Before I started traveling, I fought with the idea for years. I knew I wanted to get out and see the world, but I faced some problems when it came to actually doing so. Some of you may be dealing with similar issues, so I figured this would be a good place to begin our journey.
All of these will evolve into longer posts, but for now, I wanted to offer a few short, but practical solutions to some common issues.
So, let’s start with our first problem.
Problem #1: Financial Constraints
Dolla dolla bills, ya’ll- yep, my first issue was money.
I wanted to travel, but I was a student working an on-campus job, and I just wasn’t in the position, financially speaking, to do so- or so I thought.
It wasn’t until a year after I’d had a well-paying internship, and the first ever comma in my savings account balance that I realized that you don’t need a fortune to travel.
And that brings us to our first solution.
Solution #1: Redefine “Travel”
Like I said, I’d arrived at the point where I had the money, but the thought of blowing it all on one big trip didn’t appeal to me as much as I’d thought it would. So instead, I decided to take a number of small trips to different cities and states.
- A poetry show in NY
- A road trip to an amusement park in PA
- An art festival in MD
- A dance congress in DC
The first 3 of those 4 trips each cost me less than $150. The last cost about $350 including transportation to, from, and around DC, 3 nights at a historic hotel, and food.
Up until then, I’d always thought that “travel” meant a plane ticket had to be involved, and because I didn’t have hundreds of dollars to spend, I believed I couldn’t “travel”. But one day, I realized that I had dreams of filling up my passport when I hadn’t even taken the time get to know my own city or the ones around it.
Rethink what it means to “travel”. International trips aren’t the only types worth taking. And as I share stories of my past trips through this blog, it will become apparent that some of my favorite memories and most valuable experiences have actually come through domestic travel.
Now, while I’d love to sit here and pretend that the desire to make my money stretch as far as possible was the main reason I chose to travel domestically, that wouldn’t be completely true- which brings us to the next problem.
Problem #2: Fear
As much as I hate to admit it, I was afraid of traveling.
My family made it known that they didn’t think my leaving the country was a good idea. And around the same time that I’d decided I was done with the excuses, and I was going to do what I’d been waiting so long to do no matter what anyone had to say about it, there were a few instances of young men and women who’d gone abroad and become victims of all different types of crimes.
While the money was an issue, I was certain that once I had it, nothing would stop me from going where I wanted. But once I got the financial freedom, I found that I wasn’t as fearless as I’d thought I was, and those concerns that my family had repeatedly shared with me were actually ones that I had for myself as well…
If you’re finding that fear of traveling is holding you back, know that you’re not alone. But I have a solution for that as well!
Solution #2: Do your Research, and Get Let It Go
Virtually everything we do involves some level of risk.
You could get into an accident while driving to work.
You could trip and fall down a flight of stairs at the metro station.
You could go to McDonalds and choke to death on a french fry.
Driving a car. Walking down the stairs. Eating french fries.
Everything is risky.
The key lies in exercising reasonable caution- in recognizing, and assessing the amount and type of risk involved with a situation, and then taking appropriate precautions.
We wear seatbelts. We hold on to railings. We follow proper… chewing… protocol.
And we can look at travel in the same way.
Before you even think about booking a flight, or buying a train ticket, or making a reservation at a hotel, do your research:
- What do the crime statistics look like?
- Are there particular frequent targets of crime?
- Is there any political or religious turmoil going on in the area, and what are the implications of that?
And be sure to consider a variety of sources- government statistics, as well as nontraditional sources like online forums.
Once you do that sort of assessment, you will have a better understanding of what the situation is in the area, and what types of safety and security measures you should take while visiting.
Our fears don’t always match reality, and more than likely, you will find that you really don’t have as much to worry about as you’d initially thought.
Now, our final problem is related to fear, but I had so much to say about it that I thought it deserved its own category.
Problem #3: “I Have No One To Go With”
I don’t know how many times I’ve wanted to visit a place, but decided not to because it would mean going alone.
The people I would have gone with weren’t available at the time, or didn’t have the money at the time, or were dealing with family that wasn’t supportive of their travel aspirations at the time. Either way, once they were out, my plans were done.
In this situation, it’s common to find people blaming their would-have-been travel companions for their plans falling apart. But the reality is that unless there was a previous agreement in place to split the costs, your friends’ ability to travel probably has little to nothing to do with your own.
If you find yourself saying this, what it probably really comes down to is fear all over again.
Solution #3: Revisit Solution #1
Now, I have yet to travel solo outside the country, so I’m not going to advise anyone on that, but whereas in the past, just the thought of doing so was outrageous to me, now it’s something I hope to do sometime soon. And that’s because of the experiences I’ve had while traveling alone domestically.
In the US, from a young age, girls are conditioned to see themselves as fragile, and in need of protection. Though effort has been made to move away from that idea, there are still way more damsels in distress in today’s cartoons and movies than there are heroines.
Some of us grew up with our parents telling us that the only way we were going to x, y, or z place was if we brought a brother or male cousin along. We were taught that females needed to travel in groups of three or more- and that even then, bringing a trusted male companion was preferred.
And sometimes, these ideas stay with us past girlhood.
Unfortunately, as women, we are sometimes seen as ideal targets for crimes. But what is the alternative? To lock ourselves in our houses and not go anywhere until a man comes to escort us from place to place?
Many of us travel alone in our cities and towns on a daily basis. To work, to run errands, to meet up with friends or family, or just to get out for a while. But somehow, we think that doing the same thing in another city or town is putting ourselves in grave danger.
The saying is true- people fear what they don’t know. More than likely, the city you had plans to go to with your friends before they cancelled on you is home to plenty of women who travel alone around it each day just like you do in your own city or town.
Again, it’s about doing research. Have at least a tentative idea of how you’re getting from place to place before you arrive, bring enough money in case of an emergency, and always be aware of your surroundings.
Extra caution should be taken while traveling alone, and some adventures (i.e: That plan you have to explore that old, abandoned, possibly-haunted, hospital) are better left for when you have someone to go with (or for never…), but a day trip a state over to go to a museum, or to check out that restaurant you saw on TV the other day is most likely going to be just fine if you go it alone.
While traveling alone abroad as a female to some areas probably isn’t the greatest idea, at least in my experiences, traveling alone in the US has offered nothing but positive experiences. And aside from that, solo travel in general has many great benefits.
So, my question to you is “Now what?”
I believe that the hardest part of beginning to travel is beginning to travel. You can sit at home and make a whole list of factors keeping you from getting out and doing what you want to do, but if you try hard enough, you can find resolutions as well.
This was my way of getting you started. The rest is up to you!