What made me want to travel solo? Many things. Mainly because I wanted to challenge myself to expand beyond my comfort zone. I'm also one to want to challenge the status quo and societal norms if I feel they no longer serve me or the wider population.
What I found when talking to people and researching for my solo travel was that most people held the belief that travelling solo as a female would be dangerous and uncomfortable at best. This made me want to travel solo even more to shake up this limiting belief and add more evidence to the opposing argument - that travelling solo is safe and great fun, especially for women. Gender should not play a role in determining the nature and experience of travel.
I took baby steps when it came to travelling solo. My first trip was a week and a half to Cairns to dive the Great Barrier Reef on a liveaboard and explore the Daintree Forest. I felt it was remote but still “touristy” enough to allow me to dip my toe into the experience. The trip being in Australia helped keep a feeling of familiarity whilst I traversed the other unknowns.
Unsure about how I'd handle not having friends around to point out interesting sights or discuss the topics pertinent to the location that I was visiting, it encouraged me to be more present to learn about the places I visited. Quite different to talking about it with friends and huddling over Wikipedia so we can answer each other's questions about why this and how that!
As an ambivert, I didn't know whether I'd feel lonely without having the constant interaction of friends. As a person who is comfortable with taking risks, solo travel gave me a different sense of liberation and responsibility knowing that it would be important to engage the world around me as well as take charge of my own experiences and push myself out of comfort zones into the unknown. My Cairns trip turned out to be incredible. I made a boat load of new friends, literally. At the end of the scuba diving liveaboard the whole boat was exchanging contact details to make plans for another dive adventure.
The next solo trip was even more incredible. My friend told me about a shark conservation project being run in Fiji. Without doing much research and still on the high of a very successful scuba trip, I booked my place to volunteer on the project and my flights to Fiji. I decided to extend the trip for a week and visit Hawaii whilst I was still in the Pacific.
Once again, my fears and unknowns were hardly realised. The excitement of being able to participate in a marine conservation program overshadowed any fear of being lonely. Don't get me wrong, there were times where I was alone and felt it would be great if I could share this moment with someone but then I thought, I'm sharing this with myself and that's special.
The three weeks in Fiji were spent scuba diving, counting sharks, planting mangroves and cleaning beaches of litter; bonding with fellow volunteers over a beer after a hard day's work. The next week in Hawaii was equally amazing. My Airbnb host Stanley and his friends were warm, welcoming and loads of fun. We exchanged stories and questions about each other's culture while exploring the local hot spots of Waikiki. I met some incredible people from a ruggedly handsome dive master, pharmaceutical sales person to a motorbiking, 'grab life by the horns', compassionate go-getter named Patricia. Patricia and I are still in touch and she’s the reason I'm writing this blog at all. We're both hoping that this piece travels the world of the internet to inspire at least one person to jump in, push some boundaries for themselves and continue to inspire each other.
My solo travels continued, through Mexico, Slovenia, Belgium, Spain, Scotland, Sri Lanka, Tanzania. It’s opened the doors to lifelong friendships with my fellow volunteers, taking a chance at love in Hawaii and feasting on the best ceviche in Mexico. Most of all, I pushed myself beyond my comfort zone and understood that I was capable of so much more than my mind had previously allowed me to be.
I hope I've also been able to add another story to the piling evidence that travelling solo as female is more than possible, safe and extremely fun. You might just have the best time of your life. I sure did!