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Take the Anxious Out of Solo Travel
Your guide to seeing the world on your own

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.

solo travel to santiago - a pilgrim arrivesSolo backpacker arrives in Santiago de Compostela after weeks on the Camino

So many questions about female solo travel...

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:

Solo travel does not have to be traumatic!

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...

  • You'll often get special treatment - I can't count the number of times I've been given preferential seating on a bus because I was a solo woman

  • You'll meet more people - in countries where women on their own are rare, your solo status will awaken interest and curiosity, and you'll be more open about starting a conversation if your attention isn't taken up with a travel partner

  • You'll become more self-confident when there's no one to blame or complain to - life just is

  • You'll be more approachable. Think about it: isn't easier to walk up to a woman and ask for directions than to a group or a couple?

  • You'll do what you want, when you want, even if others wouldn't think it's the right thing to do

  • Solo travel teaches you perspective - things you would have considered disastrous back home become mere inconveniences to be dealt with, not cried over

  • Flexibility means you'll be able to take advantage of unexpected opportunities- like the traditional Balinese marriage I attended after meeting someone at a bus station

  • Your language skills will get a quick brush-up if you're on your own with no one to turn to - a phrase book and wildly gesticulating hands usually do the trick and you'll learn something along the way

  • With no one to talk to incessantly, you'll have time to sit with yourself, and get to know yourself.

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.

Thinking of long-term solo travel? It's an extraordinary experience, but isn't all roses. There are downsides to going solo for extended periods. I did it for more than three years - and it was the best thing I ever did for myself.

Have you ever traveled solo? What was your experience like? Please let me know in the comments below!