by Mary Kay Seales
I honestly think the best thing a woman can do for her self-confidence is to travel alone. Depending on yourself for survival and being your own best friend, especially in places outside your comfort zone (read: other countries) WILL make you grow some serious cahones.
Besides the usual things to take along – journal, camera, cash & credit cards, a passport, and good walking shoes – you also need to take a few less tangible items.
Here are 5 additional things to pack for your trip:
- Chutzpah. There are numerous definitions for this term, but the one I like most is “audacity.” You have to face all the naysayers in your family and among friends, who will tell you it’s too dangerous, or you’ll get lonely (won’t you?). You also need to face those inner voices, those inner boo-ers in the bleachers, who are yelling, “You’re too chicken for that!”
- Courage. If you are going to have any fun at all on this trip, you will quite simply need to take some risks. We’re all going to die someday, so let’s assume that’s the worst case scenario. It’s all uphill from there. As John Izzo writes in his book The Five Secrets You Must Discover Before You Die, you need to live the life that will result in a few great tales of adventure, ones you can tell your grandchildren when you’re sitting in a rocking chair on your porch, at 90. “Choose the path which makes for the best story.” So the second thing you need to pack is a “wee bit o’ courage.”
- Openness.Whenever you’re traveling, whether alone or with others, you need to let go of your need for normal. Normal is boring. Normal won’t let you grow. Being open to things done differently, people acting differently, is the key to loving your solo journey. Be open to unpredictability, and your trip will be filled with fresh experiences, ones you can definitely write home about.
- A Loud Voice. As a woman traveling alone, you do need to command authority for yourself, and a sense of solidity about your person, so that weird people won’t mess with you. And if they do, you need to be able to raise your voice about it. Mostly, you won’t need this, but you should always be prepared to tell someone to totally f**k off. Go ahead and say it now. Practice this before you go.
- Humility. Things can and will go wrong. You will need to ask for help. You will get rude comments. You will do stupid things in restaurants, or pronounce something badly. Instead of being mortified, try laughing instead. Say you’re sorry. Try again. Forgive yourself. Forgive others.
Here are some things you might be thinking as you read this:
It’s too late for me to be a solo traveler. I’m too old. My kids wouldn’t let me go anywhere alone even if I wanted to.
Response: Tell you’re kids that this is your life, and you intend to live it. In other words, tell them to back off, and get their own life.
Yes, I have a boring life, but at least I’m safe.
Response: Yes, and it’s probably very, very boring! So change things up. Get out there and live!
I could get robbed, raped, beaten, caught up in a terrorist attack, thrown in a river, or kidnapped.
Response: All true. But these things are mostly fantasies. They aren’t going to happen to you. And if they do, you can write a best-selling book, and go on the late-night circuit.
I’m too much of a ‘fraidy-cat’ to try anything like this.
Response: The only way to solve this is to do it anyway. That’s the only difference between you and someone “brave.” They’re scared, too, but they do it anyway.
Time’s a wasting’, there’s no time like the present, life is not a dress rehearsal, and all those other corny cliches are 100% correct. When asked what they most regret, older people are most likely to say it is the things they didn’t do in life, the chances they didn’t take, the dreams they didn’t try.
Solo traveling, even more than traveling with others, is a soul-building activity that WILL leave you feeling on top of the world, so to all you women who haven’t tried this yet, stop dreaming and start traveling.
Mary Kay Seales is a travel writer and photographer, and also teaches writing at the University of Washington in Seattle. She is the owner of Closing the Circle: Professional Writing for the Travel Industry. Visit her website at www.marykayseales.com
Need inspiration or some help in planning your trip? Check out these books from Amazon: