I used to be the most ballsy solo traveler. In fact, my first solo trip was spending a month alone in Israel when I was 19. There’s just something so magical about being completely alone with yourself in an unfamiliar environment. You learn a lot about yourself, and get to spend that time doing whatever you want to do whenever you want to do it.
Recently though, I’ve stopped solo traveling. I haven’t wanted to deal with the stress of a solo trip and I’ve been super busy at work. But the honest truth is, I’ve gotten complacent. I haven’t wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone, talk to strangers, deal with culture shock, etc… The problem is, that also means I’ve been holding myself back from so much fun and tons of personal growth.
Which leads me to today’s interview with Melissa Byron, creator of A Single Woman Traveling.
Melissa is traveling the world as a single woman, and blogging along the way. Her platform, A Single Woman Traveling, is all about her travels, as well as useful guides for women travelers, since we do tend to have different needs and concerns when traveling.
Talking to Melissa reminded me why I started this platform, to inspire people to live the lives they really fucking want to be living. Not the lives that seem safe. Not the lives other people want for them. The lives they really fucking want.
So let’s dive right into this super empowering interview.
What inspired you to travel?
10 years ago I visited Ireland for a friend’s baby christening. Since I would be staying in her family home, keeping costs low, I decided to go. It was my first international trip. As soon as I arrived and saw all the beautiful old villages and countrysides, my interest was peaked to start traveling.
Why single? What inspired you to create this platform?
After visiting Ireland I knew I really wanted to see Rome & the Greek Islands. I tried so hard to find people who would join me on the trip. Sadly, I was unsuccessful, I decided to go alone. I learned so much on that trip on what not to do when traveling abroad, it stuck in my mind I should tell others. Not only did I make silly mistakes when booking hotels and transit, but I really didn’t like being alone. I looked at it as I was failing in life because I didn’t have someone to go with.
At the time, I was measuring my success as a woman, on whether I was alone or not. I focused so incredibly hard on trying to find a relationship, I lost touch with who I was.
It wasn’t until I gave traveling alone another chance, and this time in a country where English was the official language, did I start to look at things differently. I did bike tours, walking tours, made some connections with people on the trip that I otherwise wouldn’t have met, unless I was alone.
I really looked within and decided that only enjoying my life fully being a happy version of myself would attract the right person.
Now, years later after traveling alone and knowing all the fears of what might be holding others back, I started my blog, designed to encourage and inspire women to travel. That is how A Single Woman Traveling was born.
What has been the hardest things about traveling solo? The most rewarding thing?
The hardest part would be not having that other person to spilt the hotel costs with. But, these days there are so many options with Airbnb or higher-end hostels, with some planning it can be a non-issue. The most rewarding is when you get yourself through a mini travel mishap. Maybe you get a little lost, but thanks to the data phone plans and Google maps, you find your way.
Visiting a foreign country on your own is a brave act, and it can feel quite rewarding when you go alone. I find that the time you spend with just yourself in a place you know not a soul, you get closer to you.
What is the hardest thing about being the center of your brand and in front of the camera all the time?
This is a great question. Having to even answer it is part of what held me back for years from starting the blog in the first place. Being so public about who I am, opens me up to criticism and negative feedback.
You have to be very confident in who you are and what you have to say to get in front of the camera. Recently I’ve started to do IG lives, talking to the camera, and that has been a huge challenge for me. I worry constantly, how do I look, do I sound stupid? I realize that if I want people to believe in what I am telling them, I have to believe in myself and just get out there. Unfiltered…ok, maybe a light filter, haha.
Your favorite destination for solo travel?
I would say my all-time favorite is Copenhagen. It’s hard to make just one choice, as I love Amsterdam very much as well. Copenhagen is so easy to navigate. It’s safe, and has the best restaurants!
Are you open to a relationship? What happens if you meet someone?
I am open to meeting someone, though I am not actively looking for someone. The work I continue to do on myself and my self-worth is still very much the most important thing to me.
I will say, that I think that I am emotionally healthy enough for a relationship. I am solid in who I am as a person, and what I can contribute to a relationship. I am no longer viewing it as the only important thing in my life, which is key to a healthy relationship.
Someday I will meet someone, and when I do, I know that my experiences of getting to know myself through travel will have made me ready. I plan on always staying true to my passions, and if I felt like I needed time to connect with myself, I would still take a solo trip.
Have you noticed different cultural perceptions around being a single woman?
I am always expecting that I will encounter some disapproving locals or onlookers. I’ve only ever received more praise for my bravery than anything else. Some people will be quick to tell you that they could NEVER travel alone or don’t want to. I respect all people’s views of solo travel. I only concern myself with how I feel. If I feel ok with, great, they can feel however they want.
What advice do you have for single women out there?
I’m going to give the advice that I truly wish I had in my younger years. Get to know yourself. Really let yourself enjoy EVERY moment that makes you happy. Please don’t waste a minute in any moment thinking it would be a bit more special if you had someone there with you to share it with. You are ENOUGH. The kinder and more forgiving you are to yourself, the more you can evolve and grow. Don’t get stuck in seeing what others have and think what you have is nothing compared to them.
If you want to go to Rome, go to Rome, eat the whole pizza. The only thing getting in the way of making that moment special is your perception that it should be different. It took me so many years to realize this.
My promise to you is the more you celebrate yourself the more others will take notice and join in.
All photos courtesy of A Single Woman Traveling.
“Why are you still single?”
A client once fired me for asking him this question
I know this questions can be painful. And it’s definitely loaded.
Loaded with shame for not being “coupled.” Loaded with the pressure of family, friends, people from high school. Fuck, even Facebook ads might be subtly letting you know it’s time to get married.
But here’s the thing, why ARE you still single?
I mean you’re probably a total catch, right? I’m sure your friends assure you the right guy will magically come along eventually. It’s just not the right time yet!
I’m sorry to tell you this, but your friends are wrong. The right guy is not going to magically appear in your life “when the time is right.”
The right guy will only appear in your life after you have done the hard work to love yourself and to heal beyond the patterns that are keeping your trapped in chronic singledom and toxic relationship patterns.
“Why Are You Still Single?”
To manifest your dream relationship, you need to seriously ask yourself this right now.
“I’ve been busy.” “I haven’t met the right person.” “Maybe when work gets less crazy…”
These are not acceptable answers.
The answer I want, the answer that will lead you to your dream relationship, is in the place where you don’t want to go. The feelings you’ve been trying to outrun.
What if I told you that the relationship of your dreams (and your emotional freedom) are in the parts of yourself that you are afraid to visit. The memories you’re afraid to touch. The parts of yourself you really really don’t like acknowledging. What if everything you wanted was behind the door you’re most afraid to open?
It is. That’s what healing your way to love is.. going where you don’t want to go to bring healing to the part of yourself you have been trying to ignore and outrun.
“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” FDR
I know your triggers are extremely visceral. I know trauma is probably living in your body and unconscious. I know you have good reason to be sad, angry, wounded…
But you don’t have good reason to stay where you are. From where you are you will just keep reaching for relationships and finding the same dysfunctional patterns instead.
You do have good reason to face your fears and do the hard work to heal.
The path to your soulmate starts today.
But it doesn’t start on dating apps, at a bar, with a makeover, at the gym… it starts in one place and that is in the moment you decide you love yourself enough to admit that it’s time to heal.
And that you may need some help to get there.
It starts with loving yourself enough to ask the one question you’ve been avoiding all this time.
So why are you still single?
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June marks my anniversary of working as a matchmaker. Let me tell you, it has been a crazy, rewarding, and deeply challenging ride. I have touched the lives of hundreds of people and curated almost 200 dates!
Whenever I share with someone that I’m a matchmaker, their eyes go big. Telling people you’re a matchmaker is kind of like saying you’re a fairy god mother! The instant follow up question is, “How do you even get into that line of work!?”
I usually just tell people, “Oh, it’s a long story,” because it is, and came at the climax of a long personal, academic, and professional journey that I usually don’t want to go into. But now, in honor of my matchmaker-versary I’m telling the whole story.
There are so so many reasons I became a matchmaker. In fact, falling into this profession was so kismet I know matchmaking is a huge part of my life’s purpose.
First things first, education.
I got my BA in Religious Studies. People thought I was NUTS to major in such a “fringe” topic. More on why I made that choice in a later article. But the fact is, Religious Studies was the perfect background for matchmaking.
While studying religion, I had become weirdly obsessed with the field of Nationalism Studies. The idea of getting a job out of college sounded soul crushing and I didn’t want to continue working in non-profit because I was deeply burned out, so I decided to give academia a chance. I moved to Budapest, Hungary to continue my study of nationalism at Central European University.
The entire time I was in grad school, I was sick with anxiety. Because yeah, graduate school is fucking hard, but also because I was sure I would never find a job.
What kind of job does a person with my background get???
Surprisingly, there were a few options on the table for me after grad school. One of them was even seemingly a “dream” opportunity, exactly related to my field of study and background. I would have made great connections and lived in New York City. But when my would-be future boss called to ask when I could fly into New York to meet the Executive Director and take a writing test, my stomach dropped and time stood still. I couldn’t imagine a future for myself in New York. I looked out at the sun coming through my window and somehow knew there was no way I was going to be leaving Budapest. I had zero desire to live in NYC and frankly, I really couldn’t afford it. I told him I had decided to stay in Hungary, and he said he couldn’t blame me.
But suddenly I was unemployed!
I figured I’d live off of my savings for a few months while applying for jobs in Budapest. In the meantime, I could pick up some freelance writing gigs here and there.
Pretty soon, I was making more money as a freelance writer than I would working an office job in Budapest. And I loved the freedom of it, the ability to control my income month to month. I had full autonomy over my life! I loved all the random gigs I got that forced me to learn something new every day. But pretty soon, I burned out on writing. Something that was once a relaxing hobby became the source of my anxiety.
I hated the solitude of my work; there was no team backing me up. Finding my own clients was exhausting and my income was always uncertain. Over the course of a year, more and more writing jobs got outsourced to Kenya and the Philippines. My wages dropped, I felt like I was fighting for every gig, editors treated me terribly, including sexual harassment, and the once well written essays on international politics I had been contracted for became a gig churning out the fakest of the fake news. Living with a deadline always hanging over my head started to feel like the sword of Damocles. I had constant anxiety.
I was spent and I knew I needed a change.
Thanks to an organization called Remote Year, I knew that more and more organizations were hiring fully remote teams, which meant being able to travel AND work. I started stalking a job board called We Work Remotely. I had no idea what I wanted to do. All I knew was that I wanted to help people and I wanted to be able to work from home (or anywhere). Partially so I could continue traveling the world and partially because I had a really painful autoimmune disease that sometimes would prevent me from being able to work or drive a car.
In the meantime, I had picked up a badly paid job writing about relationships and dating. The pay was embarrassing, but it published with a byline and a gut feeling told me to accept it because it would lead to other things.
On a personal note, I had just gone through a TERRIBLE breakup. I mean truly, I had hit the rockiest of rock bottom. My personal life was a complete mess. I had temporarily left Budapest to come back to the US so I could work with a hypnotherapist and fix my relationship with myself and with men. Most of my free time was spent learning about relationships and making sense of everything I was going through.
One night at 3 am I saw a job posting for a matchmaking company on We Work Remotely. A MATCHMAKING COMPANY. I had no idea that was a real thing AND they hired remotely!!! My dream in high school had been to be a matchmaker, but I had no idea it was a real thing outside of reality television.
I stayed up until 4 am and completed the application mostly just because I thought it was funny. I remembered to include some of my recently published articles on dating in my cover letter. I submitted my application pretty sure they wouldn’t hire me, then fell asleep.
By the time I woke up in the morning, I had been invited to a group interview. I got hired 6 days later.
During my one-on-one interview I spoke candidly about my experiences in abusive relationships and that I thought I could really help women who had been through abuse and were hoping to date again. I reflected on my experiences learning about religion and how it might help me understand my clients better. I led with my heart and was honest about who I was and what I could deliver.
As it turns out, my background in Religious Studies, Nationalism Studies, and politics was perfect for matchmaking. 99% of my client have ethnic, political, or religious preferences, usually, all of the above. If I didn’t have my academic background, I probably wouldn’t be able to serve my clients the high level, bespoke experience they expect. And I certainly wouldn’t be able to understand where they were coming from.
I have the freedom to set my own hours and to work from wherever I want. I help people every day. I get to be creative and to bring more love into the world daily. I actually use my degrees, which are luckily in subjects I care about deeply. I got here by following what I was passionate about and what interested me. I said no to opportunities that looked great, but felt wrong. I dreamed big and believed in myself. And I make the crazy leaps other people might have shied away from. I trusted my gut.
Sometimes late at night I think, “Where would I be if I had listened to all of the people who thought they knew what was best for me?” and shudder.
Whether you know what you want your dream life to look like or not, you can get there. It’s about listening to your inner voice, focusing on your own healing, and taking risks. Never in a million years did I ever think I would be living a life this easy and this magical.
So tell me, what does your dream life look like?
You can’t market your way to love.
What I mean is, you can’t show up as a sanitized, mass marketable version of yourself and think that will still turn on your soulmate. Nope!
Don’t get me wrong, most people don’t consciously realize they’re being inauthentic. Our culture, education system, fuck even our families, train us to be a “likable,” socially acceptable, easily digestible version of ourselves. But until we break out of that mindset and live from our authentic soul self, we will not manifest our soul partner. And, hey, I know it’s hard to show up as yourself. I’ve been there! I used to use dating apps as a way to seek mass validation. I was seeking the feeling of being pretty and likable, rather than using apps as a way to show off my authentic self, sense of humor, and kick ass lifestyle. Sure, I got lots of matches, because I was good at content marketing, but none of them were my match. They liked a fabricated version of me, not the real me. And by being inauthentic, I was probably repelling people who would actually appreciate me.
Your soulmate resonates with you at a soul level, not at a surface, mass marketable-self level. That’s why so many people who look perfect for each other on paper just don’t have any chemistry, while some people who logically don’t make sense together are perfect for each other. I see this every day through my work as a matchmaker. It doesn’t matter how good a match looks on paper, if both people aren’t leading with their soul, there will never be chemistry.
Being out of touch with your soul will create plenty of blocks that prevent you from actually manifesting and recognizing your soulmate. For one, you HAVE to show up as your most radiant, authentic self to manifest your soulmate. When you show up authentically, not only do you magnetize people to you who are vibrating at the same frequency, but you send a powerful message to the Universe. “I love myself. I love this being you have created for me to experience and the vessel you put it in. I am WORTHY of someone who feels the exact same way about me. And I won’t accept anything less.”
Second, if you don’t show up as your radiant, authentic, soul self, you will attract people who don’t appreciate all of you. This is when you attract partners that use you and want to change you, rather than partners who celebrate you at a soul level. Love yourself 100% or you won’t find a partner who will. I know, easier said than done. But doing the work to fully integrate and love all parts of yourself? So, so worth it.
AND you will be out of touch with what you actually crave in a partner. If your societal programing is still running the show, you will only pursue what you think you SHOULD want, rather than what your soul needs. How can you manifest your soulmate when you have no idea what your soul actually wants? I can’t tell you how many clients I see torturing themselves to fit in a box of what they think they should be pursuing, what their family would approve of, what their friends would be jealous of, rather than someone they could fall truly, madly, deeply for. Your parents, friends, and colleagues are not going to spend the rest of their lives with this person, so remove the blinders of their opinions.
“I ate society. It poisoned me.”
If you are unsatisfied in your dating life, it’s probably because your soul is not leading; your fears and societal programming are.
Does this sound familiar? You keep having shitty dates and can’t remember the last time you actually had chemistry with someone? You know something is off and dating feels exhausting? You’re losing hope as well as your passion in general? You can’t even remember what the magic spark feels like? Time to date with your soul! Drop the judgement and call in what your soul craves, not what you THINK you want.
Wait, but how do I do that?
If you’ve been out of touch with your soul for awhile, it can be hard to recognize that voice when it’s speaking. You’ve probably even been suppressing it. I’m going to be honest, building a bridge back to your authentic soul self is not easy work and you won’t have over night success. You might need help to get there. That’s why one whole module in my love coaching package is on deep soul desires.
If you want to get in touch with your soul the first place to start is by observing all of your thoughts without judgement. When you feel yourself judging, gently release it. This will help you to recognize the voices in your head and to hear yours more clearly. Once you do that, you can start communicating with your soul. Ask yourself, “What does my soul want?” “What does my soul want for dinner?” “What color does my soul want to paint my bedroom?”
As you do this, you will slowly start to build up this relationship. It IS a relationship, and you have to develop that trust again. But as you do, you’ll begin to step into and create the life you really want. Your vibration will change from “meh” to radical self love. You’ll be on the path to manifesting your soulmate.
If you’re ready to align your dating life and dating app profiles with your authentic self, check out my free ebook, Mindful Dating in the Digital World.
What is your soul craving today? What does your soul want you to do right now?
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I love the book Eat, Pray, Love.
I think it’s a fantastic exploration of healing, travel, and heartbreak. It has inspired people to heal deeper, travel more, and live more fully.
But the movie version? Well the rom-com version of Eat, Pray, Love kind of makes it seem like healing can be tied up with a nice little bow. Like you can have a grand old time traveling the world while healing your heartbreak in perfect hair and makeup. Oh, and at the end, there will be a sexy, sexy Brazilian soulmate waiting for you.
Anyone who has embarked on a healing journey knows that it is hardly picture perfect. Throw travel into the mix and well, it can turn into a hot mess.
But people still want to know…
Can travel help me heal?
The answer is yes, but…
Yes, travel can help you heal, but probably not in the way you’re envisioning.
I’ve known a lot of people who felt like they were at an impasse in their lives. Maybe post breakup, just got fired from a job, or some other trauma. Their solution to their feelings of stagnation, fear, or heartbreak was to drop everything and travel. I’m not saying that travel isn’t the right decision in those situations, maybe it is. But travel is not going to be a balm for your wounds that helps you forget your troubles. Travel brings you face to face with the root of your trouble… yourself.
I talk to a lot of people who want to travel because they want to run away from their pain and their problems. Well, unfortunately, the Universe doesn’t let you run away from your problems.
Whatever you’ve been running from will show up again and again on the road.
That toxic boyfriend you left behind? You’ll meet him several more times, in very tempting packages. Your abandonment issues? You’ll see them every time you miss a flight or break away from a travel companion.
You can’t outrun your problems.
Guess why? Because you, my friend, are pretty much your only problem…
And the only solution. Even when life throws things at us that are outside of our control, it’s still up to us to heal the pain, shift our mindset, and manifest something different.
“Wherever you go, there you are.”
You can’t ever escape yourself. The only way to escape your patterns, your trauma, your relationships, is to face them, and to heal them. Travel wakes you up to this reality because no matter how far away you get from your old life, your problems keep showing up. That’s when the healing work really begins.
For me it took two years abroad before this reality set in. I couldn’t figure out why my problems kept showing up again and again despite my constant motion. I had always been a runner. From my problems, from my relationships, from myself. How many guys had run after me literally yelling, “You can’t keep running away from me!”
Once I realized that I was the problem and I was never really going to be able to outrun myself, I moved back to the US. The resources I needed for healing weren’t available to me where I was living, although nowadays the Internet has made almost any healing modality just a few clicks away.
Moving back was a really painful decision for me. It felt like a failure. I had to put my ego attachment to being a “traveler” aside in order to get myself the healing that I needed. I did hours and hours of hypnotherapy. I got certified as a theta healer and a spiritual life coach. I did acupuncture, reiki, yoga, and more. And the journey still isn’t over for me. I had to put the physical journey aside in order to take an internal one.
That being said, travel can be an incredibly powerful first step in your healing journey, even if it isn’t the ultimate solution.
Travel does give you the space to heal.
There are times when you might find that you want to heal, but the people around you are sabotaging that. It’s not that they don’t want you to heal, it’s that they are used to a version of you and they don’t want things to change. They might even lash out, “Who do you think you are?” “Wow, you’ve changed so much.” Especially the people who were able to take advantage of a weaker version of yourself. In that sense, travel takes you away from the routines, jobs, and people that have expectations of you, and don’t necessarily want you to do the healing work. Travel creates the space to heal, analyze your relationships, and become a new version of yourself.
What about past lives?
If you find yourself fixated on visiting one particular location, you might have experienced a powerful past life there. If you can’t shake the desire to go there, it’s a sign from your soul that you have some healing work to do around this particular past life. I would recommend working with a past life regression therapist to figure out what happened. Once you do that you may find that you still have an unbelievably strong desire to visit that location. At which point, I would recommend heeding the call. You might need to step into the physical energy of that spot to complete your healing.
Journal About It:
- Where do you want to visit? Why?
- What in your life do you want to leave behind?
- Do you ever have vivid dreams about a place you’ve never been?
- What part of your being is asking you to travel?