Guest Blogger: Kimberly Go
If you had told me, when I was a kid, that I’d get to travel the UK alone, I never would have believed you. I was born in the Philippines to a conservative Chinese household—growing up, I wasn’t allowed to go on playdates. In high school, I couldn’t stay out past 10 p.m. After I got my driver’s license, my parents wouldn’t let me drive without adult supervision—which, I felt, defeated the whole purpose of getting my own license.
Despite the fact that my parents were very overprotective, they were the ones who instilled my love of travel in me. When I was young, my family would take summer trips around the world, to Hong Kong, Melbourne, Amsterdam. But as I grew older, I craved to see the world on my own terms. I wanted to taste the independence and the freedom I didn’t have at home. The perfect opportunity came my junior year in college, when I decided to study abroad in London.
My parents didn’t immediately agree to letting me travel solo. They said I was a woman, it wasn’t safe, I could be raped or kidnapped. But I was persistent—there were a lot of women who travelled solo. Why couldn’t I do it too? I planned extensively, asking myself every possible question my parents would ask (“What will you do if you lose all your money? Lose your phone? Both?”) and making back-up plans for my back-up plans. I showed maturity and built their trust.
Eventually, my parents said I could go. I felt an incredible sense of empowerment. There was so much responsibility to take on, but there was also so much to see and learn. I packed my bags and on September 13, 2016, left home to study abroad and travel the UK alone.
In the past few years, there has been a rise in women traveling solo. In 2015, TripAdvisor surveyed over 9,000 women and reported that 74 percent had either already travelled alone or were planning on traveling solo that year. The women who responded said traveling alone has made them more self-reliant and independent.
My experiences echo the same sentiment. As someone who grew up in a conservative household, traveling solo has been liberating. Being able to explore the world on my own has given me more confidence in myself and my abilities to navigate a new environment. Whenever my friends tell me how amazing it is I’ve traveled alone and how they could never do the same, I tell them two things: 1) they can do anything and 2) traveling solo can help them see that.
Why is it important to empower women to travel solo? Here are three reasons:
1. You learn you can do things by yourself.
The most empowering thing about traveling solo is that you get to do everything on your own. When preparing for my 5-day trip to Scotland, I planned everything myself. I found cheap plane tickets, booked hotel accommodation, researched tours to go on, noted sights to see, and created a schedule to follow. Once I got to Edinburgh, I learned how to navigate the city’s highway-like walkways and public transportation system on my own.
Individually, the things I did may seem small, but the manner in which I did them was such a contrast to the life I had known. At home, my parents rarely let me leave the house without adult supervision. I wasn’t allowed to walk Manila’s streets by myself or drive on the roads without someone beside me. In Scotland, each small task I accomplished was an act of defiance to the dependence I was bred on. It resulted in an addictive thrill that, in a way, grounded me in what the world could be. Solo travel will show you that you can do things on your own.
2. You learn to be comfortable with yourself.
I’ve always been an introvert and enjoyed spending time alone, but I was exposed to a much higher degree of me-time when I traveled solo. On my flight to Edinburgh, I didn’t have anyone to talk to save for the awkward stranger sitting beside me. When I landed in Belfast on a Friday night, I went out for dinner at a popular Mexican joint alone, watching couples and friends enjoy their meal together. It was a weird feeling to be out by myself, I’ll admit, but it wasn’t all bad.
When I was exploring museums, I could walk at my own pace and not worry about whether my companion was ready to move to the next exhibit. When I was shopping, I didn’t have to think about hurrying up in a particular store I wanted to spend more time in. I didn’t have to make compromises when choosing which sights I wanted to see.
Some opportunities also only come when you’re alone. When I was studying abroad in London, I went to the Shakespeare Globe Theater where they coincidentally had one extra free ticket for the afternoon show. If I weren’t alone, I would have had to forego the ticket or felt guilty about watching it. Beyond all of that, traveling alone helps you get to know yourself better—what you like, what you don’t like. Without anyone holding you back, you get to explore and embrace who you really are.
3. You learn there are many other women traveling alone, too.
One of the greatest things I’ve gotten out of traveling alone is meeting other women solo travelers.
On my five-day tour to Isle of Skye, I met an Australian photographer traveling alone. Although she was married, she still took frequent solo trips to satisfy her lust for adventure. At a Sherlock convention in London, I met a girl my age from France who had flew in for the weekend specifically to see Benedict Cumberbatch. For concerts and events none of her friends wanted to go to, she said, she would travel alone.
I’ve found that when I’m by myself, I’m more open to striking up a conversation with others and finding out where they’re from. The lack of companions, slight desperation for connection, and feeling of not having anything to lose makes me a little bolder, friendlier. When I reach out to women from other walks of life, I share a sense of empowerment, wanderlust, independence, and womanhood with them. Even though I’m on the trip alone, I realize that there are many others exploring the world by themselves, too—just like me.
The night I left home to go to the UK, I wasn’t sure what to expect. For the first time, I was going to travel without family or friends. It was a scary thought, but thrilling at the same time. I wasn’t ready for the freedom and independence I was about to get a taste of, but I knew things wouldn’t be the same once I did.