What Solo Travel Means to Me
I was raised to be dependent.
Dependent on my father, or dependent on any male figure in my life if he wasn't immediately reachable. I was taught to look to men for answers to my questions.
Even really personal questions, like what should I do with my life? Where should I go to college, what should I major in, and what job should I pursue? Oh I should travel? Ok where to, and for how long?
When I ran into obstacles, or even just choices, my instinct was always to turn to someone else for help. I asked other people what they thought was best for me and my life, and never even thought to look into myself for answers to those questions.
I’m still working on breaking this pattern that’s been engrained in me since I was a child. I’m finally free and on my own now, and I get better every day at taking ownership of my life and my desires. At looking to myself first for how I feel about something new.
And if it weren’t for solo travel, I don’t think I ever could’ve made it this far with that.
I first started properly traveling solo in 2014. Though it was only a few years ago, technology has improved quite a bit since then. Skype calls with my family while I was in Asia alone for six months in 2014 weren’t that frequent. I sometimes couldn’t find good enough wi-fi at all, and I certainly never had data, or didn’t know how to get it for my phone at the time.
So I was suddenly faced with hundreds of decisions to make for myself every day. Should I go try and befriend that person, or eat dinner by myself again? Should I go back to the front desk and tell them I paid for a four-person dorm, not a twenty-person dorm, or should I stay quiet? Should I take this tour, eat this strange fruit, ask for directions? Should I give up and go home because something frustrating happened today?
For the first time in my life, there was no one by my side every second telling me what to do, or controlling my life to fit their needs.
I WAS IN CHARGE FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER.
I slowly started to learn that my opinions were valid. That I was capable of making good decisions, of figuring things out. That the world wouldn’t implode just because I made a choice without anyone’s help. I started to question why doubting myself was the only way I'd ever known to think.
I still have a long way to go. I still haven’t completely shaken off the chains that restricted me for most of my life—probably because I had no idea they were there until I started traveling alone.
It wasn’t until I traveled abroad on my own that I started to see how controlled I’d been since the day I was born. And now that controlling force is gone.
I’m behind the wheel 100% now, which is scary as hell. I’m responsible for all my life choices now in a way that I never got to be before. But I’m more grateful for this than just about anything.
Solo travel isn’t just taking a vacation on your own and getting to decide where you eat and how late you sleep without anyone else’s input.
It’s a tool that can show you that you have value and worth when you stand on your own two feet. That your decisions are sound, your opinions matter, and that you can get shit done on your own—and do it really fucking well.
I’ve written before about how solo-travel doesn’t have to be life-changing. And I stand by that. It doesn’t have to be. It can just be a fun way to experience a new place, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
But today I just felt compelled to express that it’s so much more for me personally. I’m enough by myself, just me. I’m one whole person, not just a fraction of a person who needs support to stand.
I wouldn’t have ever believed it if I hadn’t done so much for myself in my solo travels over the years. I thought that I was missing some magic skill or ability all this time that would make me able to handle life on my own.
Solo travel has taught me that I’m not missing anything. I’m whole. I can stand on my own—and not just stand.
I can run.