People often ask me, ‘aren’t you scared?’ I try to address this question with careful understanding, acknowledging that this lifestyle is definitely not in the mainstream – it’s far from it. Most Americans don’t have passports, let alone the urge to solo backpack. My most common answer to this question about being afraid is simple: it was a lack of fear that allowed me to discover the world.
Speaking honestly, I did not chose this path on my own. In a sense, I was thrown into the backpacking lifestyle. When I was 19, I was planning on spending the summer with family friends in Israel; this happened to be the summer that fighting broke out in the country. When I landed at my last layover before flying to Tel Aviv, it was clear that Israel wasn’t going to be a good option for my final destination. I found myself stuck in an airport in Vienna with an over-sized suitcase filled with bikinis and nothing but Shekels in my pocket. I did not even know what country Vienna was in! I had a choice: go back home, or figure something else out. That something else ended up being my first backpacking trip, where I traveled to eight countries in Europe over the course of two and a half months. Before this impromptu adventure, I had never stayed in a hostel, never traveled without an itinerary, and never been alone abroad.
During that trip and the trips that followed, I discovered my personal strength. I have always been an outgoing person, but I relied on the happiness of others to make myself happy. While I still very much enjoy the company of others, I have discovered the bliss that comes from being completely comfortable being alone. I used to fear loneliness, but now I cherish time when I get to be my best friend and greatest travel companion. I find that when I am traveling alone, without the influences of my friends, family, and anything familiar, I learn what I really want to do.
Being a woman, I have been raised to fear solitude. Parents, teachers, and even politicians say that a woman alone is a target. Through my experiences as a solo traveler, I have found that I am no more of a target than any other foreign tourist. I have learned to become acutely aware of my surroundings and to respect the culture of the country that I am visiting. I do understand that traveling alone comes with risks, but I like to think that I would survive any experience and persevere. As I have overcome challenges while on my solo trips, I have developed a strong sense of confidence in myself both abroad and at home. This is why I offer this simple piece of advice to anyone who hungers for adventure: the moment that you let go of fear is the moment when the entire world becomes completely available for your to discover.
By Halley Crane www.imajorineating.com