‘’Go on holiday alone. Oh goodness!! Why would I ever do that?’’ These are the sentiments that I have exacted for years. The mere idea of traveling and going on holiday alone never appealed to me, in fact the concept totally freaked me out. Before you start to think its because I lack confidence or that I’m intimidated or frightened of exploring alone. Let me clear up things up for you. My choice to not travel alone was never about not taking a risk. Hell I even upped sticks and moved to Turkey on my lonesome 5 years ago. (Having may I add, never even seen or set foot in the country before I departed for a new life.)
My real traveling started later in life, mostly post 30. The excitement of traveling with my friends really drew me in and I loved it. Since then I have always travelled with my friends to a destination or gone abroad to visit friends living in various locations. That’s not to say that on these trips I haven’t opted to do something different from my friends and spent some time alone or spent the day discovering the area whilst my friends were busy at work. But that’s not quite the same is it? There is still the companionship and rehashing of the days events when we meet up to look forward to.
So this became my go to excuse. I would convince myself that it would be boring not to have someone to share the days adventures with or even that I may realize that I didn’t like spending that much time with myself. Which as I’ve got older and experienced more of life. I’ve realized is never the case. If as women we learn to truly love and accept who we are and understand the concept that time spent alone is precious and important we can never be bored with our own company. This time apart is an opportunity for us to really dig into what makes us who we are without distractions or diversions.
When the shackles of unfounded fear were removed it left a space for me to try to understand why I was so fearful of going it alone. I started to question the real reasons that I was actively choosing not to travel by myself. I started to ponder over the idea that maybe there was an underlying thought process inside of me that had been formatting itself over the years. It started to dawn on me how influenced I was by this societal idea that women shouldn’t travel alone. That it wasn’t a safe or proper for us to be by ourselves. That wandering around alone isn’t something that good girls do. Could it be that without fully realizing it I had internalized all these feelings and created an opinion based on what society and particularly patriarchy expected from me? That in fact the decisions that I was making were not my own but ones that were planted inside my head before I had even reached the point of self awareness?
I had always thought the reasons I didn’t travel solo was because I wouldn’t enjoy myself but it seems that there is a more darker influence on these thoughts. Even women like myself, who consider themselves to be strong, independent and fearless. Who on a daily basis do their bit to break stereotypes, to shatter glass ceiling and fight for equality can become prey to these insecurities. How is it that I had in the past made a life changing decision to leave behind my friends, family, my career and everything I knew to take a gamble working in Istanbul. To start a life without knowing a soul or a word of the language, I was someone who took a big gamble on a dream. Yet in the 5 years since I made this move I have not taken one single solo trip. Surely there was more to it then my fear of isolation; I had already shown that I had overcome that one by moving alone to Istanbul.
It got me thinking and remembering a time before I moved to a strange new city, where the idea of dining alone made me uncomfortable. I used to unnecessarily wonder ‘what would people think?’ Would people presume that I was socially dysfunctional with no friends or feel sorry for me because they presumed that I had been stood up. But moving to a new city and feeling comfortable in exploring a new place opens changed how I perceived doing things solo. Dining alone is no longer even an issue. These days I feel happy doing what I want to do on whim, even if it means doing it alone.
I remember just a few days ago when I was in the UK. I had just spent the afternoon on one of my favourite pastimes, shopping. When I decided to stop for some food on my way home. There I was, sitting in a Vietnamese restaurant with a big bowl of pho in front of me with tears brimming in my eyes. No I hadn’t put too much chili in my soup. I had just read something on FB from a fellow female traveller that got the better of my emotions. As the tears welled up, I wondered for a brief moment if people would be thinking that I looked sad and alone? It was a brief thought and unlike my younger self, who out of self-consciousness and embarrassment would have just got the bill and ran. I smiled to myself and carried on spooning delicious morsels of soup into my mouth. It’s interesting how much confidence you can gain when you come out of your comfort zones and with that confidence how many more opportunities to embrace life.
So now that I’m at a point in my life where my mind is comfortable with the fact that there is nothing wrong with enjoying ones own company and being alone doesn’t equate to being lonely. I started to understand myself better. I found that when I arrived at this mindset a lot of other things in my life began to fall into place. That’s why with this realization I made the next move and decided to book a solo trip at the next available school holiday.
I’ve taken it pretty easy for my first trip and I am visiting Bosnia, I will leave trekking through the jungle for when I am more experienced at this traveling lark. I think it’s a perfect location for my first attempt at solo traveling. As a history buff and as a Muslim I have a special interest in what occurred during the Bosnian war and know that it will be a personal journey for me with my own fears of what is happening with İslamphobia in Europe today. I hope that this part of the journey equips me with some kind of better understanding to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself.
I am curious to see how far I have come and who I really am and I feel this trip will show me that. I guess I will have a lot to share with you in the future.
If you are at reading this and considering taking the plunge to travel solo. I whole heartedly say do it. You never know what the outcome will be until you take the risk of trying to attempt it.
So lets catch up after we have pushed our boundaries a little more and I guarantee there will be a lot of great stories to tell.
Safe travels. xxxx