My first trip as a solo female traveler was when I was 19 years old. I went to study abroad in Chile, not knowing a soul before I arrived. I left that experience with an appreciation for a new culture, a solid group of friends, and feeling more alive than ever. In the 10 years that have followed, I’ve traveled the world. I have lived in Thailand and backpacked across Southeast Asia (twice). I’ve been to almost every country in Europe. I’ve stayed in the favelas of Brazil and medinas of Morocco. I have seen a lot and experienced even more. But, one thing is for sure… I have learned. Here’s a little of that learning.
WE ARE ALL CONNECTED.
I love connecting with all different types of people, it’s one of my absolute favorite things about traveling. Each of us has a unique story, and travel is like the ultimate way to experience other people’s stories. If you just talk with the people you meet you’re likely to learn something from them. You can form a connection with someone you may not have otherwise. And, if you talk long enough, you’ll probably find some connection that already exists between you and that person. Traveling solo has made this even more glaringly obvious to me. Because when you travel alone, you’re more likely to strike up conversations that maybe you wouldn’t have, had your friend or partner been there with you.
I AM PRIVILEGED.
Travel really puts things into perspective. You get to see how other people in the world live. It shows you, first hand, the opportunities and privileges you were given for being born when/where you were. A super simple example of a skill that I’ve really come to see as a privilege, is being born speaking English as my first language. It’s something I know I’ve taken for granted, but travel made that even more obvious to me. Speaking English is a huge advantage, and people who aren’t born into English speaking families or English speaking countries work SO hard to learn it. There are many many other examples I could give, but we’d be here all day. I will just say that until you get out of your own bubble and see other people’s experiences you won’t quite know how good you’ve got it.
THERE ARE GOOD PEOPLE EVERYWHERE. (and there are more good people than bad)
Society as a whole really likes to focus on the negative side of things. When I tell people that I’m heading off for solo travels (especially as a female) many times their first question is, “Is that safe?” People are so concerned about the bad things that can happen and the bad people that exist in this world. But, I can say without even the slightest hesitation that 99% of my encounters with people while traveling have been good and that I have received soooooo much kindness from strangers! If you’re looking for the bad, you will find it. But, I promise that there is way, WAY more good out there.
EXPERIENCES OVER EVERYTHING.
I’m not here to say that you should never buy a material possession again, or that material things can’t make you happy. Yes, things can bring us joy. But, at the end of the day, it’s the experiences in your life that make it what it is. The memories and stories you hold are the DNA of what makes your life unique. Travel offers the most amazing and one of a kind experiences. It puts into perspective how important it is to spend your time and money actually tasting life and DOING things, versus spending your money on material things.
COMMUNICATION REALLY IS 90% NON-VERBAL.
I’ve been to many countries where I don’t speak the language. People always ask me how I get by in those instances. Specifically, how I lived in Thailand and taught English there without speaking any Thai. The truth is… so much of how we communicate is non-verbal. A smile or nod or simply pointing can get you very far. In fact, I have left conversations where we didn’t speak the same language as someone, feeling like I know them deeply without ever saying a word!
YOU CAN DO HARD THINGS. (all by yourself!)
One of the most important lessons I have learned in all of my years of traveling alone is that I am capable of so many amazing and hard things. There’s nothing more exhilarating to me than navigating a giant city that I’ve never been to, all on my own. Or arriving in a place not knowing a single soul, and leaving with a handful of new friends.
Solo travel shows you how many things you can do, that you simply never knew you could. It will instill a sense of confidence in you that you didn’t know was possible. Let me put it this way. If you can get on a plane alone, arrive in a place you don’t know, have no friends or family, don’t speak the language, and aren’t used to the culture, and not only survive it, but come away with stories, friends, and one of a kind experiences… what can’t you do?!
THE MORE YOU SEE, THE MORE YOU KNOW.
Travel is education. Things are never what they seem to be. You won’t know how something really is, until you experience it for yourself. The amount of times that my expectations for a place or group of people has been completely shattered (for the good or bad) is insane. You can read a thousand books, hear what the media says, watch the news, or sit on Google maps for hours… but until you see a place, meet the people, hear the sounds and truly experience it for yourself, you will never really know what it’s actually like.
HOW TO MANAGE EXPECTATIONS.
There are so many moving parts when it comes to planning travel. You are relying on a lot of things that are simply out of your control. Because of this, there are lots of opportunities for things to go wrong. This makes managing your expectations a must. You have to expect that some things just aren’t going to go as you planned. And that’s ok! Many of the best experiences I’ve had, are when I had zero expectations as to how I wanted it to go or how I thought it should/would go. Many times plans fell apart so that even better plans could be made!
THERE IS NO RIGHT OR WRONG WAY TO LIVE A LIFE.
There isn’t one way to live life. The way they do things across the world from you is different. It might not be “as fast” or “as efficient” but it’s getting done and they are living their lives just fine. They might not have all the “things” you think you need… but they are happy, too. We have so many options given to us, and we all make different choices. There’s no right or wrong here.
WE SHOULD ALL HAVE MORE GRATITUDE.
We should all have more gratitude and be thankful for what we have. This goes hand in hand with travel showing you your privilege. I have been to places where kids literally played with mud and sticks as toys, and they were the happiest kids I’ve ever seen. They were so thankful for what they had. We tend to take things for granted when we have them so available… travel shows you how simply being thankful for your life and what it’s given you can make you the happiest of all.
Travel has taught me a lot. I have learned about the world and its people and I have learned about myself. I’ve learned valuable lessons at the age of 29 that some people (unfortunately) never learn in their entire life. 10 years of travel is just the beginning for me. I know that there is much more to see and many more lessons to be learned.
About the Author
Sam is a full-time traveler who is passionate about people experiencing all that life has to offer. She is the blogger behind She Adored Her Passport, a passionate Wild Bum team member, and a self-diagnosed coffee addict.