When I first decided I wanted to travel solo I was faced with some pretty mixed reactions. I must admit that I am really lucky to have such supportive family and friends who didn’t try to put me off or hold an intervention in concerned for my sanity (I have heard horror stories from other solo female travellers). But I did have my fair share of ‘talkings to’ and ‘warnings’, mostly from complete strangers and acquaintances before I left.
Out here on the road, however, most of the people I have met so far travelling solo are women. I actually had a bit of a moment last week sat watching the sunset in a bar with three other women, all of us sat on our own, drinking a beer, reading our guidebooks.
It’s not an easy decision for a lot of women to decide to travel alone, there is still a lot of social stigmas attached to women being single and unmarried (especially at my age, 34) and don’t even get me started on the stigma attached to women who don’t want or can’t have children, that’s a whole other post.
When I some tell people I’m travelling solo I can see their brains ticking over, trying to think of the least offensive way to ask the questions they want to know about why I chose to do what I’m doing. So to avoid having to answer these invasive questions in future I thought I’d write this post and then just direct them to it…
So here goes:
Oh no, I couldn’t go anywhere on my own it’s too unsafe. I’d be worried something would happen to me.
Before I hit the road I lived on my own, hundreds of miles away from my family. I often took the bus at night, got taxis home alone, sometimes I even walked. During my 34 years, I have been ‘casually’ sexually assaulted more times than I can remember in the UK. By casual I mean it happened normally on a night out and I didn’t report it to the police. I don’t know many women who this doesn’t happen to. Just do a search on twitter for #yesallwoman. As a woman, most of us are scared all of the time Caitlin Moran sums it up beautifully here in her article Women are Exhausted, it’s a fantastic read.
Anyway, I digress.
My point is, it doesn’t matter where I am in the world, as a woman I feel pretty unsafe most of the time. Should I lock myself away because of this fear that something could happen? No chance! I am very careful, I watch my drinks, I don’t drink too much, I trust my instincts and I have faith that nothing bad will happen. No matter how much caution I take bad things can still happen, and that wouldn’t be my fault, that would be victim-blaming. I really don’t need you to remind me how vulnerable I am, but thank you for your concern.
Don’t you ever get lonely?
Of course, I do! How about you? There are days out on the road when I feel completely lost and alone and all I want is to sit on my aunt’s couch or have a home cooked meal from my Dad, or a hug from my mum. Those days are few and far between. I’m normally too busy meeting new people and experiencing new things.
Some of the loneliest periods of my life were when I was in a long term relationship, living in a nice house, working a full-time job. Nothing I have ever experienced on the road measures up to how lonely I felt then. So it’s a bit of a silly question really. If I want to be on my own I am, If I want company I will find it. There are so many people travelling solo out there it’s not very often I find myself short of people to hang out with, and when I’m missing home I facetime or skype.
Oh wow you’re so lucky I would never be able to do that, I have too many responsibilities.
Now this one is aimed at the single people out there whose ‘responsibilities’ are paying some bills and a 9-5 job. Unless you have children and/or a long term partner/ husband or a seriously ill relative this just doesn’t wash with me. If you want something then you find a way. No, I am not lucky. I wanted something, so I made it happen, luck doesn’t come into it. Do you not think I had responsibilities? Or that it was easy for me to just up sticks and leave? Well, it wasn’t it was heartbreaking, painful and exhausting. Don’t make excuses, if you want something then make it happen.
My sister emigrated as did my mum, us Summers women are go-getters, so it doesn’t wash with me sorry!
Would you not rather find someone to travel with?
In short, no. I set off on this trip needing some alone time. I want to go where I want to do and do it in my own time. When you travel with others you have to be considerate of their needs. Right now, I just want to be a bit selfish and not have to worry about other people for once in my life. I have plans for friends to come out to see me on the road and I am super excited about that and I also have loose plans to meet back up with friends I’ve met on the road.
This is just something I want to do alone right now. That may change, and of course, if I met someone who wanted to travel with me in the future I’m sure I’d be open to it. Please respect that this is a valid choice I have made. It’s because I want to be alone, not because I have no friends or can’t find anyone to come with me (not that there is anything wrong with either of those reasons). I know some people hate travelling alone, or just would never want to, but I’m not one of them.
But don’t you think you should be thinking about settling down? You aren’t getting any younger, don’t you want children?
*rolls eyes* No and no not really. Would someone ask a man my age this? Yes I know I have a womb, but quite frankly it is none of your business if I choose to use if or not! I have no urge to settle down, no. I love children, but do I want them? No, I don’t. I have thought about it, and if I met someone who really wanted one then I’d consider it. But I’d also be really happy to adopt or foster later in life if I do have a change of heart. I have spent most of my adult life working with at risk young people and if I can provide a safe home for them later in life I would be happy.
Does my womb ache to be filled? No, sorry about that. I have also ‘settled down’ more than once and I have been completely miserable, so I apologise for not being in a hurry to do it again. Not everyone is built for settling down and having a family like my lifestyle is not for everyone. We each make our own choices about our lives. I don’t judge you, so please don’t judge me or patronise me by telling me “you will change your mind and be sorry later”.
So next time you think about asking a woman travelling on her own one of the above questions please think again. Instead maybe just say “Oh wow that’s great” or “good for you”.
Are you a solo female traveller? Have you encountered any of the above? I’d love to know your thoughts and how you deal with it so leave me a comment below!