To All Solo Female Travelers,
You inspire me.
Three years ago I had just returned from Guatemala, my eyes suddenly open to the rest of the world.
Realizing I was no longer confined to the streets of my hometown, I felt desperate to explore the world, to immerse myself in cultures, try new foods, visit places most only see in the pages of a magazine.
I was also 17, broke, and female.
Only one of those things made travel feel impossible. It wasn’t the money.
Upon returning from my trip I made the announcement that I was going to travel the world, which was met with a round of laughter.
“Yeah, okay. With who?”
No matter who I had the conversation with – family, friends, co-workers – the end result was the same.
The second I made the statement I wanted to travel the world, the next question was with who, and, often more specifically, what boy would be accompanying me.
When I mentioned that actually, I was just going to do it myself, the conversation took a quick turn to another topic.
I got the hint.
Solo travel was not a realistic option and, at the time, I can’t say I believed differently myself. After all, if others rarely left our hometown, how could I consider leaving the country? The world was full of danger.
Yet as hard as I tried to shelve the idea, my mind continued to fixate on the adventure I had returned from and all the ones that could await, if only I could convince someone to travel, too.
It was only a matter of time until I turned to Google and, in some poor attempt at procrastinating from school, found you – the solo girls doing exactly what I was only dreaming of doing.
The light bulb went off and I spent hours searching for and reading blogs by any female solo traveler I could find, devouring every sentence of every post.
I followed as you quit your jobs, put travel before the “American Dream” and headed off to all corners of the world, to countries I had only dreamed of, and others I had no idea existed.
My bucket list grew as yours got checked off – volunteering with elephants in Thailand, epic Eurorail adventures, trekking Macchu Picchu, road trips through the Australian outback, and more.
You were doing it all and you were doing it by yourselves. Reading these stories, solo travel felt like an option.
I began researching – bookmarking your solo female travel tips, your packing lists, and your advice on buying a backpack and on where to go, how to get there, and where to stay.
Checking my favorite blogs became a morning ritual, my version of reading the newspaper before work.
I created potential round-the-world itineraries drafted my own packing lists and tried to figure out how to live out of a backpack, only to tear it up and start over.
A few months ago, I had enough. I had read one too many posts on solo travel, lived vicariously through one too many blogs.
I left work, logged on to Kayak, and booked a flight.
It’s my turn, now – to book the one-way flight (though I’m skipping Southeast Asia in favor of Central America), to post the packing lists and the itinerary, to sit and wonder and worry about what I’m forgetting, who I’m leaving, and what lies ahead.
It’s my turn to quit my job and face my fears, to experience things most people never will, the way you did – the way you are.
My flight leaves in January. I worry, most days – that I am unprepared, that I am a target, that I’ll run out of underwear, that everyone telling me “I can’t” is right.
But I also know that I am not the only one.
I am not the first or the last – any mistake I make has been made before and will probably be made again. I am not the most adventurous or the richest, but I don’t need to be – you weren’t either.
I’ll never meet most of you, but I need to say thank you to every solo female traveler out there, the ones who blog and Tweet and share their advice and misadventures, and the ones who simply travel.
Without you, this trip would not be happening.
I cannot say where my life would be heading, but it wouldn’t be where it’s at now.
You inspire me to break the mold and follow my dreams and your posts encourage and assure me on the days I am most nervous.
I am honored that I will soon be able to call myself one of you, and hope that one day I can inspire someone else who dreams of solo female travel as you have me.
I will see you on the road.
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