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Out of My Comfort Zone… (from a first time solo traveler)

by Janette Freeman
(Fresno, CA USA)

Me in front of a temple

Me in front of a temple

Me in front of a temple Our neighborhood in Penang- Georgetown's Banana Guest House Two Single Solo Travelers learning to move out of comfort zone together! One of the temples in Penang

I’ve been traveling now for 3.5 months as a first-time solo female traveler. Up until now, I’d lived in the same place for thirty years, was married, raised three kids, and my career was a minister. To run off and do something as extreme as selling my house, my car, most of my stuff, and quitting my job to travel internationally was no easy decision.

Of course, most people thought I needed to have my hormones checked. I was either going to follow my heart and take care of my soul or lose it by satisfying the endless needs of others.

I chose me.

I’ve learned that I actually really like my own company, and have allowed my travels to be what they are, to take the color of ‘me’ whatever that turned out to be. This is my journey, and provides the opportunity to discover another layer of my own authentic expression.

I’ve always loved traveling, which normally consisted of going to some tourist destination, taking a taxi to the hotel/resort and asking the concierge for suggestions on outings and enjoying nice restaurants, pools and cocktails, or going on a cruise. It was always with my husband or family or friends. This would prove to be a very different kind of traveling.

I’ve noticed my comfort level being stretched and every time I realized that I get braver. I’ve discovered I’m always frightened when I move to a new place and have also noticed that within a couple of days of figuring things out, i.e., transportation, lay of the land, etc., I feel confident and successful. So far I’ve been to the Dominican Republic, then off to Guatemala and now I’m in Thailand.

I knew it was now time to start to take more risks and venture out beyond my comfort zone even more. I needed to do a Visa Run to Penang, Malaysia. I booked my flight and another female solo traveler that I met wanted to go with me.

I had booked a guest house (another first) which had a visa service, and after landing we decided on the bus rather than taxi in order to see more. After finally figuring out which bus to take, we got on and enjoyed the local experience. We got off not knowing where we were or where we were going, but of course, managed to figure it out. We ventured out in the very "local, colorful neighborhood" after dark, filled with budget hotels, hostels and guest houses and street food vendors until we found our place and checked into the very simple room.

By now, we are feeling very confident, like a couple of young backpackers, not afraid of anything. We found the “Little India” section of town and had the most amazing Indian food at what appeared at first glance, the sleaziest, dirtiest of places. Was I wrong - it was awesome!

The next day, we took buses, traveled to temples, did sightseeing, ate in street markets and had the time of our lives. We walked comfortably through the crazy neighborhoods after dark, eating street food and enjoying ourselves immensely. We kept commenting to each other how much braver we felt with two of us, as it helped us move through the comfort zone a little more smoothly.

I really learned something from that experience and that was that I could travel differently, I could have a great time staying in guest houses/hostels and the little villages that I would find those in would be filled with travelers like me. It was a turning point, I believe and an important one, as I begin the next leg of my journey, traveling up by trains from Bangkok to Chang Mai, and Northern Thailand.

Traveling for the first time as a female solo traveler is a growth experience on many levels, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to do this “adventure of a lifetime.” I’m so glad I said “Yes” to the calling of my heart.

And the journey continues….

Comments for Out of My Comfort Zone… (from a first time solo traveler)

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Jan 15, 2013
What a wonderful story!
by: Leyla

Janette, I love your story! It can't have been easy to leave as you did - I know because when I took off for my own long trip at 43 I left everything behind and many people (most in fact) thought I was insane. Going anyway was absolutely the best thing I ever did for myself and I'm so happy to hear your own trip is turning out so well. It's not always easy but you already sound like a veteran traveler. I hope you continue having a wonderful tome!

Jan 15, 2013
Thank you, Leyla
by: Janette Freeman

Thanks for your encouragement! You've already been inspiring me since before I left. Thanks for all the resources in your website and book! Blessings!

Jan 15, 2013
"we"??? "solo"??? Which is it?

Kudos to you, girlfriend - on (I think) dipping your toes into the delicious sea of solo travel!


I'm confused. The title of your post is "...from a first time SOLO traveler", yet...

What's with all this we, We, WE??

e.g. "we decided...", "we got on...", "we got off..." and "we ventured"???

Who's this "we"? Doesn't sound solo to me. I mean, it's nice to occasionally join up with another traveler along the trail for a few days, but I'm just wondering if you really discovered the wondrous joy of truly traveling solo - all on your own.

Jan 16, 2013
What an inspiring solo travel story
by: Gwen McCauley

Hiya - I travel a lot solo and love it. And your story inspired me because while solo travel hasn't been my issue and I chose to let go of a long-term marriage a couple of years back, I'm beginning to realize that I hold onto way too much stuff in other areas of my life. Thanks for the noodge to step into that personal exploration and see where it takes me.

Keep discovering and enjoying wherever your travels take you. The world is a marvelous place and you clearly are open to experiencing all that it has on offer!

Jan 20, 2013
by: Vicki

Love reading of other solo women travelers. I swear it not only broadens your life in all that you see, learn & the people you meet, but makes you feel stronger & more capable than any other thing you can do in life.

Enjoy it all...sending you great energy to overcome those "anxious" moments & catapult you on to more adventure!

Jan 20, 2013
by: Janette

Hi everyone,
Thanks for your comments, it's continuing to be quite a journey. And- yes Dyann, (sorry I wasn't clearer!) I am traveling solo, although one of the points in my story, in hooking up with another solo traveler, was that it gave me a little more push, expansion, and confidence. I really have no desire to spend all my time "alone" as if that were the "right" way, part of this- for me, is learning I can make friends wherever I go. Thanks again everyone. Onward!

Jan 21, 2013
Nope. No "right" way to travel

No Janette, I surely wasn't suggesting that there is but one "right" way to travel. Only that your article wasn't clear. I mean, it was entitled "...first time solo..." yet in the middle of it you're talking about "we" this, and "we" that - with no explanation for the sudden change of pronoun.

And as far as spending all your time traveling "alone"? That would be both sad, and nearly impossible to do. In addition to fellow travelers along the way - one of the reasons I travel at all - is to MEET THE LOCALS, so of course I'm rarely, if ever "alone". Indeed, many of my fondest travel memories are being invited into a local's home for tea, or dinner, or... as in Morocco once I was invited into the inner sanctum of a Muslim bride's home as she and her bevy of sisters and female friends prepped for her wedding that afternoon.

Nope. Never "alone" and no one "right" way to travel.

As I said in my original comment Janette - kudos to you, my dear. And I wish you many more solo adventures to come!

May 15, 2013
Heartwarming story...applies for local travel too
by: Debs

Janette...thank you for your story which I have passed along to my three grown daughters. I especially wanted the middle daughter who is moving to a new city in Virginia to read your comments about getting familiar and comfortable by trusting one's own ability "to figure things out".

Although she isn't technically traveling to a far away place (however, if you're been a northerner all your life and move to the south you might think so :), she is on her own in a strange city and your advice holds true.

Safe journey.

Oct 30, 2014
Thank you!
by: Anonymous


After reading this text you reminded me of my biggest dream from 3 years ago to go to India. But I never did it because I was concerned about my safety but when I read your story I think I will try to realize my dream in 2-3 years.

Thank you!
Beata from Poland
(typed by Olga from Poland)

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