“You are very brave.”
Was the remark I heard the most during my last solo trip.
Everytime I heard that sentence from anyone, strangers or not, I was always a bit taken aback. Am I? Am I really brave? Am I really “very” brave?
Don’t get me wrong. I gladly accept all the compliments. I am humbly flattered. However, it puzzles me how people are not used to seeing a solo woman traveller, even to this day. I thought with all the outcry of feminism and gender equality, people around the world would see a woman travelling alone as a normality. But I guess I was wrong.
After that solo trip, I started to review all of my travelling experiences (yes, I still remember most of them) and think about what I got wrong.
When I think about it, I believe that the core of the problem is actually caused by my parents. I remember when I was about 9-10, we went for a holiday in Bali. We were spending the day in one of Bali beaches, maybe Sanur, when my dad started telling me about how different it is to raise a child in Indonesia and in the western world. My dad told me, by the age of 18, kids in the western world would be travelling alone. 18 year-olds western kids would not want to travel with their parents and their parents would not take them anymore. In Indonesia, people still travel as a family, no matter how old the children are. Then my dad asked me whether I would like to travel alone, later in life, maybe when I hit 17 or 18. I was young and scared as shit, so I said no. However, I had that conversation in the back of my mind and unconsciously it changed something in me.
The thing is, I started to travel when I was very young. At that very young age, I met many travellers, both men and women, who were travelling alone. At such young age, I was fed all these stories about both the excitement and the frustration of travelling alone. Sure, it is great that you don’t have to fight your travelling buddy in deciding about a place to eat, but things sure get complicated during photo sessions – especially if you can’t take a decent (or simply hate) selfie. I met people who travel solo for a month, 6 months, 1 year, or people who frankly didn’t know when they would like to go home. I met people who travel solo within their countries; I met Australians who travel solo around Europe; I met Europeans who travel solo around Australia; I met people who travel solo around South East Asia; I met people who travel around the world solo. I met all kinds of solo travellers.
So, all along, I had this thought that travelling solo is a mediocre thing. My friends from all around the world do/did it at some points of their lives. Random people I meet on the streets do it. Every woman blogger in this world does it – their “why I travel solo as a woman and why you should too” articles become so mainstream, I got tired of reading the same message polished with different gimmicks.
Why hasn’t the world caught up?
An aunt told me to “be careful. You’re going far away. Alone,” right before I left – to which my dad replied, “you realised she lived abroad, right? Alone? This is also not her first time travelling. Alone.”
A friend last year made a remark, “you went alone?” To which I replied, “yes,” and her comeback was, “I never realise that you travel alone.”
A lady at the Information Booth at an airport located in one of the hippiest cities in the world said to me, “if you were my daughter, I won’t let you walk around that area alone.”
Another lady at a Tourist Information Centre asked me, “who are you going with?” When I answered, “alone,” she replied, “find someone to go with you, you know, for safety.”
An Uber driver told me, “you’re so cool,” when I told him I’m on a solo trip in his country.
An Airbnb host reviewed me as, “my wildest guest.”
I mean, what is it? Is it a gender equality issue? Discrimination issue? Anti-feminism issue? Traveller vs tourists debates?
Before I left for my last solo travel, I was sure that it would become my last solo trip. Like EVER.
I’m getting older. I’m getting tired of the hostel scenes. I’m getting jealous of a smooching couples at the end of the bar from my solo-seater stool. My parents are telling me to settle down. I’m getting further and further away from my friends as they’re building new lives with their partners. I mentioned about getting irritated at the endless “10 Reasons to Embark on Your Solo Travel, Woman”, or something similar, Buzzfeed’s-style-clickbait blog posts. And frankly, I’m exhausted of hearing the questions, “why are you travelling alone? Don’t you have a boyfriend? Aren’t you married?” or that understanding head-to-toe glare when I said, “one” after the question, “a table for how many?”
But then I went on that solo trip. Experienced everything. Found happiness again. Then hit rock bottom of sadness while waiting for my plane to go home. That was when I realise: I cannot let this happen.
I should keep travelling alone as a woman.
It is my duty, as a woman, to actually influence more women to take that tiny step to travel solo by keep travelling as a solo woman traveller, instead of just listing reasons of why more women should travel solo.
It is my duty as a woman travelling alone to educate humans of the world, men and women, young and old, that it is a normality for women to travel solo.
A woman travelling solo should become the most mainstream thing in this whole world.
A solo woman traveller should be so mediocre, hipsters should hate it because all the hipsters are travelling with their partners and/or their families.
This should become everyone’s mission, frankly.
The increase of solo woman travellers mean that the place/city/country’s safety level is highly praised.
It means that the place/city/country’s hygiene is outstanding.
Women would generate more economic benefits due to our fondness of shopping.
I mean, what could go wrong with the outpouring of solo women travellers?
So, come on, women of the world! Let’s educate the world that it is an ordinary thing to travel solo as a woman. And maybe I see you around on my next solo travel!