebook then too.

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    Reply marget February 13, 2015 at 10:59 pm

    Godspeed, to a women on their “inner journey”.

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    Reply nina February 24, 2015 at 8:15 pm

    going on my first solo trip all the way to south africa! nervous/excited/nervous/can’t wait/scared/happy.

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