By Kristine Abante
There are many reasons why solo travel for women, especially for pint-sized Pinays like me, can be less popular or a bit more of a challenge for those wanting to spread her wings and explore the great beyond.
Raised in a country that values community over independence, with most parents usually overprotective of their girls (And for a good reason, particularly if you lived in Manila where there is always that 50-50 percent chance of falling prey to the next scammer) being an independent traveler is not exactly encouraged in the Philippines. But as with any kind of exploration, the rewards almost always outweigh the risks.
There is something extraordinarily exhilarating and powerfully liberating about heading out into the unknown on your own.
I realize that long before the release of Eat, Pray, Love and the popularity of “travel-while-your-single” blogs, I have often ventured out by myself.
It started with short trips, like going to the bookstore or the mall at age 11, progressing from short walks, to taking jeepneys, trains, and then one day, discovering the so-called Partas bus line in Cubao that would let me travel as far North as I wanted to be.
There is still nothing quite like the feeling of waking up to a bus load of strangers after an 8-hour bus ride, on a crispy morning and having a century-old rustic city like Vigan in Ilocos Sur laid out before you like a gift waiting to be opened.
My very first trip abroad was a company sponsored press tour of Macau. I asked my boss if I could extend my trip to explore Hong Kong on my own. Again, I’ll never forget the excitement of having to find my way to the budget hostel that I booked, tucked in the inner city streets with a tattoo parlor downstairs. I hauled my luggage onto the old-school elevator the size of a fridge and checked in on a room that seemed custom-built for my size.
At 20 years old, alone in a foreign land, I felt like I was being born again, the world was fresh and ripe with every kind of possibility. For a moment I was free from the judgment and the requirements of others.
Years later, after a couple more solo trips, I would find myself hauling my luggage once again, this time on the steps of the Metro in Paris and eventually finding my way to mini café sipping French wine and celebrating my decade-long declaration of independence.
Sure there are benefits in traveling with a group of friends, and seeing the Eiffel tower with the love-of-your-life must be the stuff of our Hollywood romcom daydreams come true, but I would still suggest women in their prime to go out of their comfort zones every once in a while and dare to experience the world like nothing else.
And before you launch into Les Miserables-level of self-pity and start pretending that “he is beside you”, consider for a moment the perks of traveling on your own.
Top 5 things you get from traveling on your own:
- Your schedule (and your life) is your own. When you travel alone, you don’t need to adjust to the expectations of others. You don’t have to be somewhere at 8am if you don’ t want to. You can sit in a park bench for as long as you like or go have a drink with a complete stranger without anyone telling you (except your inner intuition) not to.
- You learn to rely on yourself. Self-sufficiency is key when traveling solo. Planning your itinerary, being responsible for your own safety, getting lost and finding your way – these are things that you are forced to master, and these skills will come in handy at any situation later on in life.
- You learn to enjoy your own company. Lots of people are uncomfortable sitting by themselves, or eating alone by themselves. I am not one of those. By traveling solo, I learned to enjoy a good cup of coffee on my own, or take a walk down quietly in a beautiful city alone with my thoughts. Often we are too crowded with our connections with other people that sometimes it is good to be reacquainted with yourself, and find solace in knowing that YOU are enough.
- You get to meet other people. Traveling on your own doesn’t mean being lonely. In fact, most times it runs the opposite. Without the constraints of a group or a significant other, armed with anonymity, you can easily open up to strangers or even fellow travelers and have the most amazing time with them. A great way to explore a new place is meeting locals and sharing the experience.
- You become more interesting. I believe that when you travel solo, you get to have more “take-aways”. Aside from the knick-knacks and fridge magnets you bring home, traveling adds to you, your soul, your personality, your history. You get to have more interesting anecdotes at dinner conversations, more stories to tell your spouse or your boyfriend, your future kids and grandchildren. You actually get to own memories that belong only to you and that are yours to keep forever.
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