Dec 5th, 2019, 12:20 AM

The Rise of the Female Solo Traveler

By Nicole Pyo
Antonucci, Valentin, Person tossing globe,
"Person Tossing Globe". Pexel Image. July 28, 2018.
Women are traveling the world - and they're doing it solo.

Ticket for one, please. Yes, just one. And if that wasn’t clear enough: No, no one will be joining me.

The range of reactions I get for announcing that I will be traveling solo reaches across a broad spectrum. There are nods of admiration and exclamations of bravery – because why would I want to travel alone? Is it not dangerous? When I announced that I was resigning my position to travel to Paris and become a graduate student, people wanted to know why. Amid questions of what I’d be studying was the assumption that surely I wouldn’t be traveling unaccompanied. The common question then became, “Will you be meeting anyone there?”

Do strangers count?

In a world where women are often told “no”, solitary travel is a way to say “yes”. For many women, the appeal of travel is still there, just buried under the safety restrictions and warnings most often placed on them. There still exists a bias against females that creates risks that most men do not face in public spaces.

The New York Times recently released an article narrating the brutal violence some women received during their travels on foreign soil. While there is no doubt about the risks of any woman traveling unaccompanied, do the risks really outweigh the benefits, considering that women face similar risks in their own home countries? The violence against females that cautions them in opposition of traveling individually is part of the broader issue of violence women face around the world. The root cause of this kind of violence, notes Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, director of UN Women, has a lot to do with underlying gender stereotypes, social norms, entitlement, and patriarchy.    

What kind of example do we want to set for the next generation of women?

In response to the NYT cautionary article, many female solo travelers wrote to the editors, unanimous and adamant that the experience of traveling the world alone was invaluable and necessary in more ways than one. Seeing the world through pictures from the comfort of home might prevent some 'what if' questions from coming true. What it will not do is replace the transformation of character that can only come with learned experience.

I have gotten lost on foreign soil without GPS. I've arrived exhausted, late, and hungry to my hotel room because of language barriers. There have been times when lost, I've discovered the best places to eat and met the kindest people. I have met women who come from different backgrounds and parts of the globe who share the same passions and have welcomed me into their worlds.

There is a bond that women share that crosses cultural borders.

Why the sudden attentiveness for women to travel companionless? While it could be attributed to Elizabeth Gilbert or Cheryl Strayed’s individual adventures in Eat, Pray, Love, or Wild, respectively, many more females have realized the benefits of traveling alone.

Get to know yourself better

Rarely do we get the chance in our busy lives to justify the chance to reacquaint ourselves with the person we are, or to just be.

Get out of your comfort zone

It can be frightful. It can be exhilarating. It will force you to grow and realize what you are capable of accomplishing on your own. Not only will you gain new experiences, but you’ll expand your borders and discover a world outside of the familiar.

Freedom to choose where you want to go

What do you want to do? Group travel often means staying connected with people and assuming the responsibility of sharing the differences of interests. When you travel for one, the choice is up to you.

Gain more confidence

You are the boss. There’s something to be said about finding yourself in a foreign place alone and overcoming the barriers with no one else to depend on. Traveling alone will push you to test the limits of your capabilities. The decisions you make, the obstacles you overcome, and the skills you acquire while doing so will make you grow stronger and more confident in yourself.

Meet new people

Some of the best people you’ll meet will be on your travels. Interacting with the locals will often reveal ways to experience the country that you can only gain through insider knowledge.

Being on your own means relying on yourself to make decisions and figure things out. It forces you to confront your own fears and insecurities. It leaves the door open for you to decide on what interests you and where you want to explore. Traveling alone provides that rare opportunity to settle in and embrace the experience of being solo.

The rise of the female solo travelers is on the move. It’s the getting out of the house, out of the comforts of the familiar, and experiencing the world – kind of travel. Competing work schedules and social calendars can make it difficult to find a travel companion. I may never have left home had I waited for one. It’s a beautiful thing to experience the world on your own, without the bias of competing points-of-view. The most significant advice is to do your research. Know the country you’re traveling to, and what challenges you may face. It’s worth it.