Happy, Safe and Solo
By Emma Young
Solo travel is my mission, fixation; my bread and butter; my great lust and divine obsession.
I’ve galavanted everywhere from Mongolia to Taiwan, and soon to be in India, without a single soul standing by my side, and was utterly fascinated and giddy during every second of the journey.
There’s nothing quite as satisfying, liberating, rewarding or empowering as striding along your own damn path, with nobody dictating what you can or cannot do. The ability to do whatever you want, when you want, however you want, is a certain kind of freedom they just don’t teach you about in your tenth grade U.S. government class.
Compromises and negotiations? Forget ‘em. Want to go off and explore or roam the street markets instead of sitting by the pool, you can! Want to wake up at 5 a.m. to hike a mountain and catch the sunrise instead of sleeping in? Do it. Want to eat locally for dinner instead of quickly grabbing McDonald’s? You better. Want to couch surf and save money instead of splurging on a villa? Good move. You simply do not have to indulge in whatever other people want to do or go about your trip, their way.
I recently came across a quote in the inspirational novel, “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho that says:
I believe that when you’re traveling with others, you can often miss out on experiences. You can get so caught up engaging with your travel buddy, commentating everything you’re seeing and doing, that it can alter the ecstasy of the experience.
To me, a trip is an art or project that I can organically make my own. I enter a zone and mindset before I set out on a journey, just like an artist, writer, athlete, painter or musician would before they create. No distractions, no procrastination, no questions, no side tracking, etc.
Take Stephen King, for example, who checked in and isolated himself at the The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado for a night. The very next day, his infamous novel, “The Shining” was born. And let me tell you, the hotel is every bit of haunting and eerie as the book describes.
Or take folk singer and songwriter, Bon Iver, who recorded his sensational album, “For Emma, Forever Ago,” in a cabin, alone in the north woods of Wisconsin. His album is the most played on my iTunes and sings me to sleep on just about every flight I take.
Point being – inspiration, serenity and raw magic can spark from a simple solo experience.
And yet, traveling solo as a young woman has received a negative reputation in the nomadic and everyday world.
When I’m out on the road and get asked by a stranger, “You’re here alone?!”— it’s almost always followed by looks of shock and terror like I am putting myself in sheer danger or that I’m a complete weirdo who has no friends to bring with me to Hong Kong. And let’s not talk about how many over the top messages I receive from my overly concerned mother back home — but she’s successfully succeeded AT&Ts texting limit, I’m sure of it.
There’s no doubt that traveling solo brings a slew of possible dangers with it. Take it from a solo backpacker who got mugged in Mongolia of all places. If there was anything I learned from the experience, it was to ignore the utter fears I had afterwards, comments I received, any and all possible “what ifs”, and to keep going after what I love most — travel.
Two weeks later, I was on the road again in Vietnam.
Sure, two brains against the world are better than just one, little blonde girl’s. And there are, more often than not, moments when I wish someone was there with me to share the excitement or split costs and bills or help me translate a language I cannot even come close to speaking. And eating alone can often get depressing (although a good book usually fixes that issue). Yes, there are times when I get fed up with being stared at by locals, and misunderstood or pitied by complete strangers; the list goes on and on.
But the adventurist in me demands the purchase of a plane ticket (to anywhere, really) — in the hope that once I arrive, I find myself with zero idea of what I’m about to get into, alone, in the big, bad world.
It’s all simply for the thrill of it.
This is your life to live, and to have all the travel and life experiences you want. So head out into the great yonder knowing that everything you need to conquer the world by yourself is inside of you. And that it’ll be the ride of a lifetime.
Go on, do it. I dare you.
To read more about Emma’s adventures, Follow her blog at www.foremmayoung.com and on Instagram: @foremmayoung