Women - why traveling alone is the best thing you'll ever do.
When I first announced that I would be traveling to London, I got all of the same questions.
"Who are you going with?" "Aren't you scared to travel alone?" "Are you sure it's safe?"
I started to notice a theme. All my male friends who traveled solo were asked, "What will you be doing?" "How long will you be gone?" "What are you most excited about?"
But for me, it was all safety concerns. The advice poured in. Don't travel the same route everyday. Don't wear anything too flashy to call attention to yourself. Be back to your hotel by sunset so you don't have to walk in the dark. Always be on your phone, like you're talking to someone, or actually talk to someone if you can.
It's 2017, and although we have made huge advances in things like technology and culture, my friends and family made me start to doubt solo travel for myself - because I am a woman.
For the first leg of the trip, I wasn't truly alone. My first week in New York was spent with friends I had made in college. They took me around the city, showed me the sights and helped me conquer my fear of the subway. (I'm directionally challenged above ground, okay? Being in a tunnel underground isn't exactly ideal for helping me find my way.) But London - that was all me. For one week, I was completely alone. No friends helping me, no one walking around with me. It was just me, myself and I. Surprisingly, it is the least alone I've ever felt in my life.
I covered a lot of ground that week in London. From King's Cross Station to Leavesden, I left no stone unturned. I stopped worrying about getting back to the hostel before dark, and started exploring my favorite sites bathed in the streetlight of foggy London. I let go of the doubts planted in my mind on if I could do it or not. I felt like Amelia Earhart, my idol from elementary school who flew solo when it was truly a man's world. I might not have been flying, but I wasn't accepting the role of passenger any longer. I was in control - and it felt amazing.
If I wanted to spend a whole day finding the places Harry Potter was filmed, I could. If I wanted to spend an hour searching for the Peter Pan statue, I could. If I wanted to drink my weight in Strongbow - I did.
Traveling solo is so much more than just conquering the fear of being alone. It makes you talk to strangers. It makes you exercise common sense. It sharpens your instinct. There is an undeniable sense of freedom that comes from traveling alone. I learned some life skills like developing a sense of direction and an ability to adapt in unfamiliar circumstances, that will stay with me forever. Nothing is too scary anymore. Nothing is too big to be accomplished. Nothing is outside of my reach, as long as I am trying.
There will always be unsafe places to travel alone because of war, political reasons and other things that we cannot control. But, there will never be a day that it is unsafe to travel alone because simply because you are a woman. When we realize this distinction, and put it into practice we are no longer conforming to the world, we are redefining it.
Now get out there and experience it for yourself.