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"And you're going on your own? Oh, I could never do that! » If you only knew how many times I've heard these phrases...
For many people, traveling solo is inconceivable, especially if you are a woman. That's right... 🙄 I can hardly understand why. On the contrary, it's a chance to be able to go alone. And for my part, I find a lot of advantages in it.
So what if I'm a girl?
When I talk around me about my solo escapades at the end of the world, I have the impression that I am often mistaken (as you wish) for a super brave amazon or for a not very normal, borderline asocial girl. No half measures... 🤪 People are weird.
It seems that mentalities have not changed much since the past centuries! Even today, in the XXIe These spontaneous reactions leave me wondering. Shouldn't a woman travel without a chaperone?
So yes, I am a woman and I am going alone. There is nothing extraordinary or incomprehensible about that. I'm not going to give up the pleasure of discovering new horizons, just because I'm not a man and I don't have anyone to accompany me? Right?
I have done a lot of trips, with all kinds of company: a lover, someone from my family, a girlfriend, a group (more rarely)... But for several years, I have been traveling almost systematically solo. I have really taken a liking to it. I love to go alone.
It's not difficult or risky. It's not sad or unhealthy. In fact, it's just the opposite!
Alone but not lonely
Those who have never tried it may not realize it, but solo travel is rarely synonymous with solitude. You never meet as many people as when you travel alone.
This is even more true when you practice an activity like divingIt's an easy way to socialize around a common passion. When you spend a whole day on a boat with other divers, it creates links. Often, we meet again in the evening for a drink or for dinner...
In general, people, whether tourists, expatriates or locals, come to you more easily and engage in conversation when they see that you are alone. So much so that it even becomes difficult to enjoy moments of solitude when you seek them out! 😄
I see myself on the island of Tiomanin Malaysia. That evening, I had declined an invitation to have dinner with my diving companions, wanting to finally have some time to myself to write in my little notebook, without being disturbed. As a result, the waiter of the restaurant where I hung out couldn't help but come and chat with me after his service. The kind of guy I classify as a "nice guy". Harmless, but a bit of a pain in the ass. In these cases, my notebook is a formidable weapon: I explain that I have work to do, I play it cool travel writer very busy with lots of things to write, and the guy, impressed, then leaves me to my "work"... 😂
Thus, during my stay in Pemuteran (Bali) in 2008, I did not spend an evening alone. One time, in a tiny local restaurant where there was a lack of tables, it was a couple of very charming Germans who offered me to come and sit with them and we spent a pleasant evening chatting. Another evening, it was an American couple with whom I had been diving during the day who insisted on having me at their table. The next day, it was the Balinese who ran the mini-mart near my guesthouse who invited me to the party they were organizing for the marriage of their son…
And then, there are people who become friends during the trip. In Malaysia, from Perhentian Kecil to Tioman, I had the pleasure to meet Maz and AlexBritish people who were on a humanitarian trip to New Zealand. À Sipadan (Borneo), it is with my diving partner Sabrinawho was also traveling solo, that I liked.
AT Sulawesiit is all Dutch family met in the Makassar-Rantepao bus who became fellow travelers and friends, for a good part of my journey, to the islands Togian. Still in Sulawesi, it is with Spanish couple, very nice, Joseba and Ana, that I made motorcycle trips in the villages and rice fields of the country Toraja. On the island of Siquijorin the Philippines, Marika and ShareefMy bungalow neighbors, a Swiss-Maldivian couple, became friends. We had memorable evenings with Neal and Raul, the two Filipinos who worked at the Kiwi Dive center and who introduced us to the island...
In short, I'm forgetting a lot. I forget a lot. I don't count anymore the walks, aperitifs, meals and parties I was invited to. No, really, it's impossible to stay alone when you travel solo! 😅
Long live freedom!
Another advantage, when you go alone: you do what you want, when you want. Without needing the assent of another. Without depending on the constraints of another. What a freedom!
We eat or not, at the time we want. We can hang out or not in a corner that we find nice. We don't have to answer to anyone. You don't need to be two to like the accommodation, guesthouse or hotel, that you visit. We are not obliged to have the same desires at the same time, nor to compromise on certain activities or excursions...
I also have the impression that this freedom makes you more receptive, more attentive, more available. Without company, one is more sensitive to the atmosphere of a place. More open, perhaps, to other cultures, other mentalities, other ways of thinking.
The fact of not being monopolized by the presence of a travel companion, who speaks the same language as you, who comes from the same world as you, it purifies the sensations, the thought, the look. You get a better feel for the country. You have a more personal approach, a more personal vision. No interference, no influence, no matter how benevolent and complicit they may be.
It is even a great advantage, sometimes, to be a "lonely traveler". As you are alone, the other women of the country dare to approach you. The conversation starts, you inspire curiosity, they want to know everything about you. Obviously, they are surprised that you travel like this, without a husband, without a child, without anyone. At the same time, they assure you that they find it very good (with a mixture of politeness and envy, often, for those who do not have your freedom of privileged Western tourist). You reassure them a little, saying that you still have friends, with whom you dive or go for a walk...
Being alone opens doors, breaks down shyness. Yours and others'.
So yes, there are small disadvantages to traveling alone, but they seem minimal to me, compared to the infinite freedom of solo travel. They are in fact disadvantages of a purely material nature.
With two people, the accommodation is necessarily cheaper, since we divide the cost of the room. And nothing irritates me more than resorts and hotels that impose an exorbitant surcharge on travelers who have the audacity to not go in pairs... Grrr. I hate all these attractive rates that we find on the web with this charming parenthesis in small at the end: on the basis of two people.
The same goes for paying for private transportation with only a small purse, when there is no public transportation. But until now, I have often managed to share the price of a cab or a boat with other travelers I met along the way without too much trouble.
The most annoying thing, in fact, when you travel alone, is to have a problem with money: lost or stolen credit card, or cash... When you are two, you still have the card or the money of the other. When you can only count on yourself, you have to be careful. It happened to me three times that I had a hard time for that.
The first time, it was at Siem Reap airport (Cambodia). I didn't have enough dollars to pay the departure tax, which was higher than I thought, and the only ATM (automated teller machine) in the airport only accepted Visa cards (and at the time I had a MasterCard). So I begged for the few dollars I needed one by one from the tourists waiting there with me. People were nice and helped me out.
The second time, I simply lost my card in Thailand... at the bottom of my bag (yes, it happens). I finally found it, well stashed in a pocket I never use, just after I made a stop payment! I was good enough to call my sister and ask her to make an expensive Western Union money transfer for me, from Europe, just to have enough money to finish the vacations.
Finally, the third time was it was in Bangkokat the end of my stay. I wanted to do some shopping at the MBK Center and withdraw some baht. Except that after three weeks in the islands, I had forgotten my code (yes, it happens). I typed three times in a row a wrong code and my card was swallowed. I was able to get it back, because the bank where I wanted to make the withdrawal was open. But the card had been automatically deactivated... Fortunately, I still had enough cash for the small expenses before the departure. But I had to give up shopping.
What about security?
Apart from these minor material mishaps without consequences, nothing untoward has ever happened to me during my solo trips. My optimistic temperament leads me to believe that it can only continue like this.
Of course, I never hang out alone at all hours in bad neighborhoods. But I don't do it at home either. Whether at the end of the world or in my own country, I keep a minimum of common sense. Common sense is more than enough, in terms of precautions to take. I don't need a survival manual for women in foreign lands... Although.
A book to recommend
For those of you who are worried, I invite you to relax with this great book, full of useful tips and testimonies of more or less intrepid adventurers (including mine), co-written with humour and talent by my friend, blogger and Quebec journalist Marie-Julie Gagnon:
In all honesty, I have never had a feeling of insecurity. And I have never been mugged while traveling (it only happened to me in France, in Paris and in Rennes, in everyday life). A lot of girls ask me this question, but overall, the countries in Southeast Asia where I have been are safe places for a tourist traveling alone. Once or twice, I invented a husband who was supposed to join me soon, just to discourage some nice people, but that's all.
I'm not taking any risks, really, to fly away with my little person for only company to a far away place. I don't travel to countries at war. I do not put myself in physical danger. I do not accomplish any feat. I am not an explorer who takes risks. Just a dreamer, a walker...
All I risk, by leaving like this, is to be changed and transformed, to come back richer in encounters, memories, emotions. To know myself better too. To find oneself face to face with oneself, far from one's usual reference points is an interesting and instructive experience.
We rediscover ourselves in a new light. We discover qualities, unsuspected resources. Weaknesses, too. But suddenly, you know where you stand with regard to yourself.
And frankly, it is very gratifying to know a little better who you are. Once you've been relieved of everything, when you have nothing left but a travel bag to carry, you're clearer about who you are. We tell ourselves less stories, we better understand what is really important.
This helps in everyday life. From this point of view, solo travel, whether you are a man or a woman, is an invaluable experience.
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