Welcome back to Women Who Wander. This series focuses encouraging women to seek out solo travel. Empowering and inspiring both seasoned Solo Travellers and those who have yet to venture out on their own. The response to this series has been amazing and I just want to thank you all for embracing it. Hopefully many more Solo Travel stories to come. This week is Alice with why you should travel for you and not to compare yourself to other people!
Alice Chen is a traveler and blogger at Wherever I Want, a website about Making Anywhere Possible. She writes guides about the places she’s been, traveling solo, and hacking her way across the world! She’s gotten flights for $20 and hotel rooms for free – all as a recent college grad! Follow along at WhereverIWant.com
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I love traveling solo. Not only do I get to have an incredible time wherever I want, I can choose exactly where I want to go and when I want to leave. There’s a type of freedom that I really never feel if I’m doing anything else. The thing is, I used to think that you had two choices with travel. You were supposed to do crazy things so you could share travel mishap stories with others, or be a “boring” traveler who doesn’t lose things or get lost, but has no interesting stories.
The first time that I met other people while traveling, I was on a group tour to sand board in the Atacama Desert in Peru. The seven of us on that tour met up right before sunset so we could gather our gear and take the sand buggy on the sand dunes next to the oasis of Huacachina, Peru. As we picked out the gear that fit us, we started getting to know each other.
But I was cautious to a fault.
How Careful is Too Careful?
At that point, I had just finished my junior year of college and had spent just one week traveling solo! Needless to say, I didn’t have much experience. Because I was so young (and look even younger! I’ve had people come up to me still and ask if I’m 18) at the time and traveling alone, I had been extremely cautious. I bought locks for my backpack and carefully tucked away the important things I owned (laptop, cash, phone) in lockers during the day and under my pillow at night. My family and friends had recounted countless horror stories of women traveling alone, so I wasn’t going to take any chances!
Unfortunately, being super cautious also meant that I didn’t try to connect with other travelers, and tended to book hostels and bus tickets much farther in advance than necessary. Instead of being flexible, I had a schedule that I kept. Instead of being friendly and chatting up people in the hostel common rooms, I watched TV shows on my computer when I had down time! Because I was so scared of losing my money or passport, I was wary all the time.
I brought this mindset to the sand dune tour in Huacachina. While everyone was getting to know each other, I sat back, listening to the anecdotes they had to share. Meanwhile, I had an amazing time sliding down the hills and watching the sunset!
Honestly, desert sunsets are absolutely stunning! I really don’t think any other sunsets can beat them.
Am I Doing It Right?
After the sun went down, we all headed back to the oasis where the hostels were. The tour included some free appetizers and pisco, which is a special type of alcohol that is native to Peru and Chile. It tastes a little like vodka, and is usually served as pisco sour. As we sat around the table, enjoying our drinks and appetizers, we started to share stories about the places that we had been and the crazy experiences that we had. Two guys who were traveling together said that they had been arrested in a Guatemalan jail on one of their birthdays! They had gotten completely drunk and were making a scene, so they spent the night in a jail cell. By the morning, however, they have made friends with all the other cellmates and were singing “Happy Birthday” over and over!
Another guy talked about being on a boat off the coast of Australia when it started to sink. There was a hole in the bottom of the boat that couldn’t be repaired for some reason, and he lost everything he had except a surfboard that floated up when all else sunk! It was an incredible story. I realized then that I started feeling bad about myself. My travels thus far (even though they were limited) were much less interesting than everyone else’s. Even though I enjoyed what everyone was sharing, it made me feel like I wasn’t traveling “correctly”. After all, where were my interesting stories?
Throw Caution to the Wind (within reason)
I woke up the next day and started taking more risks, thinking that would get me some interesting stories. It did (I got lost on an island two weeks later!). But I quickly realized that travel mishaps are great stories, but I would rather be comfortable in bed at night, with my phone and wallet intact, than sitting at the Embassy trying to prove my identity. It was a revolutionary realization for me, finally understanding the quote, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”
I now have enough travel mishap stories to match those of the people I met in Huacachina. Though I am more thankful I haven’t gotten arrested or lost my wallet yet! Traveling solo isn’t about comparing yourself to others, or collecting stories for the sole purpose of impressing others. It’s about capturing your freedom in experiences – good and bad – that you can remember!
Finally, If you are interested in writing for Women Who Wander, you can contact me at email@example.com. Can’t wait to share your stories
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