Ever since 1911, the world has celebrated International Women’s Day on the 8th March. It may be 2019 (and we can celebrate women all day every day, k?) but we’re not going to pass up an opportunity to talk about how amazing they are. In the spirit of IWD, we asked female employees across STA Travel to send us their favourite solo travel story.
Who run across the world? Girls!
“It opened up a whole world of possibilities”
I went on my first solo hiking trip last year – I took my tent and headed to a campsite by Lake Faak in Austria, which is just by the border of Slovenia. I spent 3 nights camping there (borrowing my friend’s tent without knowing exactly how to put it up, which was a fun 30 minutes when I arrived!). On my final morning, I packed up my stuff and walked just under 40km along the Alpe Adria Trail to Kranjska Gora in Slovenia, via a 1900m mountain! It was a super hard walk – probably the hardest I’d ever done, plus I was carrying all my gear, so I was really out of my comfort zone. After a bit of a rainy start (and a few nerves!) it started to brighten up and I felt much more confident, and the scenery was some of the most incredible I’ve ever seen!
It really made me realise how much I enjoyed being by myself, putting myself out of my comfort zone – and it opened up a whole world of possibilities.
“The experiences I had were real and authentic”
I was a weirdo and went from never travelling on my own, to solo travelling for a little over 2 years – nothing like jumping in at the deep end! The entire experience was incredible… and I’ve never looked back, I travel on my own all the time now. I even prefer it (I get to be selfish and do whatever I want). But my favourite solo travel trip has to be my trip to Myanmar. I took a bus from Yangon to Kalaw, and from Kalaw I did an overnight trek on a group tour to Inle Lake.
Being a solo traveller in a group actually made it way easier for me to chat to people (I guess you’re less intimidating when you’re on your own) and I ended up spending my Inle Lake stay with the people I’d met on the trek, and even travelled up to Bagan with one of the girls, before meeting another group of travellers and going back to Bangkok with them!
The whole 11 days travelling Myanmar was an uplifting experience: locals were super friendly and helpful (even if they couldn’t speak my language), the landscapes were incredible and the experiences I had were real and authentic. Definitely my top travel destination so far! And to anyone thinking of doing a bit of solo travelling – do it, you won’t regret it.
“I made new friends from all over the world, some I still speak to daily”
Coming from an Italian background and being the baby of the family, they all tend to be a little overprotective of me at times and most people in the real world don’t really understand it. Unfortunately, none of my friends could get the time off work to go travelling and I realised this was a good opportunity to shake things up a little. I had always wanted to travel to the southern states of the USA, so after booking my return flights to LA I started looking into tours, eventually settling on Contiki’s Boot, Scoot N Blues.
Turning up to the airport on the morning of my flight, I started to panic a little. What if my shuttle didn’t show up to LAX to drop me off at my hostel? What if I didn’t make friends on the tour? What if I found myself in an unsafe neighbourhood?
In the end, it turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life. The people on my tour were mostly travelling alone, so everyone was keen to mingle whilst bar hopping through New Orleans and I made new friends from all over the world, some I still speak to daily. A number of people on my tour wanted to head to New York after the tour ended, and I spent the next 4 days touring the city with 3 of my new friends.
Overall, I learnt to trust my instincts, step out of my comfort zone and most importantly, enjoy my own company.
“Solo travel taught me to give my intuition a much stronger voice”
I wasn’t exactly an early riser when it came to solo travelling, at least not to far-flung countries outside of Europe. My first big solo trip was in 2016 (I was well into my 30’s) where I decided I wanted to discover Java and Bali on my own. And, what can I tell you: Not only am I addicted to this amazing country, but also to travelling by myself.
Here are five things I learnt during my three weeks in Indonesia:
- You’re never too old to travel the world solo – age is just a number in the end, it’s more about the way you approach new situations and people;
- I was barely alone during that time – because I was always meeting like-minded travelers… it’s easy!
- My comfort zone has taken on uncanny proportions – solo travel taught me to give my intuition a much stronger voice;
- I’ve learnt a lot about myself – you always hear people bragging about self-discovery, but it’s true: discovering the world solo does something to you;
- I took a deep-dive into Indonesian lifestyle and culture – learning plenty about the people, their life and the country.
And, what can I say, I did it again! Last year I went back to Indonesia for three weeks (in Sumatra this time) and I simply loved it.
“The most responsible midlife crisis possible”
I arrived at Wilderness on a Baz Bus (not just random wilderness, but an actual place in South Africa), with no idea what to expect. I went into the bar, with the usual shyness coupled with what I hoped was a ‘please talk to me’ face on. Two sisters, Jessie and Kelly, were playing pool at the bar and enjoying a beer. There was another woman, I think her name was Helena, who’d just hit 40 and was travelling solo all through Africa. She was worried that at her age it would be seen as a midlife crisis, and her friend reassured her that if she actually was having a midlife crisis, then it was ‘the most responsible midlife crisis possible’ – no expensive cars or inappropriate relationships!
I really hit it off with Jessie and Kelly and we ended up travelling together for a few days in their hire car. We drove to Addo Elephant park and spent the night camping, giggling in the torchlight and discussing the stars and planets in the sky. The next day, we stopped off at Stormsriver on the way to Jeffrey’s Bay, where we discovered a 1950s fancy dress diner and dressed up in their Elvis outfits and posed for a mini photoshoot with a load of Cadillacs – see our slightly blurry picture below.
I’m not in touch with Jessie and Kelly any more, but those days are some of my most favourite memories.
“There’s a unique connection that you’ll have with the people you meet”
It’s funny how much shock and disbelief there is surrounding the term “solo female traveller”, but the part that I think most people don’t realise is that there is very little “solo” time at all (although being alone is my absolute FAVOURITE thing about heading out by myself.)
One of the greatest adventures of travelling without a companion is that you end up opening up and meeting people that might not normally cross your path. There’s a unique connection that you’ll have with the people you meet while globetrotting. I will never forget the lovely Croatian couple that I met on my tour through South Africa – after the tour finished up in Cape Town, we all had a few days before we went home so we spent them together. One of them even joined me for my hike up Table Mountain.
Once they departed, I went on another excursion to Gansbaai and met another fantastic set of people from Kentucky with whom I finished up my trip with. These experiences add so much value to my memories, especially since I’m still friends with a lot of these people that I met while travelling.
“Through solo travel I made some of my best friends”
After waiting years for friends to join me on my travels, no one could ever commit, so I just had to be brave and book a trip alone. It was through this I discovered a love for solo travel, despite it being so daunting at the beginning, it’s now become so normal and exciting. You never know who you’re going to meet and it’s through solo travel that I’ve made some of my best friends.
I joined a group tour to travel around Cuba, where there were 2 other girls travelling solo and we all instantly clicked. So much so, that me and one of the girls decided to book an impromptu trip to New York just a couple of weeks after we met each other. We still chat, despite her living in Australia’s Gold Coast, and we’re going to meet up again this year in Europe somewhere!
“You’re more switched on, happier, healthier and more intuitive”
Maybe what sums up solo female travel best for me is the time I spent in New Zealand, doing a combination of road tripping and a hop-on hop-off Kiwi Experience. I arrived in Auckland after a disastrous journey, having lost a huge amount of money on a flight I’d missed (well done, me), and a lot of confidence after a really bad haircut (my first in almost two years)!
5 weeks, 3000+ km and a few new best friends later (one of whom is now one of my best mates, and we’re east London neighbours!), I left New Zealand instilled with so much confidence that everything back home would be ok; that I shouldn’t be scared of taking big leaps anymore – like moving to London for this job at STA Travel – because you can forge supportive new connections wherever you go in the world.
Solo travel brings out the best version of yourself and so everyone you meet along the way will love you for this. With nobody else to rely on, you’re more switched on, happier, healthier and more intuitive. You’re you, turned up to 100.
Have you taken the solo travel plunge? Let us know your stories in the comments below! Not given it a go yet? Head over to our solo travel page for some more inspiration.
Ready to jump on the bandwagon now?! Group tours are the perfect way to ease yourself in to solo travel (and make a few travel buddies while you’re at it) so check out our current tours on sale.