“You’re so brave.”
I’ve heard that more than once—enough times to have lost count over the years—after I tell people about my solo adventures. I’ve traveled to 32 countries, nearly all of them on my own. I’ve traveled with friends, family, coworkers and boyfriends, too, but I always prefer to travel alone. Some people think that’s just weird. Why would I want to visit amazing places around the world by myself? My answer: Why not?
I was 22 years old when my mother died of a rare neurological disease. She never got to ski the Alps again or see my youngest sister graduate high school or travel to Hawaii and Alaska like she and my father had planned. She was only 52.
When I was younger, I always wanted to travel, but it wasn’t until my mom passed away that I realized that I might never see tomorrow. I had just graduated college and started my career in the biomedical field. I traveled a bit while working, but I always struggled to find someone to go with me on my next big adventure. After a bit of research, I discovered that thousands of young women travel the world solo every day. It was time I put on my big girl panties and book a ticket to anywhere.
My first solo trip abroad was a five-day adventure to the Azores Islands, a small Portuguese island chain in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. That trip changed my life.
I was a nervous traveler in a foreign country with no friends, but the second I entered my hostel in Ponta Delgada, I was invited on a road trip with my four Canadian roommates. Later that day, we met three Americans and instantly became a little family. Because of those people, I had the experience of a lifetime, and I consider those people some of my closest friends today even though we live miles apart.
It’s a common misconception that solo travelers are lonely. That’s far from the truth. You’re never alone as a solo traveler. I’ve met some of the best people on my travels, people who have opened my eyes to the world and have made me a better human being. I’ve spent late nights over bottles of wine discussing world politics, climate change and the cultures of various countries around the globe. Travel is truly the best education.
I’m naturally an introvert, but travel pushes me outside my comfort zone on so many levels. I can navigate public transportation systems in several languages, haggle for souvenirs at markets and wander the streets of foreign cities pretending I’m not lost, only to find my way back to my hostel in time for dinner.
The number of women traveling solo around the world has grown significantly over the years and it’s not just 20-somethings either. I’ve met women well into their golden years in my hostels. One particularly feisty woman was 93 years old.
Solo travel may sound scary, which is why so many people think I’m brave, but I’m no braver than you. I’ve only traveled a fraction of the world, but from my experience, the world is not a dangerous place. People of all colors, religions and cultures are just like you and me. We all want a life filled with good health, friends, family and happiness.
It’s time to take a leap outside of your comfort zone. Have you been dreaming of strolling the cobblestone streets of Paris for years? It’s time to book that ticket. You’ll experience the world with new eyes, meet incredible people and discover that you really are capable of anything.
Katelyn Michaud is a freelance writer and travel blogger from Gorham. Follow her at www.diariesofawanderinglobster.com.