Coming up: my online travel writing class for Catapult in mid-April.

The joys of solo travel

Back in July, as I was packing up for a two-month sojourn in Europe, a book arrived in the mail – Wanderlust and Lipstick: The Essential Guide for Women Traveling Solo. Penned and kindly sent to me by fellow nomad and travel writer Beth Whitman, it seemed like the perfect on-the-road read.

So the book traveled with me. And I traveled with the book.

Now, I have scoured the globe extensively since the early 1990s. Many of these trips have been accompanied by family, friends and/or lovers. Many were solo. Most of the solo trips have been for work. I’ll be very honest, I do prefer to hop the globe with a partner in traveling crime. On those solo work trips, I don’t typically have time to dwell on the basics – the safety of the destination where I’m going, any possible health concerns, the getting from point A to point B. I just know: I have to go and I do what needs to get done. It’s become second nature.

Of course there’s a fair share of planning involved but it’s planning done according to what needs to be covered in the guidebook. And there’s also a fair share of danger involved, which is simply the nature of the beast. In my years of travel, I’ve managed to get out of numerous hairy situations (a road bloc in Bolivia, being lost in the Amazon, a broken boat on The Mekong in Cambodia).

Then I read Beth’s book, on the flight back and forth to visit friends in Berlin in September. It was a bit of a revelation. First, it helped me get out of my travel writer skin and realize there are people out there who need encouragement to travel solo. Myself, I can’t even count the number of times I ate alone in restaurants and had late-night solo drinks in bars in the name of research. In her opening chapter, “Why Travel Solo”, Beth gives the right incentive and inspiration for women to just do it.

While reading the chapter entitled “Travel Ideas Generator”, it dawned on me that plenty of people need travel ideas. Not everyone is like me, with at least ten dream trips planned at any given time (many of which never happen or take a while to materialize).

The chapter on “Getting Beyond the Excuses”, which talks about overcoming fears and mental hurdles that prevent people from traveling, made me realize that I actually need an excuse to stay put. There’s always somewhere else I want to be. I’m always planning that next trip. Admittedly, I suffer from a serious case of wanderlust. For those who need a guiding hand on how to shed the excuses, Beth’s book is an ideal read.

Then there were the chapters on the practicalities of travel – from “Mapping Out the Details” to “Let’s Get Booking” and “Red Tape and Formalities”. Beth’s engaging text is interspersed with fantastic travel advice, practical tips and a plethora of useful links. I like to think of myself as a seasoned traveler but I must admit the book presented a lot of tips and go-to websites novel to me.

One chapter actually changed the way I travel: “Staying Healthy on the Road.” Except in the case of work trips, when travel insurance is typically covered by the guidebook company I’m writing for, I have been traveling without travel insurance. Until I read Beth’s book. There was a click in my head of sorts that made me realize how irresponsible it was to travel uninsured. So I threw my carefree stance out the window and purchased travel insurance for recent and upcoming trips (a Bora Bora junket earlier this month and an Israel one coming up). $25 per pop for my peace of mind. Not bad. Thanks, Beth, for giving me the push I needed to become a more responsible (to self) traveler.

And talking about responsible travel… In her chapter of that name, Beth gives great insight on low-impact travel and a thoughtful set of advice on how to move through this world more responsibly. In her opening to that chapter she writes, “Tourism is intrusive by its very nature. When traveling, you will be interacting with locals and their environment. How you conduct yourself and the impression you leave behind will affect the residents, even in the most subtle of ways. And the more remote a region and its people, the greater potential of having an impact. Make your contribution to the world positive by incorporating low-impact habits when encountering locals and spending time in their surroundings.”

I echo Beth’s words. And I encourage both experienced travelers and wannabe world-hoppers to pick up a copy of her book.

Blog Comments

I read this book a few months ago and enjoyed it immensely. Unlike you, I've always traveled with insurance but I learnt a lot of other things that will come into much use during future trips. All the suggestions on websites worth visiting were especially helpful. I highly recommend everyone who likes traveling to read it.r

That sounds like a fantastic book! I have only truly traveled solo once. I left a friend in Germany and took a night train alone to Paris and then spent four nights in Paris by myself. It was my first time in France, and I hardly speak a lick of French besides merci and bonjour. I got terribly lost upon arrival, nobody could/would help me, and I felt so alone — I had a good cry. But then I got over it and felt very empowered. I conquered the whole city and saw all the sights by myself. I ate many meals alone, and spent most evenings shacked up in my hotel room reading (I wasn't ready for solo bars, though I did go to a movie one night). I feel so much more confident now, and would love to do more traveling alone. Good pointer about the travel insurance — I have never thought to purchase it, either. I will definitely look into it next time!

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