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.