This week’s guest post is written by the awesome Adrien Behn, creator of the Strangers Abroad podcast who explores solo female travel and its power to change lives.
What Does Solo Female Travel Feel Like?
I feel like sunlight when I travel alone. I love nothing more than standing on a train platform at some god-awful hour in the morning. My face is untouched by makeup and my money and passport are stuffed down my sports bra. As I stand with my home on my back, I wait in anticipation for the train to come to carry me off to…. wherever. I am radiant, and I am free.
It is freedom from societal presumptions, from beauty standards, and from consumerism. It is freedom from the chaos of the world and daily dramas. It is freedom from my anxieties around my life. It is freedom from expectation. It is freedom from myself.
I can strip it all away, like peeling bark off of a tree. I can see my tender core, my humanness, when left with a few possessions and no cover up.
But, why do I have to do it alone? Because I’m selfish. Because I didn’t want to compromise. Because I wanted to make a left or a right turn at the whim of my curiosity. I wanted to hike mountains, volcanoes, and pyramids at my own pace. I wanted to stop on the streets and have everlasting conversations with street vendors. I don’t want to be curbed by the wants, needs, and goals of another.
Women’s experiences have always been compromised or limited all together. We have carried the emotional labor of our families, partners, and children for thousands of years while they go off and galavant around the world. I travel alone because I need to stay focused on myself. I think it is time for women to be more selfish, to put their desires ahead of others.
I remember the day before I left for my first long backpacking journey. I was sitting in a bank office with a female bank teller going over my finances for the trip.
“Where are you going?” she asked.
“ I booked a one way ticket to Paris.”
“ Omg, how long are you going for?”
“ As far as this money will take me.”
“ Wow,” she said with regret in her voice,” I wish I did something like that when I was your age.”
I NEVER wanted to live with that feeling of regret. And ladies, you shouldn’t either.
I don’t want to downplay the bond that you make with people when you travel with them, but it’s always good to cut loose and bounce around like a pinball. The world has a way of surprising you when you let go of expectations and let accidental adventures arise.
Because, ironically, when you travel, you end up meeting so many more people than if you ventured alone. I once traveled with an ex-boyfriend throughout Mexico for two months, but continued my journey down to Peru solo. I made more friends in the first 48 hours of being alone than in my two months of travelling with someone else.
As a solo female traveler, I have been able to disprove stories we tell ourselves. Like the rumour that it is dangerous for women to travel alone. I find that to be dismissive to our strength and the world’s kindness. While travelling, I have found that people are more protective than predatory. Even as a I walked along the male dominated streets of Tirana, traveled through El Salvador’s poverty stricken land, or took cabs by myself in Morocco, I found that those who were around me were more curious and shocked when I told them I was travelling alone.
There was then a sense that I was being watched. Not by some unsuspecting stranger, but by the eyes of acquaintances that worried about my well-being. They knew the risk I was taking. Sometimes I would be told I was crazy or shouldn’t be alone, but I wanted to prove them wrong. I emulate this protective force field with the few women I have be lucky to bump into along the way. We have to have each other’s backs.
While alone, I caught glimpses of my best self. Of the kinder, less stressed, and fully present person I could be. I was beyond my gender. The daily routines and comforts of home have a way of wearing on you. You can become bored, cranky, or lazy and get stuck in who you are. No one is challenging you to change or shows you different perspectives. Travel disassembles the limits you place on yourself. I gave myself the time to truly think about who I wanted to be, how I wanted to walk through the world.
Adrien accidentally found a way to unite her degree in Psychology with her love of storytelling through podcasting. She has self-produced her first podcast Strangers Abroad. It is a series of conversations she had with strangers she met while backpacking throughout Latin America for 5 months, overlapped with her personal stories about being a woman who travels alone. She finds that the world often has more to teach us about ourselves and how the world actually works than staying in the familiarity of home. She has found that the conversations she has had with strangers have been just as impactful as the ones with her childhood friends. You can find her voice, thoughts, and pictures on her blog+podcast platform www.strangersabroadpodcast.com and follow her on Instagram and Facebook.