Solo travel is one of travel's greatest joys - it allows you to focus on your surroundings rather than on yourself.
At least that's what I came to believe after traveling solo around the world for more than three years.
You'd be amazed at how many women are taking to the road by themselves. On some days it looks like everyone on the road is a woman traveling solo.
Study after study confirms not only an increase in the number of women traveling alone, but that we are actually enjoying it.
All kinds of women travel solo - and they travel in all kinds of styles. Some prefer rock-bottom backpacking, others have upgraded to flashpacking, some of you want to be pampered in luxury while still others prefer to live like a local.
Not a day goes by without women - often first-time solo travelers - asking questions and raising their concerns about traveling on their own. Questions like these:
In case you're wondering why any woman would be crazy enough to travel alone, here's a little list (which I could make a lot longer).
If you travel alone you'll... have more freedom to get off the bus when something catches your eye... be able to change your mind and your direction whenever you feel like it... be more open towards others... be more spontaneous... take risks... make fewer compromises... or just lie in bed or go for a massage if you feel like it without having to make excuses to anyone.
If you're a woman traveling solo...
Meeting people is my greatest joy in travel.
In Zanzibar I met two Irish aid workers from Ethiopia who were vacationing on the island - Rosie was heading to South Africa on a bicycle, and Sam was returning to Addis Ababa. We exchanged addresses, never really expecting to see one another again.
As I neared Ethiopia, I dropped Sam an email (still a rarity in those days). She sent a car to meet me at the airport and put me up for several weeks, introducing me to all her friends. None of this would have happened had I been with a group.
Many years ago in Burma I hired a horse and cart to visit the ruins of Bagan and struck up a conversation with the driver. He had been the town's photographer until he was 'relocated', his house near the temples confiscated to make way for tourism. He was given a few sacks of cement and bricks to rebuild his home - obviously not enough.
He had to sell his camera for money and began driving a cart to earn a living. He invited me to his house to meet his family, and I was made aware of a slice of Burmese life I never would have seen otherwise. Had I been with others, the danger (in those days) of meeting openly with foreigners would have made him keep his distance.
In any event, solo travel doesn't mean you're on your own all the time, quite the opposite. It just means you make your own decisions - but anyone can come along for part of the ride.
Have you ever traveled solo? What was your experience like? Please let me know in the comments below!