I suppose this story is about the fact that at age 23 I left home and flew from London to Costa Rica to start what was supposed to be an 18-month gap year. Seven years later I was living on a Caribbean island and over the course of my travels I’d spent time living in 11 different countries, and had traveled to almost 30.
Considering I suffered with panic attacks as a teen and wasn’t sure I’d last more than one month abroad, I can tell you that a lot changed for me over the course of that first year. I was thrust miles outside the safety of the little bubble I’d been living in and was forced to address the fact that, basically, life itself was starting to scare me.
Travel changed my life.
It’s a simple enough statement but I know I’m going to struggle to condense everything into a just a short article, never mind trying to impart some practical life advice for other solo female travelers.
Got a bad case of wanderlust but don’t think you’re the kind of person who would enjoy solo travel? Here are some examples of the ways in which my adventures have altered the very fabric of my personality, woven together with some tales from the road.
My Mental Health & Wellbeing Have Improved
I honestly feel like I exist in a completely different head space to that of my pre-travel self. Before I flew to Costa Rica, the smallest tasks would send me into a frenzy of anxiety; things like train travel, eating in crowded restaurants, and meeting new people would cause me genuine discomfort. It was like my body couldn’t cope with everyday activities and I found myself retreating into myself more and more.
Three months into my time in Costa Rica I was given the opportunity to learn to scuba dive. I knew it would be a big challenge—to be honest with you, I cried the first time I descended beneath the waves on a dive and nearly quit on more than one occasion. But with the support of my dive instructor—and a serious amount of determination—I got my dive certification. For me, that was the catalyst. That one act gave me the confidence to know that I could overcome my fears and function perfectly well in stressful situations.
Nine years later, and I feel like I owe my sanity to that achievement. Yes, I still struggle with anxiety. Ironically, although I’m a travel blogger, I really, really hate flying—which I find myself having to endure far more often than I’d like to. However, thanks to the wealth of life experiences travel has given me, I am no longer scared that I’ll find myself panicking uncontrollably.
Tip: Embrace fear as often as you can, it will help you remove the term “comfort zone” from your vocabulary.
I’ve Learned How to Make Things Happen for Myself
I’ve always been quite an independent person, however on reflection, a lack of self-confidence had always held me back from feeling that I had the freedom to create my own opportunities.
A little under two years into my travels, I had come to the conclusion that I was going to have to go home. My finances were running low and I was starting to question what on earth I was going to do, fearing that I’d struggle to get a job and have to live with my parents indefinitely.
Not an appealing prospect for a twenty-something with an increasing appetite for new experiences.
Taking inspiration from the travel articles I’d read when planning my trip thus far, I decided to start a blog; something I wasn’t entirely sure how to achieve. On the basis that I’d work on it until my money ran out and I was forced to return home, I set about creating Wanderlusters.com, and I have to tell you: Until then, I’d never felt passionately about creating something for myself.
Now, the life lessons learned and challenges I’ve overcome during my adventures have cultivated the notion that I can go into the world and do whatever I want. Whether it be something as simple as pitching an article idea to National Geographic (I’m pretty sure they’re just waiting for the right moment to send over an assignment), or booking an epic solo travel adventure (I really want to hike the Trans-Catalina trail in California), I now have the confidence to know if I set my mind to something that I can achieve it.
The only thing I’m struggling with now is that fact that there are so many things I want to accomplish!
Tip: Believe in yourself, you’ve got the potential to reach your goals.
I Have Better Self-Discipline & I’m More Decisive
When you travel, you continually find yourself in situations that force you to make decisions and manage yourself; there’s no one to tell you that something is a bad idea. The consistent assault of opportunities to see and experience the world trains your brain to take each decision and break it down into pros and cons, to consider its financial implications, and the potential risk to safety.
I’ve actually started to imagine a flowchart in my head each time I need to decide something quickly, and I seldom doubt myself after I’ve made up my mind. My pre-travel self would have needed assurance from others that I was making the right decision.
Tip: Keep yourself in focus and don’t be afraid to trust your instincts, only you know what’s best for you.
My experience as a solo female traveler changed my life. My journey from scared teen to digital nomad came about because of the cultures I explored, the people I met, and the challenges I faced.
Your experience won’t be the same as mine, but I can guarantee that for every new destination you visit, every conversation you have with someone unknown, and every time you succeed at something that scared you, you’ll find out a little bit more about who you really are.
Are you considering a solo travel trip? Read our tips specifically for female travelers hitting the road.
Pack It Specter Compression Cube Set
Travel Safe TSA Lock
Expanse Convertible International Carry On
Related Links (from Eagle Creek blog):
Let’s Be Frank: A Guide to Traveling While Female
How to Make Friends Abroad
How to Plan A Safe Solo Trip