The many faces I have encountered during my adventures always seem to have the same question for me – How do you travel on your own? Aren’t you scared?
I always respond with the same answer – you never know what you are capable of until you do it.
Having a moment by myself in HK
This might come off as a cheesy post but the reality of travelling alone, especially as a woman is quite the daunting task. But you can not let fear control your life or your dreams.
For as long as I can remember, I had always wanted to travel but my dreams weren’t as big as travelling the world. My first task was to make it Europe somehow. Although I had lived there (in Germany) as a child, I had yet to explore the continent that I had eagerly studied about in my undergrad. I was intrigued by its culture and history and knew that I wasn’t privileged enough to get an all-inclusive post-grad backpacker trip. But I knew there had to be a way I could get there and luckily for me, I stumbled across the working holidaymaker visa that allowed me to work in the UK. By being able to live and work in a European country I got my first taste of independent travel. And how easy is it to work abroad when you have a citizenship from an English speaking country? Pretty darn easy! There are loads of resources out there that will guide you towards the information you need, the first step is wanting to do it bad enough that you invest your time in the research.
Other options to consider besides working abroad are to volunteer, or study abroad. Of course they all come with a price, so again it all depends on a person’s desire to travel to their destination.
The Louvre and The Opera House in Paris ~ a dream come true!
The adrenaline of being abroad your first time around is amazing – I can still remember the high of living in another continent at 22 years old. To some it’s not a big deal, but for a sheltered Tamil girl who could only dream of such a thing, it sure was! I suppose it was that rush that fuelled me to keep doing it, over and over again. And here I am, 6 years later still living abroad.
Although the adrenaline kept me going, it still didn’t get rid of the underlying fear. When I arrived in London I had no idea where the small town of Swanage was. I had to get there on my own and I was never more grateful that I chose an English speaking country as my first destination. It would take me 2 train rides and a cab before I reached my summer home, but that wasn’t without getting lost with my two oversized pieces of luggage. I think back to that naive moment in my life, where I felt that I did indeed need two suitcases filled with clothes and books for two months in the English countryside and feel a sense of pride at how far I’ve come. These days all I need is my 15 liter backpack for travels up to three months!
only one of these is mine!
There are so many things to be learned as an independent traveller besides just what to pack that’s important. You quickly learn whom to trust, how to exit an uncomfortable situation, especially with someone whom you can’t speak with in the same language, how to avoid tourist scams, and most of all, how to look like you really do know where you are going and are of course, NOT a lost tourist!
My biggest asset as a novice independent traveller was my Lonely Planet guides. Although it pointed me out as a tourist, it still allowed me the freedom to know where I was going with it’s informative maps, and useful information on cities, towns, and basically everything! It’s also helpful to plan out an itinerary so you don’t feel compelled to hide in your hostel room all day. When you have a plan, it’s easier to go out and follow it. Look out for free tours as well in major cities such as Amsterdam, Paris, and London. You want to be budget conscious but splurging here and there is also great after a wonderful day of sightseeing. And hostels are of course are your best resource and a place to meet other independent travellers. However don’t feel compelled to stick around with people who may not seem to have the same idea of what to do and see as you.
Always remember that this is YOUR adventure, you call the shots.
the Yarra Rive in Australia
Since my first solo adventure to Europe, I have lived in Australia and Korea. In between I have explored many lands completely on my own and I have grown to appreciate my own company a lot more than I had thought. Of course, having a travel partner by your side is great, especially for safety. But I would never compromise my destination or sense of adventure simply because I am afraid to do it alone.
Once I became comfortable with staying along in a hostel and rather bored of it (because not every independent traveller is all that interesting) I began to use Couch Sufing as a mode of travelling as well. The site also serves as a great research tool and if your destination isn’t exactly women-friendly, it’s a wonderful place to meet other travellers who are heading the same way.
With a little experience and self-confidence, independent travelling can change your life. It helps you see another side of you that you probably didn’t know existed.
as a solo traveller, you become quite good at self-portraits
If you are fuelled with the desire to travel, to explore at your own speed and limit, then just do it! Waiting for someone who shares your passion isn’t going to happen. And waiting is only wasting more of your precious time. The world is here to explore and the time is now!
More online resources for research and meeting like-minded travellers:
If you have specific questions regarding this topic, feel free to comment!