Gary's Note: Today I'm happy to introduce the first guest post to our travel blog from my friend Anita. She is a women's coach, public speaker and world traveller in her own right. In this article, she highlights some of the unique challenges and opportunities for growth through travel from a woman's perspective. Without further ado, here is her article, written from the soul!
In my early twenties a lot of my time and energy was spent on my romantic relationships. I was in one relationship after another, always looking for love. At least, so I thought. I noticed that for many of the relationships I entered, I had the tendency to rely on that person for all my emotional needs.
When I was single, I was self-reliant. But as soon as I entered a relationship, it was as if I reverted back to a young girl who became dependent on someone more capable. I would give this person the power over my emotions. I relied on them to fix my dips in mood, to switch my perspective when my thoughts became negative, and to give me happiness when I couldn’t create it myself.
On the inside, I was hungry for love and connection; to feel unconditionally accepted. On the outside, I appeared needy, jealous, and insecure.
It wasn’t until my mid-twenties when I realized that I didn’t know who I was anymore. I had been disconnected from myself for so long that all the decisions I had made thus far in life were to please others, to gain approval and retain acceptance in who I was pretending to be, and not in who I was.
Your mid-twenties can be both a rude awakening and at the same time, a sacred turning point in your development as a full-fledge, strong and independent woman. It’s this time in your life when you realize the only person you should be depending on is yourself.
However, when you’ve spent your whole adulthood up until then depending on others, it’s quite a difficult habit to break. It wasn’t until I decided to take the leap into being completely alone that I finally learned how to rely on my own resources. I did this through solo travel.
Travelling alone gives you permission to be someone you’re normally not. To throw caution to the wind when you’ve been raised by parents who instilled a life of security and calculation. To make friends with strangers when you’ve been trained by city-life to keep to yourself. To gain a worldly appreciation by offering a helping hand to a less fortunate community abroad.
Travel breaks the cement casing you’ve been living in; it reignites the flame within your soul. It reawakens one’s hunger to really live. Most importantly, it connects you to the person you been disconnected to for so many years: yourself.
Travelling is the perfect way for you to step outside the life you’ve been currently living and try on a new one for a while. I had been living the life of a “dependent” for quite some time, I didn’t know how I could live any other way.
I did know that in order to break free from this prison, I needed to literally step outside of everything I knew. It wasn’t enough to get away for a weekend to the neighbouring city, or to invest in a 10-day yoga retreat. I wanted BIG change in who I was being, and therefore I needed to make BIG change to my life. Big change also required time. This is why I decided to dedicate one-year to travel and self-discovery.
More Benefits of Travelling Solo
- Travel on your own time and schedule
- You’re more open and accessible to making new friends
- You learn how to create your own happiness from within.
- Free to explore new relationships with people from other countries
- Not tied down to following a set agenda
- Guide your trip through a personal intention
- Have endless solitude for meditation, introspection and journaling
- When shit goes wrong, you get to witness your awesome problem-solving skills
- When you get lost, you find your voice
- When your money runs out, you get to see how resourceful you become
- When you have to say goodbye to some of the closest friends you’ve ever made, you learn how to gracefully accept the impermanence of everything in life.
- When you feel lonely-- because everyone does at some point on their solo travel-- you learn how to deal with the loneliness (or what unhealthy behaviors you’ve pre-learned in dealing with past emotional crap: like emotional eating, excessive shopping, social media, drinking, etc. It’s a great way to notice your behavior patterns.
Transitioning from Dependent to Independent
I remember very well my first few days in Australia. I stayed inside my hostel for three whole days, only eating food from the hostel bar. I used the excuse of being jet-lagged to dorm mates when they asked what my plans were for that day.
After all, it was 16 hours difference from Vancouver and I was jetlagged! I showered in the morning, only to stay in the common area and research Melbourne instead of actually going outside to explore it firsthand.
It was quite sad, really. Truthfully, I was too nervous to walk out in this new city on my own. It felt too foreign. Too scary. At that point in my life, I’d never been so far away from home and in a completely foreign place. I had no one to depend on to show me the way.
I gave myself permission to hide in the hostel for three days, but on the evening of the third day I realized I had to make a choice: either I go home or I go outside and explore this city on my own. And so, on the fourth day I stepped out onto the streets of Melbourne and it was as if I was stepping out into my life for the very first time.
I could go wherever I wanted, do anything I wanted, and be whoever I wanted. It was the ultimate sense of freedom from my dependency tendency. It was as if the glass box around me had shattered and I was free to finally live.
Travelling Alone as a Female - Is It Safe?
One of the most common comments soon after telling someone that I’ve travelled the world for one year alone is: “OMG, weren’t you scared?” The answer to that is always “no.”
The chances of you feeling scared during your first solo travel IS going to be high-- it’s new and unfamiliar. For me, the whole point of solo travel was to get me face to face with my own fears: the fear of being truly alone; of running out of money and having to improvise; of whether or not I could safely bring myself around the world and not get lost, kidnapped or killed!
Jokes aside, I wanted to push myself up against all I knew myself to be and see what I was capable of. I learned a lot through keeping this mentality throughout the trip. What I noticed was that the concept of fear began to transform for me.
Things that normally scared, worried and intimidated me, seemed easier to troubleshoot. In fact, they became one of life’s fun puzzles to solve. Life is an adventure!
What doesn’t kill you, adds to your story. Actually, what does eventually kill you, adds to your story too. As morbid as that may sound, it gave me a sense of peace that no matter what I did in life, no matter what happens, I’ll be okay. That, right there, was the biggest lesson you could ever teach a dependent.
There were only one or two times when I felt scared for my own safety. First, when I almost missed my bus and would've had to sleep overnight in a secluded bus station in Badung, Indonesia. Second, when I thought a cab driver was taking me to a place other than my requested hostel (to which I learned to always keep your GPS on your maps.me app and follow the map as they drive you).
It was because I put myself out there in the world, I learned very quickly just how much already knew about taking care of myself. I was organizing visas for Asia, booking ferry boats from Ibiza to Barcelona, and surprising myself with spontaneous DJ shows in places I never before thought of travelling to, like Malta, and attending them on my own.
The thing when you travel alone, whether you’re a man or a woman, is that you’re more open to the opportunity of making new friends. That is often what happened every time I got to a new destination. The thing that scares women the most about travelling alone is the idea of being all alone. When I think back to my travels though, I was rarely alone unless I purposely chose to stay somewhere in solitude.
This all being said, travelling alone as a woman you do need to have your wits about you. I like to think that most people you come across in foreign countries are good and want to help, however there’s always the risk of something happening.
By travelling alone, I learned what I needed to make myself feel safe. I made sure I always planned my bus, train or flight to arrive at its new destination before dark fell to ensure I wasn’t travelling at night alone in an unfamiliar place. I made sure that I knew roughly where I was going upon arrival and that I had enough of that currency in cash (a lesson learned when I arrived in Prague, not knowing that they had their own currency and not euros).
I made sure I travelled in clothes that are not too revealing to ward off attention from the wrong people. And when walking through the city alone at night, to be extra aware of my surroundings and to look over my shoulder often. You can opt to stay in female-only hostel dorms if that’s what makes you more comfortable. The trick to feeling safe is creating conditions that make you feel safe, like the examples I gave you above.
How Do I Start?
Think about a place in the world that feels like it’s either calling your name or pulling your heart. Something along those lines of feeling. If you’re planning to work and travel, then do some research on a place that offers a 6 month to 2 year working holiday visa.
This way you can secure down some work and supplement your travels. It’s especially important if you’re planning on travelling for a long time because eventually, you’ll be hungry for some stand-still weeks or months to get a little routine again before continuing further.
- Australia offers 1-year working holiday visa for Canadians up until age 35 (used to be up until 30, but that increased in 2018) with the opportunity for a second year if you work for 3 months (non-consecutive) on a farm.
- New Zealand offers a 2-year working holiday visa for Canadian under the age of 34.
- Many countries in Europe offer a 1 and 2-year working holiday visa:
- Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden (limit age 18-30; 1 year)
- Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Ukraine (age 18-35; 1 year)
- France (limit age 18-35; 2 years)
- Switzerland (limit age 18-35; 18 months)
- United Kingdom (limit age 18-30; 2 year)
Some countries in Asia also offer a 1 and 2-year working holiday visa:
- Hong Kong, Japan, Korean, Taiwan (age limit 18-30; 1 year)
Mexico and the Americas:
- Chile, Costa Rica, Mexico (age limit 18-35; 1 year)
Once you’ve decided a destination, decide upon a general direction. Again, this requires research. No one said travel would be easy work! There’s usually a common backpacker’s trail that you can look up and from there pick the best cities or towns to book a few nights in.
My suggestion: do not book too far in advance. The whole part of solo travel is to create space in your life for not only exploration into yourself, but spontaneity in making new friends and changing your travel plans to travel a bit in a new direction with them.
It’s about giving yourself permission to be free. No expectations, no obligations. No idea of what tomorrow will bring. This is the magic of solo travel.
Making Space for the Serendipitous
Many of the people I met during my travels seemed to be in a rush. They had to go everywhere and taste everything. They would get up early and go to bed late - as if it were their job! The greatest gift that you can give yourself during your solo backpacking trip is the space for the unexpected to occur.
When I slowed things down on my travels and let’s say, spent the morning journaling in the common area and the afternoon strolling aimlessly through the new town, I experienced more unexpected things and met some of the most memorable people (that I still keep in contact with today), than if I were on a tight-knit schedule. That’s why I’ve come up with my own rule of a minimum of 72 hours (3 full days) per city.
You never know what is waiting around the corner for you, and if you’re in too much of a hurry you might just miss it. Also, if you’ve gone too slow and missed your flight or the last bus of the day, don’t squander and fret. Embrace it. And that comes to my next point…
Embrace the Mishaps and Setbacks
This is not only good advice for your travels, it’s good advice for life!
I remember when I got strep throat in Roma, broke my toe on Koh Lanta, got tremendously lost in Bandung, felt extremely lonely in Gatton and had my cellphone with thousands of travel photos stolen in Ibiza at Space.
Things like this are going to happen-- no matter how great of a contingency plan you make for it. In fact, I’ll be so bold to say that these sorts of things are SUPPOSED to happen.
As in life, you must experience the ups and the downs. This is what gives life contrast; the ability to appreciate all the great and to laugh about the not-so-great later on. It builds character. It teaches first-handedly the art of non-attachment. It teaches you about your feelings, and hopefully it teaches you how to handle and move through them rather than suppress them like we’ve been conditioned in our western world.
So, how about the Self-Discovery. When I’m travelling, how do I discover who I am?!
There’s been some key actions that I took while travelling to help me really figure out who I was:
- First off, I was determined – no - obsessed with discovering “Who I am”and “what my purpose was.”
Maybe you’re feeling it, or something like it, right now too. Maybe you’re sensing you don’t really know your likes from your dislikes, your deepest desires and your life mission. That’s okay. This often does become clearer to you during your travel because you’re seeing how the real-world works.
You learn the values of other countries and realize that how you’ve been living is not necessarily the best way. There are some things you realize you value and want it to reflect in your life upon returning back home.
So, first thing is to become obsessed with discovering more about you. Pick up books that give you joy and ask yourself what is it about this book that gives me joy? Try meditation. Journal about your experiences from the day and what insights you learned about what you liked or disliked about X. Have conversations with new friends who are also on the self-discovery journey and asked them what helped them.
2. Put yourself out there.
This is a scary one for most people-- especially introverts like me. Okay, so maybe I’m more of an outgoing ambivert, but I still found it hard to be the first to say hello to random new people in the hostel room or ask a guy where he’s travelling from. But once you break the ice, the rest just flows.
Allow your genuine curiosity to take the lead and just build connection with other travelers and locals of that country. No expectations. Alongside this note, put yourself out there to experiences what you thought you would never normally do back home.
Speak to the locals and learn about their culture. Talk to your waiter and ask about what they like to do in their own city and go try it. Join in conversations with your new travel friends in your hostel dorm with whom you normally wouldn’t be a part of and see how you mesh. Live with an openness and be unattached to the result.
This is the WHOLE point of travel: to do the things you normally wouldn’t do.
3. Allow your intuition to guide you.
This is something I loved doing when I was travelling. I let my travel plans be open so that I could follow my heart. If I met a new friend or a potential lover, I followed that inkling and stayed a bit longer or followed them to the next destination.
I remember walking around Melbourne just outside downtown and letting my gut guide me left, right, or straight ahead at each and every intersection and corner. I thought it was a silly game I was playing, until I stumbled upon a brick building that gave young ex-convicts a second chance at life. This was one of the first breadcrumbs on my travels that gave me clues to my purpose of lifting people up and helping them to believe in themselves again.
4. Be Conscious of what you consume.
This includes WHO you consume. Only allow what uplifts and inspires you to be on your path. Don’t hang out with travellers or locals that are bogging you down or holding you back. Instead, take in the deliciously philosophical words of Joseph Campbell, the Hero’s Journey.
Digest the thought-provoking videos that Teal Swan or Jay Shetty makes and journal your own thoughts and ideas. Devour time with new friends who challenge your perspective of the world and of life. Pack on pounds of wisdom with each and every bite.
5. Trust yourself.
This is the core of everything. When someone tells you how to get to the next city by bus but you know there’s a intercity train that can get you there faster, trust yourself and take the train. When you get into a taxi and the driver gives you an off-feeling, trust yourself and get out. When someone’s trying to sell you travel package and he seems extra pushy and eager, trust yourself and go to another kiosk.
Trusting yourself in the process of travelling the world will show you your own resourcefulness. It’ll show you things you thought you could or would never do. It’ll show you sides to yourself you never knew existed.
If You Can, You Should
This was the title of a very popular Youtube video made by a brilliant group of guys from Vancouver, called HighonLife. It was 2012 when I watched their travel video that literally got me onto the path of travel. Their travel video was titled: If you can, you should.
I impart this message to you, dear reader: If you can, you should. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Travel for me has cracked open the casing around my soul and I know it can do the same for you. It is the best investment in yourself that you can ever make.
For someone that tended to rely on everyone else for her happiness, I learned the greatest lesson: that I don’t need anyone. I just needed to tend to the relationship I have with myself and I know that this is something that will work for you too.
So, open up a new tab right now in your browser and search for the next plane ticket to __your dream city___.
Connect with Anita at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Social Media:
Anita Hisir is a writer, speaker, certified coach and founder of INHERVISION, a women empowerment coaching company. She works with women who find themselves playing small in life; they lack confidence and therefore seek approval, validation and fulfillment from others rather than from within. Through personalized, 1 on 1 coaching, she helps these women gain confidence and trust in themselves so that they build the life of their dreams. She’s also an electronic music lover, a learner of astrology, and finds great joy in travelling the world with nothing but a backpack, passport and her journal.