The first thing people ask me when they find out I love to travel is whether or not I ever get scared. The truth is, fear is the last thing on my mind when I’m traveling. What I feel most is pride in the fact that I’m a woman and I’m seeing the world on my terms.
If you’ve ever traveled — especially if you’ve ever traveled somewhere alone — you know just how much you can learn by immersing yourself in a new culture, exploring a new city or traipsing through an incredible stretch of wilderness. Here are four of the biggest ones learned, and they are the reasons why I’m proud to be a woman of the world:
Traveling Makes Me Feel Free
According to a study commissioned by REI, three in four women feel more pressure to conform to social norms than men. The same study revealed women escaped the pressures of their day-to-day lives by going outside, and travel is just another way to break out of the grind.
This feeling is amplified when I take to the open seas and skies all on my own. All of the decisions are up to me. I can choose my itinerary and what I do each day, when I eat, when I sleep. Spoiler alert: that’s a great feeling.
Flying Solo Means I’m More Social
I’m not the most outgoing woman in the room in my normal life. But, when I’m traveling alone, I’m forced out of my little bubble. I have to speak to the people in my hostel, ask strangers for directions, chat with locals who strike up a conversation… and soon, I’m making friends like the pro I never knew I was.
Having a social life is key to maintaining your good health and spirits on the road. I’ll talk more about my newfound strength later, but making friends has always made life abroad easier and kept me going even when I wanted to throw in the travel towel.
I’ve met some of my best friends while traveling and living abroad, and, before I left, I thought I wasn’t good at forming new relationships. I know I am now, and I am so, so proud of the bonds I’ve formed on the road.
I’m Stronger Than I Thought I Was
As women, we’re often made to feel as though we’re wildly emotional. Sure, there are times we feel a lot — we laugh, we cry, we curl up with a pint of ice cream. But slowly we pick ourselves up and move on.
As a traveler, I have learned to hasten this process. There will undoubtedly be times on the road where I feel lonely, or nervous, or homesick. Rather than lean into those emotions and book the first flight home, I find ways to combat it. I head to a museum and keep myself busy, or ask a hostel friend out for drinks, or video chat with someone I love to get over the solo-traveling blues.
Life abroad moves quickly, and your emotions will pass. Traveling makes you stronger and more willing to combat these negative feelings because you realize that experiencing the highs in life is much more enjoyable than falling into the lows.
I Found My Limits… and They Don’t Exist
When you first start traveling, you’re going to feel a bit nervous arriving somewhere where, say, you don’t speak the language. What you’ll learn quickly is that you have to pick up some phrases and feel confident enough to use them. With that, you’ll feel even bolder: perhaps you’ll chat with locals or go out on the town with friends you just met at your hostel. You’ll be yourself. You’ll have fun. And you won’t even remember the woman who was kind of scared to say “Thank You” in Portuguese just a few days ago.
The most important, most brag-worthy thing I’ve earned from traveling on my own is my newfound sense of confidence. I hone it while I’m traveling and use it to my advantage as soon as I’m back home.
I remember the first time I came back from Europe, having refreshed my Spanish skills I left untouched since high school. By the end of the trip, I was easily able to ask for the things I wanted from hotel staff, waiters and bartenders. If I could do that in Spain, I realized I could do it anywhere. I’ve maintained that confidence, and traveling will get you there, too.
I love being a woman, and traveling empowers me even further. I hope you will start your own journey, too, and find just how wonderful the world can be when you see it for yourself, by yourself.