Their Instagram pictures are striking and their blogs are poppin’. Everything went well and travel has made them better. They have learned so much and met the most amazing people. They leave out the long hours of planning and being stranded at the airport for ten hours because that’s just so unsexy. Ding, ding, ding! I’m guilty of all those things.
During my travels, I have experienced some really challenging times. When I considered starting a blog I wanted to name it “The Ugly Side of Traveling,” and focus on the unpretty things that I encountered. The hundred pictures before capturing the one; the things that did not make it to my social media pages. I was hesitant because I did not want to deter anyone from visiting a particular place. However, I feel a great sense of responsibility to prepare others and not only share the wonderful but also the unpleasant. My mission on Girl Gone Solo is to encourage women to engage in solo travel while telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
The truth is traveling is amazing but can be extremely difficult at times. So difficult that you think you are doing something wrong when a lot of it is out of your control. It may be hard for people who are new to traveling to deal with this reality because all they see on social media are the fun times and amazing pictures. They may wonder why their experiences are not like those images. These challenges are also magnified when you’re a solo woman traveler. Here’s the thing, travel is life and sometimes in life, things go wrong.
Allow me to share with you a couple things they do not tell you about traveling:
- You may end up showering outside in a pool area because the neighborhood you’re staying in unexpectedly lost water and that’s the only place with a little bit left.
- You may have to lock yourself in a bathroom and lay on the floor because of gunshots that sound like a war outside your window.
- You may end up looking for a taxi for 2 hours at night after a soccer game and passerby mistake you for a prostitute and make propositions.
- You may have someone invite you out only to find out later that their plan was to kidnap you.
- You may have to deal with street harassment.
- You may have to deal with racism.
- Your phone may end up getting stolen while you’re sitting outdoors eating at a restaurant.
- You may not have Wi-Fi at your vacation rental and you have no phone service.
- You may have to deal with taxi drivers trying to rip you off time and time again.
- You may get sick while traveling (altitude sickness, stomach virus, something getting stuck in your ear, etc.)
- Your checked luggage may get delayed and you end up having to wear boy clothes for 2 days until it arrives.
- Your flight may get delayed making you miss your connection and now you’re stuck at the airport for hours until your next flight.
All of these things happened to me and many, many more. It is important to understand that traveling is not all rainbows and vanilla cupcakes with buttercream icing. Be aware and do not feel like a failure if your experiences are not perfect. Do not feel bad if your face is not beat and you do not have a million different outfits to take pictures in. Don’t worry if you arrive at your destination and you are too tired to do anything. Do not feel pressure to visit all the “must see” tourist traps at your destination. Take things slow and do what you want to do.
Here’s the thing, none of this will stop me from traveling. My need to see the world trumps any fear that I may have. I share this with you, not to scare you. I share it with you to bring awareness and to let you know that you are not crazy if your journey does not look like your favorite travel bloggers’. Understand that what happens to me may not happen to you, but just be cognizant, prepare, and don’t give up because something went wrong. What matters is how you bounce back and how you continue to navigate your journey.
How do I overcome these obstacles and continue to travel solo when things can and do go wrong? I realize that traveling is not a fairy tale; it’s not an escape. I may encounter the same things I encounter back home. I may do the same things that I do at home (yes some days I wake up at my destination and decide I’m going to lay in bed all day, eat snacks, and stalk people on social media). However, these challenges have improved my critical thinking and decision-making skills.
I have become more patient, independent, empathetic, and a better leader. I take the good with the bad because I choose to see the world as imperfectly perfect and I am humbled that I get the opportunity to see a great deal of it. For every bumped I’ve encountered, amazing experiences followed. Perhaps, that’s why many may not share the bad; the good tends to outweigh. So go out there and see it yourself.