Happy Women Who Wander Wednesday! I’ve made the decision to post these weekly on a Wednesday (for now anyway) due to the amount of submissions I have received over the past couple of months! Again, thank you all for your interest in this series, it’s so inspiring to read all the incredible solo female stories you are sharing! This week we have Lauren who talks about how solo travel, sometimes, is the only option. Who wants to turn down the opportunity to see the world because you’re a bit scared?
Lauren “Lo” is a food and travel blogger based in Denver. She is on a mission to see all 50 states and at least 50 countries before 50. She describes herself as actively experiential and tries to find unique adventures wherever she goes from ski biking to zorbing and glacier climbing. You can follow her (mis)adventures on theDownLo.com.
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It Comes With the Territory
They say, “Traveling is like flirting with life. It’s like saying I would stay and love you, but I have to go.” As a massive flirt, I’d tend to agree. I like to joke that I have ADD with people, places, and things. A millennial mindset through and through, I don’t understand how people have five-year plans let alone 10 or 15 years of their life laid out. I can barely decide what I want to for dinner tomorrow night. The monotony of a cubicle job was clearly not the path for me, which is how I ended up in my current career.
In short, I get paid to travel and eat. The easiest way to explain it is I’m a social media influencer. Travel brands woo me with free trips to share pictures and stories about their destination with my audience. While it may sound like the dream job, it’s not without its unique set of challenges. It’s definitely not a lifestyle for everyone. There’s very little consistency, schedules or routines, and dating, forget about it. I usually find out I’m going somewhere with just a few day’s notice. There’s often not enough time to organize an itinerary, let alone get the necessary shots for that country, or plan on inviting people with “normal” 9-5 jobs to tag along.
But that’s where I thrive. On the unpredictability. On the high of the unknown. The uncertainty is a rush. This lifestyle is why I often end up traveling alone or with other social media personalities, PR representatives or journalists I don’t know (which can be just as daunting).
Sometimes, Solo Travel is a Necessity
To be clear, I don’t love being alone in foreign places, but sometimes it simply is the only option. I decided a long time ago that I’m not going to miss out on an experience just because my friends don’t have the time or money to travel as much as I do. Going at it solo is never my first choice, but if I have to, I’ll make the best of it.
My first unaccompanied journey was to Japan because I couldn’t pass up a free flight. By all accounts, it was the worst possible place to try out the solo travel life. A completely solitary culture, I’ve never felt more alone or like an outsider in a country so full of sensory overload. It felt like I was lost in a sea of constant motion around me.
I couldn’t catch anyone’s eye to ask for directions because it’s considered aggressive to make eye contact. Even while passerby would shuffle past staring at the ground, I swear they have a word they muttered in disapproval. It could’ve been in my head, I was hypersensitive to my surroundings and completely on edge.
I had opted to stay in a traditional ryokan for an authentic experience, which was amazing, but not the way to meet other travelers. In fact, they barely spoke a lick of English. Determined to make the best of it, I went out of my way to find other foreigners who I could converse with, joining free walking tours and booking private guides. It wasn’t my favorite trip by any means, but I made some amazing memories and embraced a world that was completely foreign to me.
Getting Over the What Ifs
Since that first solo travel trip, I’ve learned quite a few tricks of the trade. I primarily go to English speaking countries when I’m on my own (it’s really lonely not to talk to anyone for a week). I typically stay in hostels if I’m trying to meet people. Group tours are great. They can usually be organized by the hostel to find like-minded people nearby that you can grab a beer with later. Eating alone can be an adventure (and are often when one feels the most insecure). I’ve learned that bar seats were made for people watching. Books are also handy companions.
On every flight, the “what ifs” and worst-case scenarios run through your head, but as soon as you touch down, you start to acclimate. You may think people are giving you weird looks or judging you for being alone. Don’t worry! For the most part, it’s in your head. You are your harshest critic. At the end of the day, no one really cares why you’re there or what you’re doing. After all; you know what they say, “You cannot be lonely if you like the person you’re alone with.”
To date, I’ve island-hopped around Hawaii, got an adrenaline rush in New Zealand and roughed it at a honeymoon resort, all on my own. I definitely wish people were with me simply for the memories. But thanks to social media, it’s almost like everyone is. I view my solo travel as a way to be an ambassador to the world. I’ll show you things you never thought you’d see. Places you never imagined. It’s both a responsibility and a privilege, and a job I don’t take lightly.
Finally, If you are interested in writing for Women Who Wander, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Can’t wait to share your stories
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