Gemma Thompson is a freelance travel writer with insatiable wanderlust. In 2014 she compiled an anthology of travel stories from solo women entitled A Girls’ Guide to Traveling Alone.
Solo travellers face daily challenges. As a woman, these challenges can present themselves in a whole host of guises. Ones you may not even have thought of. However, the pay off is always worth it. Travelling by yourself builds confidence, immerses you in your environment, and opens you up to meeting people from all walks of life. Travelling with a companion simply cannot match. Whether it's a long weekend or a year long trip, getting yourself from A to B and embracing your new surroundings can lead to a clearer head, improved self esteem and you will probably realise that you are more capable than you thought you were.
I've shared my top five reasons why we should all travel solo, and would love to hear yours in the comments section.
1. You please no-one but yourself.
We spend our days compromising. At work, with friends, with family. But when you travel solo, you get to call the shots. Don't really fancy that museum? - Skip it. Want to try that local yoga class? Do it! You are your own boss and get to plan your days how you wish. Our plans can often change on a whim when we travel, and travelling solo gives you the complete freedom to set your own agenda.
Eating spicy Banh Xeo for breakfast © Gemma Thompson
2. Your self confidence will grow
It's down to you to get yourself from the airport to your hotel or Airbnb. You have to do the ordering at the restaurant and you have to navigate the unfamiliar transport. You will succeed at all of these and who knows, you might even realise that your language skills are better than you thought. I've ended up going to Brooklyn by accident on the Subway in New York, and miming what a cow looks (and sounds!) like in Cambodia, in order to get a delicious beef dish. At the very least you will probably make friends who try to help, or come out of it with a funny story.
3. You surprise yourself
As you travel solo, your confidence will grow and you may find yourself saying yes to things you would never dream of doing back home. You might challenge yourself by hiring a bike in an unfamiliar city, eating the local delicacies, or even end up Skydiving over a breathtaking landscape. I finally conquered my fear of deep water by diving at The Great Barrier Reef, thanks to some very patient instructors, and came up to the surface buzzing with a mixture of pride and exhilaration. It was the best day of my backpacking trip to Australia, and all because I had pushed myself.
4. You will have a more immersive experience
When you're travelling with friends, you tend to talk to one another. Being on your own makes you more approachable, and opens you up to having a more local experience. I've chatted to pensioners on their way to a dance in Central Park, a 13 year old shoe shine boy in Guatemala - who told me about how he fits in his work around school - and four kind Mums in a cafe in Melbourne, who shared my table and eventually offered me a place to stay. None of these would have happened had I been with other people. You never know who you might get chatting to!
Driving a tuk tuk in Bangkok © Gemma Thompson
5. You will carry your experiences with you when you get back home
It sounds cliché, but you will learn more about yourself, when you are on your own and can only rely on yourself. You learn to trust your instincts and perhaps you will come back with a more open mind. At home we cocoon ourselves in our own little bubbles, closing the world off by plugging in our headphones and hurrying home in the rush hour. When we travel, we're not up against our usual time pressures or cozied up in a booth with our friends. We are free to give people and places a chance, without agenda. I learned to not judge people up front, and to be patient when things don't move at the usual frenetic pace that I'm used to back home.
Travelling solo can benefit everyone. Especially women. In today's uncertain world and unstable political climate, women need to get their voices heard, and work harder than ever before. Solo travel is the perfect way to build confidence, achieve things that you may once have thought impossible, and to push yourself. You'll carry these skills with you when you return too. Who knows where it might take you?
Interested in reading more experiences of solo travel? Get 10% off Roam Alone: Inspiring Tales By Reluctant Solo Travellers here.