Do you ever wonder how solo travel has changed you - or how it will change you once you hit the road?
I've traveled on my own many times - for a few weeks, months, or even years. And each time, I've learned something new about myself and I've changed. Most of us have.
Women on the Road News: Contents for Issue #15
- 17 Ways Solo Travel Can Change You
- What's New on the Website
- Travel News from Across the Web
- Cause of the Month: Afghanistan, Still Not Over
17 Ways Solo Travel Can Change You
After a time solo on the road, you may look at things differently. Here are just a few discoveries you might make as you travel the world on your own:
1. You will become more self-sufficient.
If this was once a problem, it will fade. You will learn to cope with situations you could hardly have imagined before, like finding your way out of a hostile place or being lost and not speaking a word of the language. Somehow when you most need it, the answers will come. You'll use gestures, remember your phrase book, or learn to read your map. You will cope, because you have to. And if something untoward happens, you'll learn to solve it on your own. You'll trust your instincts more.
2. You'll relax and become more flexible.
Rather than get uptight because things don't happen as planned when they should, you'll learn to relax about it. Most cultures in the world have a saying that roughly translates into: "No worries." And you'll learn not to.
3. Your sense of proportion will change.
What worried you before may not worry you anymore, especially when it comes to the little things. No transport? No problem. I'll go tomorrow. Or next week. No money? No problem. I can't carry that sculpture/chair/painting on my back anyway.
4. You'll be stronger.
Lets face it - travel is wonderful but there are occasional hardships. You'll overcome them because you'll have no choice. Pushing your limits will make you stronger. You'll accept that you can actually take care of yourself.
5. You will be more knowledgeable.
You'll learn plenty. That could be a foreign language, if you stay put long enough, or it may be about people's cultures and way of life. You may take courses, learn to meditate, or simply accept new foods. You'll find out about history and politics in real time rather than on the news. Wherever you go, you'll learn things.
6. You'll learn to take care of yourself.
I mean this healthwise - when you're far from medical care, you learn to handle the basics yourself. Of course it's best to plan so that you can contact emergency medical care from wherever you are, but sometimes it won't be possible, and you may find yourself using that first aid kit like an expert. You'll feel empowered.
7. Time will shift.
In the West, we tend to think in minutes. We're ten minutes late, the email takes more than a minute to arrive, we've been waiting 20 minutes for our restaurant meal. In many other parts of the world, time is measured in days, weeks, months... or longer. If the bus doesn't come... it'll come tomorrow. If someone is late, they probably had a reason - and you'll eventually find out what it was. It may sound unlikely at first, but the rhythm of the road will eventually win you over. You'll be focusing on 'what's next' rather than on 'what's not'. You'll live in the day.
8. Your expectations will change.
I'm not sure how but what you expect from life may no longer be the same. You'll find joy in simply moving from one location to the next. You'll be learning to make do with what you have and, in most cases, you'll be enjoying it.
9. Your empathy will increase.
There's nothing like sitting next to poverty to bring home what it really means. Usually we watch it on television. On the road, we'll sometimes be right in the middle of it. Travel to distant places helped me understand the true meaning of poverty - the daily fight to simply stay alive.
10. You'll meet new people.
You'll have no choice: if you're traveling on your own, you'll meet other travelers as well as local people. Unless you plan to bury your head in the sand your entire trip, you're bound to mix with people from all over the world.
11. And you'll open up to the world.
You may already be an open person but you'll be stretched even more. You'll meet people who are incredibly different from you, and you'll learn that we have more similarities than differences.
12. You'll appreciate the little things.
The little gestures will become more important - a small gift or a helping hand, these little actions which would have been buried in your busy everyday life back home will take on a new meaning. You'll pay more attention to them, and you'll do them more often.
13. You'll learn to love your own company if you don't already.
You're only as alone as you want to be when you travel, but I've found I enjoy time spent on my own. I'm no less social than I used to be but when faced with my own company, I'm happy with that and don't need an alternative.
14. You can do without.
Without many things you may have thought were essential, that is: television, internet, cellphones, regular social events, a car, cultural outings, money. That's right. Faced with the absence of certain things, we tend to adapt and start looking more closely at what we have than what we miss.
15. You'll lose a lot of your fears.
Things that once scared you - insects, new people, strange lifestyles - will scare you less, if at all. I lost my fear of small reptiles after years of watching (harmless) geckoes scuttle across ceilings in Africa and Asia. If you'd told me I would share a room with these critters, I would never have believed you. Now I don't even notice them.
16. You'll leave your prejudices behind.
Granted, you may not have that many to begin with but those you do have may be watered down, or disappear altogether. You'll be seeing people as people, not as units belonging to races or creeds. You'll learn how to be in the minority - if you're white in Africa, or black in Eastern Europe, for example. You'll be amazed at how different prejudice looks from the other side of the fence.
17. You'll appreciate what you left behind.
Many people travel because they're dissatisfied with things at home. Going away may help you appreciate what you had back home - it's a great remedy for cynicism. You may not like your job, but at least you have the possibility of finding one. You may not like your home but at least you have the privilege of a roof over your head. You may not like certain foods - but you have access to a supermarket where you
can always buy something else...
These may not all happen to you - but some are bound to!
What's New This Month on Women on the Road, the Website
I've started a new Travel Clothing section to give you an idea of what to look for when you shop for travel clothes:
Women's Hiking Boots
Women's Travel Hats
The Travel Skirt
Other new pages on the site?
Across the bay or around the world, Christine Couch - an Australian sailor - lifts the veil from solo sailing.
Travel News From Across the Web
Vote for the New Seven Wonders of the World
10 Steps to a Perfect Couchsurfing Profile
9 Overrated Tourist Destinations
8 Reasons Canada Isn't Boring
The 69 Greatest (Fictional) Travel Books of All Time
America's 10 Most Walkable Cities
New York Times: The 44 Places to Go in 2009
Time-Lapse Trip Through the Panama Canal
The 10 Most Exotic Asian Foods
The World's 8 Most Colorful Chinatowns
Travellers, Disease Spread and Responsibility
Cause of the Month:
Afghanistan - Far From Over
When the Taliban were a direct threat, money poured into Afghanistan. Then Iraq took over as public enemy number 1, and the money followed.
Here are some of the bare facts:
- conflict is intensifying and more than 3000 people died there last year, most of them civilians
- the resurgent Taliban have been supported by neighboring Pakistan
- in 2007 Afghanistan produced nearly 95% of the world's opium
- 90% of all public spending comes from foreign aid, with a number of major donors coughing up half (at most) of all money promised
- while women have been given more rights, there is a long way to go: only a quarter of girls go to school, while three-quarters are still forced into early marriages.
The recent election of President Obama may help change things - he has promised to shore up Afghanistan's government and future.
Meantime, you can help.
Locally, contact any one of these groups:
Co-operation for Peace and Unity
Afghan Women Skills Development Council (AWSDC)
Human Rights Research & Advocacy Consortium (HRRAC)
Internationally, you can contact:
For more information on Afghanistan, visit New Internationalist
and Afghan Web.
Interested in working with Uruguayan street children?
I received the following information from El Abrojo, a non-governmental organization founded in 1988 with locations in 16 cities across Uruguay.
At the Las Piedras location, children range from six to 15 years old and have not been attending traditional school for one of two reasons:
1. Their families are unable to generate enough income and are forced to send their kids to work on the streets.
2. The child was neglected or abused and left the family.
El Abrojo helps the kids return to school and helps families get back together and become self-sufficient.
If you are ever in Uruguay and would like to volunteer with the children, call (598-2) 903 0144 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Pros and Cons of Taking Your Laptop Along.
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Happy travels! Leyla