Ridin’ Solo: Why Every Woman Should Embark On Solo Travel
I recently saw the film Seriously Single on Netflix. It’s a South African rom-com that centers around the misadventures of Dineo (played by Fulu Mugovhani), a romantic millennial trying to find the one. It’s a feel-good offering that hits all the chick flick notes; a ride-or-die best friend with the much-needed humorous quips, an attractive (though painfully problematic) love interest, and an upbeat soundtrack.
In one of the more tender moments of the film, Dineo tells her best friend Noni (played by Tumi Morake) that she has never been to a game drive. The reason she’s never gone, by her account, is because she had no one (read: a romantic partner) to go with, to which Noni says she doesn’t need a guy for that. By the end of the movie, Dineo has finally confronted her fear of being alone and having shed her dependency on male companionship, goes to a game drive by herself, and takes in the sunset with a glass of champagne in hand.
This is not a unique example. Pop culture loves a story about traveling and it really loves a story about women traveling solo. Eat, Pray, Love, starring Julia Roberts in 2010, grossed over $200 million, and Wild, starring Resse Witherspoon, earned her an Oscar nomination for best actress. Both are centered around a woman who embarks on a solo trip after reaching a hard point in her life. For Roberts’ Liz it’s a divorce, and for Witherspoon’s Cheryl it's also a divorce and the loss of her mother. The two movies feature themes of inner strength and adventure, alongside epic shots of the California desert and Italy that seek to inspire both the characters themselves and the audience. The issue is that for both Liz and Cheryl, the catalyst behind their solo adventures is a breakdown of their relationships with others, as opposed to an organic desire to experience the great outdoors or the joys of pizza.
Tope Hassan, a travel influencer who has been traveling solo since she was 14 and has lived in 9 cities, says it's time that we ditched this narrative. “I find it really annoying that a lot of solo travel happens in the media because a woman is not finding love; something has to push her, whether a man dumps her or her marriage fails. I think that is why a lot of women feel like they don’t need to travel alone because they can travel with their partners. They only think of traveling alone when they break up or something,” she says, “I feel that there is a deeper connection that happens when you are able to travel solo. There’s a different power to it. If I find myself feeling lethargic to travel solo, I begin to know that something is wrong. Solo traveling gives me a lot of confidence and I feel like I can do anything. I’m a different person when I come back."
Hassan has a point. Solo travel is a blissful concept that offers (literally) a world of benefits for women that are just waiting to be explored. First, there’s the independence it offers. Let’s face it, traveling with other people is appealing because it allows us to share the responsibilities of traveling, whether it’s booking flights or navigating a foreign environment. When you’re on your own, you have to do almost everything yourself. While this might sound scary looking in from the outside, it can be massively empowering. Besides that, it expands our ideas of just how self-reliant we can be and this can translate into our life outside of traveling.
You also get to leave your comfort zone. When you travel with a companion or a group, you are often limited to the locations and activities that the group can agree on. This might not always be what you want to do and it often leans towards ‘safe’ places and activities like lounging on a beach at a resort. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this but you are more likely to take on daring adventures and have more flexibility in terms of where you go and what you do when you travel solo.
Then there’s probably the biggest perk of all; pure adventure. Travel is the art of getting to know the world around us, whether done solo or with another person. Seeing new sights, meeting new people, or just experiencing something different from our daily routine is a gift in itself. We, just like the world we live in, are multi-faceted and it is up to us to explore this world even as we do ourselves.
This exploration, however, should be rooted in a desire to both know better and a belief in our outer as well as our inner strength. While we might sometimes have companions along the way, it is imperative that we do not outsource this responsibility or neglect the need to know ourselves and our world on our own. Because, after all, some things can only be done solo.
Written by Tokoni Uti