"Are you alone?” I turned my head away from the temple to see a Thai family looking at me.
"Yes, I am,” I said.
They stared at me a moment longer before one of the sons spoke again.
"Come with me and my family, we will show you the temple." I was stunned, taken aback by their simple, yet generous, offer.
"Thank you," I said, and followed them.
"It’s amazing you travel alone,” the son said to me as we walked further into the temple. Before that moment, it never occurred to me that what I was doing could be thought of a remarkable. At the same time, it reminded me at how much I'd changed since I began my gap year.
If you had asked me several months ago to set off to a town where barely anyone spoke English, by myself, I would have hesitated. Now, after four months of traveling on my own, I wouldn’t want it any other way. I embrace the challenges that I’m now faced with. I’m stronger and more independent, and find myself seeking certain challenges to test my limits and prove to myself how much stronger I’ve become.
Traveling solo as a female will empower you to become more independent than you've ever realized. Here’s why.
You’ll be Forced to Make Your Own Decisions
No one is going to tell you which country to go to, what places to see, or even what you should eat for dinner. When you travel by yourself, you have to make all of these decisions on your own.
The initial transition when you first begin traveling by yourself may seem tough. There may be too many choices, too many decisions to be had. But, slowly, you’ll make certain decisions with ease and confidence.
You’ll Appreciate Your Alone Time
I’ve never loved being alone as much as I do now. I crave my alone time and even prefer going out to dinner by myself. Every time I go out to eat, I tend to enjoy it more when I’m by myself.
People always ask me, "do you ever get lonely?” I have never gotten lonely on my travels. In fact, I crave the isolation and peace that comes with being alone, something that many people fear.
Feeling lonely has a negative connotation and doesn't adequately describe this type of travel. Being alone, on the other hand, is what is so empowering about solo travel. Yes, you’re by yourself, but you never ‘feel alone.’ You’ll be comfortable being alone, and learn how to fill your alone time with hobbies that help you grow as a person.
One of the hardest, but most liberating feelings you will ever experience will be the realization that you want to be alone. You’re comfortable with yourself and confident in yourself and your abilities to keep yourself entertained for hours on end.
Personally, being alone gives me time to reflect on my day, my travels, and myself. I’m able to sit down with my journal, my music, and of course, my food.
Being alone gives you a chance to reflect on everything that has happened to you. It lets you clear your head without anyone else’s input and allows you the quiet time you might need after so much stimulation and interaction with people and new cultures. Loving yourself and loving being alone doesn’t come easily for a lot of people. If you've never preferred to be alone, traveling by yourself will definitely influence that, and for the better.
You’ll Learn to Trust Yourself More
You’re the only one making the decisions. You’ll learn to trust your gut and your instinct and become more in tune with why you make the decisions you do. This confidence created by your experiences will be a big part of making the most of solo travel abroad.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to my gut and ended up being right. I used to be very, very indecisive. But now I make decisions faster and with more authority.
One of the hardest days of my travels and the day I realized how much I trusted my instinct, was the day I crossed the Cambodian-Thai border, which is infamous for scammers, dangerous cab rides, and fake buses.
That night, I stood in my hostel dorm room and have never been more proud of myself at that moment. As I crossed the border, instinct and intuition clashed with reality as people disguised as officials told me what I had to do even though I knew what I should do. I went with instinct and avoided the scam buildings and the scam buses and made it safely to Siem Reap -- on my own.
You’ll Disprove the Common Belief that Women Shouldn’t Travel Alone
I don’t want to count how many times people have told me, "you’re traveling alone? Aren’t you scared?” Why should I be scared? Just because I’m a woman traveling alone doesn’t mean I can’t take care of myself.
This doesn't mean you should blindly head into any city with no idea of what you're getting yourself into. It does, however, mean that you should travel smart, especially as a woman. I trust myself enough to make smart decisions. I don’t walk around alone at night. I research the dangerous parts of a city and the safe parts. I always make sure someone knows where I am.
By going out there and proving that traveling alone as a woman can be safe will make you feel stronger and more powerful.
You’ll Learn About Yourself
Traveling by yourself will allow you to see the world from a different perspective. No one else will be there in an attempt to shape your opinion or view on something.
If you don’t like a city, you’ll have the freedom to leave. If you fall in love with a place, you’ll have the ability to stay for as long as you want if you have the time. And when you get bored, you’ll be able to pack your bags and leave.
You’ll learn what you do and do not love. You’ll learn that you prefer the ocean or the mountains, the big cities or the small villages.
Try it Out
Despite what the media's been saying, solo female travel is not terrifying, dangerous, or unsafe. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite. It’s life-changing, liberating, and freeing.
There will be many moments on your own travels where you’ll be shocked and proud of your decisions and how far you’ve made it. There will be so many times when you’ll realize how much you’ve changed and how much stronger you’ve become.
Every single day, more and more women are traveling alone and proving that it’s safe, fun, and most importantly, empowering. Will you be the next one?