Look at Horatio Nelson, all alone, but confident atop his pedestal in Trafalgar Square. He looks to me like he’s enjoying it (the solitude, not the pedestal–I hear he was a humble fellow). I feel you, Horatio. I feel you, bro.
But not everyone does.
I’d estimate that about 65% of the times I tell friends or acquaintances about my solo travel adventures, I’m met with some variation of, “Oh, I could never travel alone!” I’m not sure if this is loaded with the same judgment as “I could never homeschool!” or “I could never have four kids!” but I’m gonna give people the benefit of the doubt and take it as a genuine expression of nonjudgy inhibition.
After all, they do usually go on to explain why they could never. So here are some of the common reasons I hear. After my last post about the benefits of traveling solo, I would really just love to destroy all the barriers to it for my friends.
This is the obvious one, right? In this world, as a woman, I kinda feel like prey. I can’t run before the sun comes up (but my husband can). I have to walk through dark parking lots with my keys strategically positioned in my fist should the need arise to inflict maximum pain on a male attacker. When I cross paths with a male runner going in the opposite direction, I always turn around and make sure he keeps running the other way rather than turning to attack me. And then I look a few more times, just to be sure.
WTF, right? So why would I go to a foreign country alone?
As you know, my first solo expedition was to Istanbul. My husband had been there several times for work, and didn’t hesitate to encourage me to do it, so I booked everything.
Then Mr. MFO (that’s cool talk for Mom’s Flight Out, fyi) came home from work a few days later telling me about some New York woman who had gone to Istanbul alone–for a mom vacation, no less–and was murdered. Thanks a lot, pal. I’m not superstitious or anything, but it seemed like a pretty bad omen. My trip was less than a week out. I was well and truly shaken up.
But I looked a little deeper and learned about the circumstances surrounding this woman’s disappearance. It wasn’t like she was nabbed from a main tourist center. She had sort of wandered outside the generally accepted zone of safety.
Look, safety concerns are legit for any traveler, solo or otherwise, and especially for women. I don’t want to minimize that. But the fact is that thousands of women travel solo full-time, and many thousands more do it occasionally, and are completely safe. Those expert solo travelers have already compiled some great lists of safety tips, which I will leave right here.
Follow the advice of these wise women, trust your instincts, and you will be fine.
A lot of women I talk to say they just wouldn’t know how to travel alone. They aren’t sure where they’d go or how they’d figure out the logistics. To this I say, You are smarter and stronger than you think. I don’t even know you, but I know you are. Because this is just a matter of confidence. If you do the research and you are prepared with a plan, you can do it. You might get lost and have some “adventures,” but you can do it. And when you do–when you show yourself that you can do this thing you thought you couldn’t do–it will empower and transform you.
Honestly, these are the women I most hope will try solo travel. Because I just really know that it will change their lives. (Just, again, follow the safety tips I linked to up there.)
Last time I was away, when I talked to my husband he asked, “Do you ever get lonely?” My answer was, “Honestly? No. I haven’t even thought about it.” This was day four of my trip. I was in contact with him and our kids every day, and I missed them, sure. But missing people isn’t the same as loneliness. After all, if you can be surrounded by your people and still feel lonely, then you can be away from them and not feel lonely. Because loneliness isn’t about having your people physically around you.
And I would argue that when you’re traveling solo, you’re not actually alone. No, I’m not talking about higher powers (though if that helps cure your loneliness, more power to you). I’m talking about the place. There is so very much to engage with: people in your present, and so many people from the past. There are so many stories. I never have time to feel lonely or bored when I’m traveling.
A lot of people just really don’t want to travel alone, though, because they prefer doing it with others. I get that. I like people, too. Traveling with my husband is my favorite. So why travel alone when you can share the experience? For that, I refer you again to my post about the benefits of solo travel.
And hey, if you really need some people, join a group tour. I have always made friends on group tours. People on vacation are basically the friendliest, warmest, happiest people in the world. Connect with them!
“I would feel so guilty!” Oh, man. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard this one, my husband could quit his job and we could travel full-time forever.
I get it. I feel it, too. Am I sending my kids the message that I want to get away from them? Is it fair to my husband? Am I being selfish? Is it fair to spend money on just me? What if I miss a soccer game while I’m gone?
Every couple has to figure out where their balance is in terms of individual time away and all that. But I would just remind you, dear reader, that you are not a selfish mom. You make lots of sacrifices for your kids every single day. My guess is, most of your life is about them. So a week or a long weekend to feed and grow your soul is not selfish. And it’s not going to hurt anybody. In fact, your family may even benefit from it, too.
Anyway, solo travel is just such a completely different way of seeing the world–and yourself. I think it’s worth overcoming these hurdles to give it a try.
Ready for your solo mom vacation?
Get your FREE Mom's Flight Out manifesto and commit to making room in your life for solo travel.