Travel, Gender & Identity, Life

I faced my fear of traveling solo as a woman – here’s how I did it

That fear also helped me tap into something great.

I’ve always wanted to travel.

I’ve always thought there was something exciting about going to the airport- that an adventure awaited on the other side of a plane ride. Being a millennial is fraught with financial challenges, we all scrape by just to survive and while the idea of financial independence from our parents is enticing, it’s too far from reality for many of us.

Scrolling through my social media feed one day, I came across a trip that sounded amazing in one European city that sounded really appealing to me; I checked it out, and if I saved enough (and with some family contributions) I’d be able to make it happen.

I was ecstatic, planning all the details of the trip, which despite some initial freakouts, came together seamlessly.

There was, however, one nagging thought in the back of my mind, would I be safe enough to travel by myself?

So far, I’ve never had to deal with any sort of Islamophobic rhetoric firsthand, no calls to go back to my home country, but would I be this lucky if I traveled outside of my comfort zone?

I am from a small island in the Caribbean, so I’ve never experienced religious discrimination, and leaving that to go to a place where I know Muslim women deal with taunts on a regular basis was unnerving.

I was a bit nervous about that. How would I handle it, and what would I do if something like that happened to me? Then there was also me traveling by myself, which is something I’d not done before. The idea seemed daunting, and being an introvert, the thought of having to interact with people filled me with dread.

Thoughts about backing out seeped in, but I thought more about how amazing it would be to go somewhere new and meet a bunch of new people in a big city. It was too much to let fear get the better of me, so I decided that I was going no matter what and would deal with situations when and if they arrived.

As I’d hoped, the trip exceeded my expectations.

I got to do so many things I’d have otherwise said no to, but since I was so far from home, and the trip cost me so much, I forced myself out of my bubble for a bit. I wasn’t going to say no to anything, even if I thought I would look ridiculous doing it.

From horseback riding to exploring museums to making new friends on my trip: instead of having fixed expectations of what I wanted to get out of it, I just embraced everything that came my way, which made it all the more memorable.

With the help of people I knew, I got the hang of public transport, which could be confusing if you didn’t know how to use it. Then came the time for me to use it for myself. I had it mapped out, where I’d go, and what route I’d take to get back to where I was staying in the city.

Then plans changed and I needed to use another route. I talked myself into remaining calm, that I was going to get back to where I needed to be, and that people there were able to help me, all I need to do was muster up the courage to ask.

That’s one of the things that traveling helps you with: asking for help when you need it. It’s not hard for locals to recognize that you’re not from there and that you need to ask questions to get around to where you need to be, and it’s totally ok.

It took me longer than expected, but I got back safely, feeling accomplished that I’d gotten on well.

Having to navigate through an airport where I’d not been before was also something I reassured myself that I’d be fine with, and I was. As I went through it, I realized how much of a fuss I was making about something that really wasn’t worth the stress at all.

I can do it, and I did do it, all by myself.

Another big thing traveling solo helps you with, that you can extrapolate for life, is that you have to rely on yourself to take care of you. If you need to get somewhere, the only person who can make that happen is you.

You need to have the determination and courage to be there for you because no one else will.

Thankfully, whenever I did need help from locals, they were willing and open to answering any questions I had. It ended up being a reminder for myself that just because some people are hostile, most people aren’t. As much as Muslim hijab-wearing women are stereotyped, I’d be doing the same if I presumed everyone was a bigot.

Even with unexpected challenges that come with traveling, going solo is a liberating experience.

I can’t wait to save up and go on my next solo trip!