Stop saying these things to women who travel alone

If I have said it once, I have said it a thousand times. I am single, and I am happy. I like my own company, especially when I am traveling. I like exploring new places and meeting new people and having those connections that a momentary. My choice to travel alone does not make me sad, reckless or lonely. It makes me an adventuring badass of a woman who refuses to wait until she finds The One to have adventures.

Since I was in high school I have wanted to explore the world. I’ve spent my young adult years saving and scheming for grand adventures for myself. I’ve traveled extensively, both alone and with friends, to more than 50 countries spanning most of Europe, Asia and Africa.

I enjoy spending time with myself, especially when I’m away from home. I love being in pursuit of the feeling of wonder that strikes when you’re walking alone down a foreign street, following an intoxicated scent of something baking or roasting, being mesmerized by the architecture that turns simple apartment buildings into large scale artwork. I do enjoy traveling with friends, but even when I am with my favourite travel buddies a crave solo time. I prefer planning adventures alone (and my friends all know that to travel with me means they will get zero input into the adventures). It leaves me open to adjustments, without having to consult someone else. I can embrace the local scene, practice the language, order huge amounts of food for lunch so I can try all the local delicacies. And I can do all this without fear of judgement.

There are a few things I wish you would all stop telling me though. There are some opinions you should just keep to yourselves. These things you say to me, they’re just insulting.

WAIT… YOU’RE GOING THERE? ALONE? LIKE ALONE, ALONE?

Why is it so scandalous that I would want to travel solo? Women have been adventuring alone for years, I am not breaking new ground in doing so. I am an adult, and I’ve been taking care of myself for a few years now. I speak two languages, and parts of others. I am intelligent and perfectly capable of thinking for myself. I mean, I am wearing my pjs at midday as I type this, but it’s Sunday, and what else are Sundays for?

Relaxing in Africa between safaris

BUT YOU KNOW PEOPLE THERE RIGHT?

No. And so what? Part of the joy of traveling is meeting new people. Sometimes I am fortunate enough to meet up with old friends in far away places, and I have a fairly extensive network of people across the globe that I love to see. But even when I surprised Mrs Ayla at Christmas in London, I still escaped from London and spent time alone in York and Bath. Meeting up with people I already know overseas doesn’t make me feel safer or more comfortable when traveling to a certain place.

BUT YOU DON’T SPEAK THE LANGUAGE!

People travel for different reasons, and one of the reasons I do it is to learn. I know more phrases in more languages than I can count. I can order food in most European languages, and if I can’t then I’ll say it again. I am an intelligent woman who can read a phrasebook. I’m crafty, I’ll figure it out. I can get around just fine with a guidebook, my iPhone and a G&T.

thevagabondfeminist-1

SO YOU’RE NOT GOING WITH A FRIEND? BOYFRIEND?

I don’t understand how you’re not getting this yet?

OH MY GOSH! YOU’RE SO BRAVE!

OK. I am a lot of things. I am resourceful, independent and strong. I am a fucking badass. I am curious, confident and solitary. I am not brave. When I made my first foray into the world I was terrified. I was scared witless. I had no idea what to expect. But I went anyway. Being brave is NOT a prerequisite to travel solo. If you wait until you are brave enough you will never go.

YOU ARE SO LUCKY! I WISH I COULD…

Shut up. I am not lucky. I work really fucking hard to travel as much as I do. I chose travel When you all chose marriage, houses and babies, I chose travel. I made it my career, I sacrificed and I made it happen. You could have to, except you chose a life of debt and screaming children and a husband who mentally checks out after a few years. You don’t like your life? Change it. You love your life? Great, stop judging mine.

YOU ARE TOTALLY EAT, PRAY, LOVING!

Fuck off. Just fuck off. I am not a divorcee who is bored with her very privileged life. I am not traveling in response to a trying life event, although I have had plenty of those. I am always open to the possibility of meeting my Javier Bardem…. but I am traveling alone because I LOVE TO.

thevagabondfeminist-2

BE SAFE. THE WORLD IS DANGEROUS

*thumbs up* Cheers bro. I’ll make sure to put my wallet away now instead of having is dangling off my rhinestone belt while I flash my diamond necklaces and my tiara all over. This advice you’re giving me also empowers me to avoid getting into cars with strange men, because how would I know not to do that if it weren’t for you!

MAYBE YOU’LL MEET SOMEONE WHILE YOU’RE AWAY?

Or maybe I won’t. And that’s ok. Because that is not what travel is about, and that is not why I do it alone.

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6 thoughts on “Stop saying these things to women who travel alone

  1. veryguilty says:

    Firstly..you go girl!

    I’m 47, married with 2 teenagers and I decided to not say ” I wish I could”. About 2 years ago I was working long hours, running a business and of course being a good wife and mum (still doing all of that too). I was exhausted and reading a post about a person I know with no kids and no big responsibilities, who was planning a solo trip to Bali to rejuvenate herself. I snidely said something to my husband about how I needed a Balinese retreat more than she did. He agreed and challenged me why I wasn’t doing just that. I started with the “I wish I could but….” response. After all I’m a mum, how could I do such a thing? What would people think? But he planted a seed, and a couple of days later, I booked myself a solo trip to Bali (racked with mother guilt).

    That trip changed my life! My God! Solo travel IS THE SHIT!!! I’ve loved travelling for many years, but I’m going to be horribly honest, travelling with kids is, well, a bit crap. We took the kids to Vietnam for a holiday a couple of months back, but to be honest the kids would have been just as happy if we’d taken them to a local beach for 2 weeks. I just wanted to eat every kind of Vietnamese street food on little plastic chairs on the side of the road, but we ate western restaurants most of the trip to cater to the kids. That’s what family holidays are about. Compromise.

    Being alone in a strange place involves no compromise and is fucking exhilarating!! In the past two years I’ve explored Ubud, Seminyak, Paris, Nice, Avignon, Amsterdam, London, Bangkok and Ko Samui alone. My only regret is that I wasn’t brave enough to hang out in an Amsterdam Coffee Shop alone (next time..). I’m planning my next trip now (and hey, planning the trip is a big part of the fun!)

    My husband wants to do Everest Base Camp, trek Machu Pichu (the long way) and he loves aviation. I love Europe, big cities and tropical beaches. Solo travel is the answer for us while our kids are growing up. And it’s good for our relationship, more affordable, and let’s be honest, teenage boys can do with a good dose of independent, doing what she loves, female role modelling.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Emma Mann says:

      I know a LOT of parents who travel alone because they can’t travel together, it’s really common! Don’t feel guilty – you’re a person first and then a mum! And your kids would have gotten more out of that time in Vietnam than from two weeks sitting on a beach, think of the things they learned about how other people live. And hopefully they feel a little more thankful for the opportunities they have now that they have seen that some people don’t have the same as we do πŸ™‚

      Like

  2. Katie Featherstone says:

    Great post Em. I used to get so sick of all of this stuff when I travelled alone, it’s so patronisin. I kind of feel like a traitor now I usually go with my boyfriend, but I hope you’ll forgive me…

    Like

    • Emma Mann says:

      Absolutely! Over the years I have found three people who I know I can travel really well with. Next year I’m planning a trip with my favourite cousin, but that will be a challenge. We have vastly different personalities, budgets and styles. It will be interesting.
      I think everyone just needs to find what works for them. If traveling with your partner is your thing then yay. I’m glad you found someone who fits with your priorities in life. You do you girl, no forgiveness required. πŸ˜‰

      Like

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