Women traveling the world on their own still raise a few eyebrows. When we think of adventurers and explorers we tend to think of men – bearded and grim – setting out in search of new lands or excitement. However, history is full of women who have bucked the trend of staying at home and explored the world their way. But it is not only the past that is full of brave solo female travellers. Nowadays, more and more women travel the world solo and discover their true self in the process. All these women are extraordinary characters. They may have different motivations behind their solo travels, but they all prove that when it comes to travelling solo they are as brave as any other man would be. They are a great inspiration for us all.
Women traveling the world alone sense the liberty
What picture comes to our mind when we think of women travelling solo? Some recall the historical, above mentioned figures of Amelia Earhart, Freya Stark and other heroines. I much prefer to think of female bloggers, who travel and share their vision of solo travels. Like their historical sisters, they all have different motivations behind their travels and various lifestyles. But one thing that they seem to share is the ability to take control and to decide for themselves. As Janice Waugh from Solo Traveler explains „when it comes to solo travelling, just the sense of liberty, the sense of being me, the sense of freedom is really wonderful”. Freedom is one of the things that comes to mind when we think of traveling in general. And even though we all interpret freedom differently it is one thing all solo travelers seem to enjoy the most. When Prime from Female Solo Traveller talks about her passion for travels she clearly states what she loves about it – „I finally have the freedom to do whatever I want, wherever I want, whenever I want, unencumbered by family obligations and cultural expectations. I get a chance to finally affirm to myself that yes, it is safe to be free and me”. But she also adds that feelings were not all that amazing when she embarked on the first tour ever „I can still remember the feeling – I was excited and happy that I finally had the chance to get out and travel. Well I was a bit scared – I was thinking what if I ran out of money?”
Janice Waugh camping in Patagonia, Argentina
Freedom can be experienced in different aspects of our lives. When Janice recalls her first solo trip to Europe, freedom had a rather different shade than it has now. „When I was 27 and my son had just turned two. Before in Canada, if you flew with your child before their second birthday, you could fly them both ways for free. So I was on the plane the day before his second birthday. So I went with my mother and my son to Ireland, where she would stay with my baby and I would have two weeks by myself. Just the sense of liberty, the sense of being me, the sense of freedom was really wonderful. The sense of not being responsible for the raising of a child, of what daycare is he going to go to, is potty training going well, all of these things – being able to step back in my life and having that feeling of being an twenty-something without the responsibilities, so freedom is a really big thing for me”. And she adds when we talk about other solo travellers she meets „The thing that just keeps coming back is that when those people are on the road they are able to live to their own rhythm. The phrase that comes back is to be able to do what they want when they want”.
Women traveling the world alone finding their own way
When it comes to solo travelling it is not only the motivation that is important. One must actually prepare for the adventure. Janice states that „Some people are incredibly cautious, they plan everything through and they prepare in detail– and that’s not me. I plan some. I book my accommodation – especially my first night in any new place, but I tend to assume that everything is going to go just great. But let’s be clear, I’ve been traveling solo a long time and I know how to stay safe. I write about solo travel safety extensively on my blog and in my book”. Prime from Female Solo Travellers sums it up with a piece of advice to first time solo female travellers „Keep happy, be adventurous but always prioritise safety over and above anything else”. No matter how you approach planning the first trip can be a test – Janice says that it’s best not to make it too hard on ourselves. „I think that it is really important to take time to get to know yourself. My first trip was to Europe – it is western and it is not that big of a challenge. So take a moment and think about yourself, your travel experience to date and then think of where to go. The destination makes a huge difference. At an ashram in India I met a woman traveling solo for the first time. India is a challenge for a first trip – that’s throwing yourself into the deep end. It really is about choosing a destination according to the experience that you have. Sometimes people just do it automatically and sometimes people just need to stop and think about it”.
Women traveling the world alone stretching their comfort zone
Most of the time we are limited by our fear – which can be sometimes helpful, but we have to be rational and really analyse the threats of solo travel. Prime says that we can all have some misconceptions. And travelling sometimes proves us wrong „For me the biggest surprise came after a trip to Cancun in Mexico and Rio de Janeiro Brazil. I always thought that I will enjoy Latin American countries because I love reading novels by Latin American authors (Isabel Allende, Gabriel Garcia Marquez) or that the Philippines and Latin America share a common history or given my affinity for caffeine, I will at least be assured of good coffee. But I was really disappointed with Rio and Cancun, which I find too expensive, inconvenient and the food is so-so. In Rio, at least, I got good coffee but in Cancun?? God, the coffee sucks big time”.
Travelling can mean tasting life, literally. Some, like Prime search for the perfect coffee others look for great food. But as Janice explains meeting people is what she loves about traveling solo. She says: “Everyone travels solo for their own reason. It’s basically based on people’s interests. Some people love museums and want to do them endlessly. Some people are into more adventurous stuff and they want to bungee jump or zip line. For me it is all about the people that I meet. I meet extraordinary people and I love it. I meet people almost everyday of my travels”.
Women traveling the world alone discover the unknown
And people can be not only interesting – they can help you, too. As Janice says „The thing about a solo traveler is that you are more open to meeting people. You are not focused on a travel companion – you are more open to other people. And other people are more open to you because they see that you are alone. So often people just step in because they want to make sure that you are ok, is there anything that you need, or do you know where you are going, that they have got this great restaurant for you. I’ve had dinners bought for me, I’ve had beers bought for me, all sorts of things have happened. And then there is that time that I just spend by myself walking and looking and observing how the society functions”.
We don’t only discover others – most importantly when travelling solo we get a chance to discover ourselves. As Janice says „For me the process of self discovery is great. It’s a slow – bit by bit – process. And very often it is the rediscovery”. We all tend to forget we are capable of some things – everyday life makes us a bit less adventurous . Oh yeah, that’s what I am like, I forgot about that. So it’s very often about the rediscovery. I just got an email yesterday from a woman who was married for twenty years. She had only travelled with her husband and she travelled widely – she said that she followed what I said. That she took baby steps. This is a type of person that really learns about their potential and strength. I do re-learn. Two weeks ago I was driving an RV in the American Southwest, around the mountain passes. Across the deserts and high winds. And I am telling you I was pretty stressed – I did not know whether I pushed myself a bit too much. Then I realised – I can do it. I realised I am more capable. You just need to give yourself more time – relax, it usually works out. It’s that confidence and capability that people usually gain”.
The Dead Sea in Jordan by Janice Waugh
Make the first step to become the woman traveling the world alone
Solo travelling might not be for everyone, but when you feel the need to stretch out of your comfort zone, you should give it a try. Janice’s advice is to take things slowly.
No matter what makes you decide to embark on your first solo trip you will certainly experience the freedom, rediscovery and joy of living to the beat of your own drum. Janice and Prime have found theirs – but they don’t only keep this sweet music to themselves. They share, inspire and offer advice that comes from their own experiences blogging. Janice started her Solo Traveler blog in 2009. Very quickly it went from personal to public – the sincere stories have resonated with thousands. The blog grows and more and more find inspiration and information there, but it’s not the only platform Janice communicates with other travellers. There are interviews, speaking gigs, Facebook Solo Travel Society and most recently The Solo Traveler Handbook. All those seem to connect those who long to go solo.
Prime together with her sister Nina run The Gypsy Gals project – dedicated to inspiring and providing practical advice to other solo female travellers. They created this site not only to share their travel stories and photos, but also to help other solo female travellers. Their tips, stories and reviews encourage and empower others to craft their own journeys. If your escapades are still ahead of you – do not hesitate and try to travel the world on your own. And remember – solo travel – like all travels – begin with a single step. It will be so much easier, as Janice, Prime and so many others have already showed it’s worth trying.
Janice, Prime and so many others female solo travelers continue to inspire. To celebrate all the women traveling the world alone we have put together a selection of portraits of remarkable female explorers. Download it and enjoy!
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