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Any woman embarking on a solo trip will get plenty of advice, much of it unsolicited, about the perceived merits and the dangers of solo travel. For every woman who wants to emulate the heroine ofWild, there are others who can think only of the difficulties of going it alone. So we asked the experts to weigh in on these five classic myths about solo travel.
1. Traveling solo sounds like a recipe for loneliness.
“On the contrary, traveling alone is one of the best ways to make a lot of new friends,” says Janice Holly Booth, author of Only Pack What You Can Carry (National Geographic), a guide to achieving personal growth through solo adventure travel. “Think about it, when you’re traveling with a partner, your attention is wrapped up in them. Alone, you are free to interact with as many people as you like, for as long as you like. I’ve found that often when I meet a group of people and there’s chemistry, they’ll ask me to join them on an excursion or even out to dinner.”
Spontaneity can be a vital part of solo travel, as can a sense of freedom and the ability to make choices that suit you, not a companion. These are the prime reasons solo travelers give when asked why they go it alone.
“Traveling solo gives you the freedom to choose your schedule, go where you want and with who you want,” says Lisa Eldridge, who writes the Girl about the Globe blog. “And with freedom comes flexibility. If you arrive somewhere and really don’t like it then you can just move on. Arrive somewhere and absolutely love it? Stay longer and revise your plans.”
With that kind of freedom can come added benefits, some of them life changing, says Eldridge.
“Traveling solo empowers you and gives you a feeling of accomplishment that you just don’t get traveling with others,” she says. “You’ll return home a more defined person with a sense of who you really are. You may have not noticed the change but others definitely will.”
2. Traveling solo is not safe, especially for women.
“Traveling solo is as safe as traveling with others as long as you plan for safety and follow your instincts,” says Janice Waugh, author of The Solo Traveler's Handbookand the Solo Traveler Blog. “The four fundamentals are: Stay in a public place with people you've just met, be proactive and choose who to approach should you want assistance, don't be rushed into a decision and be rude if necessary.”
Regardless of where they are going, there are some common sense rules that every solo female traveler should follow.
“Traveling solo calls for the same daily safety considerations you employ now,” says Booth. “Lock your car, hide your valuables, stay out of sketchy neighborhoods, let people know your itinerary, don’t flash expensive jewelry and be aware of your surroundings.”
3. I would go with a group but the single supplements can be very expensive.
Single supplements can be hefty, but some companies offer lower cost supplements and others give you the option of sharing with other solos on the tour.AdventureWomen is one such company, leading women traveling on their own on active group tours all around the world. It offers a way for women to experience traveling alone yet also provides them with camaraderie, safety and even access to activities they might never do on their own.
The woman on these trips have “left the comforts of home -- and friends and family -- to explore the world, learn new skills and escape from the daily grind,” says Susan Eckert, founder and president of AdventureWomen. “By grouping them with other like-minded women also traveling solo, they have a safety net with which to get out of their comfort zone, but they can still leave the cares, worries -- and makeup -- at home to be entirely themselves.”
AdventureWomen does not charge single supplements. They do pair each traveler with a roommate but they usually allow them to change roommates on those nights when they move to new lodging on a trip.
4. It’s limiting to travel solo.
Imagination is a funny thing, says Booth. “It’s both limiting and limitless. Before I took my first solo trip, I couldn’t imagine how inspiring, exciting, and even spiritual a solo trip could be, simply because I’d never put myself in the position of taking one. Given a choice of traveling by myself or traveling with a companion, I’ll go solo. It’s way more fun.”
Janice Waugh adds that going solo puts you in a much better position to meet locals and fellow travelers.
“I meet more people traveling alone than I do when traveling with a companion,“ she says. “Think about it. When you're with someone else, you're focused on that person and people don't want to interrupt. Alone, I'm open to the world and I find that, when I want it, the world steps in. I meet lots of locals and other travelers by traveling alone. I consider being alone a bonus.”
5. It’s boring to travel alone.
“Traveling solo is only boring if you stay stuck in your usual routine,” says Booth. She advises that solo travelers try activities that they never considered, from a cooking class in Paris to ice climbing in Alberta.
“They can make you feel alive and vibrant and let’s face it, they make your stories a lot more interesting,” she says. “Drive through the Canyonlands in a convertible. Get a bird’s-eye view of the landscape in an ultra-light. Go on an archaeological dig. Solo traveling is the perfect antidote to boredom, because you are not shackled by the wants, needs and demands of another person who may keep you stuck inside your comfort zone. Alone, you can break out of your cage and there’s nothing boring about that.”
From Everett Potter, Special for USA TODAY