The Courage to Travel: How to Make It Your Own
The media dog has found a new bone. This time it is the topic of women traveling solo, and why we shouldn’t, using as the example the tragic death of 33-year-old solo female traveler, Sarai Sierra, an American, in Turkey.
I won’t start another post talking about why I support female travel, whether solo or not, because many great women who travel solo have already written wonderful articles on the subject.
I know of many women who not only travel alone often, but have also built successful travel writing careers as a result. Female travel bloggers I have long admired, such as Janice Waugh, who along with Tracey Nesbit run a site dedicated to everything and anything for solo travelers; Barbara Weibel of Hole in The Donut has been a solo traveler her whole life; travel bloggers of color such as Maureen Jenkins of Urban Travel Girl, Oneika Raymond of Oneika the Traveller and Kiratiana Freelon of KiratianaTravels.com, just to name a few, often share what it is to be a woman, traveling alone, and of color – which adds a completely different element to the experience all together.
The point is, and what all of these women have in common, is that they have not let anything; their gender, their unaccompanied status, their age, or even the color of their skin, get in the way of going out there and taking on the world.
When it comes to travel, fear is your greatest enemy and the largest road block. People go on and on and on about it being about the lack of money, or time, or flexibility from work, or family, or life – but they are all just cover ups for the fear. Stories like the one being hyped by the media on this very sad incident only serve to further excuse that fear and allow people to cushion their excuses for not traveling – to certain parts of the world certainly, but also as as a specific gender and alone.
Jodi Ettenberg, of Legal Nomads raised a good question, “Why are we talking about solo female travel, not violence against women?” in her great response to this issue.
I have often shared my story on travel, on having gone against almost every single limitation set before me to do so: I am a woman who grew up in a traditional Latino home. I have a family. Kids. Work. School. Money. I don’t speak the language. I look the way I do. I’m American. The list is endless.
But at the base of it all, the only limitation to travel is you and you alone. Think about anything you have ever really wanted in your life and what you have had to do to get it and keep it. Travel requires the same level of desire and intense level of commitment and focus. It requires what some call sacrificing (though I certainly don’t consider much of what I have to let go to travel to be a sacrifice) and it requires responsibility in preparation and in knowledge.
There are endless upon endless of blogs and books from people who have been there and learned from their mistakes. Take it upon yourself to read and become aware. No matter where you go, be it Florida or Istanbul, you will need to guard yourself with information and a sense of awareness that can help save everything from your money to your life.
Travel as a solo woman, or as a person of color, or as a family, or as a blond girl, or as an American, or as a gay person happens every day, all the time. People from all walks of life take on travel, some making great changes to do so, others just rolling out of bed and taking the next flight. Either way, it’s a choice that requires more from you than just getting on that plane.
Prepare yourself with the right knowledge and tools and travel can be a beautiful, life changing experience. Those who tell you otherwise are often dealing with their own insecurities and trying to wrap their heads around things they often don’t know anything about.
So, whether you want to travel solo or as a family, I hope you will not let others scare you against taking the leap. The purpose of life is to succeed, not in how well you guard each day, but in how much fear you conquer to actually get out there and live it to the fullest.
Beautiful and so right on, Carol. I just came back from a two trip to Asia, some of it spent alone, some with a friend. We felt welcome everywhere we went and I'd do it again in a heart beat. There is so much to be gained traveling alone and taking the time to explore the world. For me, it was returning to my roots and the start of an annual trip on my own to see more of the world.
@Holy: I absolutely loved learning about your experience in Asia, Holly. Every time a woman travels and shares her journey, as you have, they serve to inspire and motivate others to do the same. So happy you will be doing this annually again 🙂
Yes, now I have to find a way to express who much it meant to me on my blog. It's hard to find the words. Hopefully, they will come in the next few days.
Well said. I take personal offense at many of the comments asking how could her husband "let" her travel or how selfish and irresponsible it was for her to travel without her children. I was recently traveled to Morocco alone, and while I certainly noticed that I was noticed, I didn't feel like I was in danger. I hope this doesn't stop women – black, white, single, married – from getting out and traveling.
@Monique: I agree, Monique. The first time I traveled to Europe I was 18. As I ventured alone through the streets of Milan (and this was in the late 80s) men and women would stop and stare at me. Though I was a "novelty" at the time, I was never in danger, and I was never afraid. Except for one incident, I was never in real danger…and Italy remains one of my favorite places to visit still. We just need to learn to travel smarter, and more aware, no matter what our gender.
My first time travelling completely alone, at 20 years old I am currently interning in SE Asia with an NGO called SOLS 24/7 and I LOVE IT! I'm so glad I decided to take a risk and travel for a year. Yes you do hear of stories of women being sadly attacked etc. but I definitely agree if you prepare, plan and remain cautious then nothing should stop you from travelling and having a great experience.
This sounds so wonderful! Good for you for pursuing your dreams and not letting fear stand in your way of anything. Safe and happy travels!
I like to travel. And my children also like to travel. It’s also a great way of bonding with my husband and kids. 🙂
@Kelly Rogers: I agree. My favorite way to travel as well : )