“You’re Traveling ALONE?”
I’m amazed at how many people are shocked that I would dare venture off in this world on my own.
Funnily enough, my sister is the biggest culprit. I don’t mind so much when she does it though, because it isn’t meant to be sexist. She worries about everything, all the time, no matter what. That’s just who she is. So when I first told her I would be traveling by myself, she was horrified, as expected.
But she’s not the only one who questioned me. I was surprised at how many questions I got from so many different people. Is it really that shocking that a woman would travel alone? Is the world such a dangerous place that we should be protected from such independence and nonsense?
Here are the most common questions that I was asked when I first decided to explore this world on my own, and my (in my humble opinion) reasonable responses.
“Is it safe? Aren’t you scared?”
Yes, it is safe, and no, I’m not scared. This question is the easiest for me to answer. You see, we are from Chicago. For the past few years, Chicago has been known for its ever increasing gang violence. People are shot and killed every weekend in the rough neighborhoods of Chicago. But for some reason, nobody ever questions me when I tell them I’m going to Chicago.
I get that there are differences. I know Chicago. I know where the dangerous areas are, and I know to avoid them. I also know a boatload of people who live in and around Chicago that I could call if something went wrong.
I think my sister’s biggest worry when I travel on my own is that no one would know if something happened to me. No one would know to even start looking for me. Since my sister worries (a lot) I’ve agreed to a system that helps calm her down. I have agreed to post at least once per day on Facebook when I’m traveling overseas. I usually post my pictures from the day before I go to bed at night. This way, I get to show off my grand adventures, and she gets to know that I made it back to my room safely.
The truth is though, that the United States is more dangerous than most other developed countries. The truth also is that I’m more likely to get hurt in an accident driving home from work than in a plane crash. And my attitude is that I’d rather live life to the fullest than live life in fear. If you live life in fear, are you really living life?
“Why don’t you wait and go with someone?”
I am not going to give up my dream of traveling the world in the hopes that one day, someone will be willing and able to go with me. I’ve tried to include other people in my travels, I’m not opposed to traveling with company. However, there are four huge limiting factors for others.
Unable to afford the trip
A plane ticket to Europe generally costs over $1000. After you factor in food, lodging, and fun, the cost of a trip could soar to over two grand. Many people just don’t prioritize travel the way I do, so they would not be willing to pay this much for a trip.
Unable to take time off of work
Unfortunately, the United States does not have any laws which mandate time off. I have a few friends and family members who would love to take a trip with me, but their employers won’t let them have two weeks off in a row. My coworkers and I have a job with great benefits, but we all can’t be off at the same time.
Fear of flying
For some reason, this is a huge problem in my family. My sister won’t fly over water. My father needs to be drunk to board a plane. My brother refuses to fly in general. I’m so grateful that this fear skipped me, but it does limit my ability to plan trips with family.
Desire to go elsewhere
Everyone has their own version of a dream vacation. Some of my friends only have two paltry weeks of vacation per year (or less!) and they want to spend it checking off their own bucket lists rather than mine. I say go for it!
“Won’t you get lonely by yourself?”
Yes, I do get lonely. I’m a people person, I like people, and I like having friends around. But I am comfortable being by myself too. I am comfortable eating a meal by myself, relaxing in a room by myself, or exploring ruins by myself. I may get lonely at times, but I don’t NEED someone to be with me. I would love to have someone experience the world with me, but I’m not going to limit myself because I don’t have that.
My father has also been a culprit of discouraging solo travel, but he had more devious way of trying to sway me:
“You should find a tour group and go with them”
Good advice, on the surface. Tour groups are wonderful ways to see all of the super touristy attractions. They are a great option for people who just want to see those things, and are happy going with a big group. However, they are not for everyone, or for every situation. They tend to be over-priced and don’t leave a lot of room for individual exploration. I didn’t want to be stuck with a group for my entire vacation. I wanted to get out there, do my own thing, and explore the world! So that’s exactly what I did.
The bottom line here is don’t let anyone or anything hold you back. The world isn’t always a terrifying place that we need to be sheltered from. Accidents can happen anywhere. Terrorism can happen anywhere. We have an illusion of safety where we live because it is familiar. Familiarity doesn’t always equal safety. So live the life you want to live, for you, your way.