Over the past two years, women have surpassed men in the statistics measuring the total number of travelers. A nearly even breakdown in 2007 has changed to a 60 to 40 percent advantage in favor of female tourists. A significant portion of that 60 percent has chosen to travel solo. Even married women are increasingly traveling alone or with girlfriends.I find the study very intriguing. When I first started crisscrossing the country, I never traveled alone. I was usually in the back of a car, van, bus or plane along plenty of other people. I also didn’t really plan trips. I just sort of tagged along with whoever was going out of town. I let other people make the decisions of what we should see, where we should eat, and where we should sleep. I was just along for the ride.
That changed after my sophomore year of college. I traveled to Scotland to study 20th century British, Irish and Scottish literature for three months. I had been to Scotland before, but this time I was going to stay for a long time and I didn’t know a soul. It was an incredible and liberating feeling. I remember landing in Manchester before I caught my commuter flight to Scotland. I found a place to have a cup of coffee and a cigarette and I just savored being alone in a foreign country. For those few minutes, I was completely free of everything. No one knew me or who I was; I was not confined by the narrative of the past or the expectations of my future. I was gloriously and fully in the present. I was me.
I made friends in Scotland and even discovered my friend Julie from college was also going to be in my program, so I wasn’t as alone as I thought. But I still love to travel by myself. I love the freedom of making my own plans, deciding where I want to go and what I want to see and how long I want to be gone. I’m bound only by my own desires and my own choices. In a sense, traveling solo allows me to experience my world as an individual on my own terms – it allows me to write my own narrative of how I communicate with the universe.
I think more and more women are finding the freedom of traveling solo. Traveling provides women the opportunity to recreate themselves. In my daily life, I am a student, a worker, a writer, a reader, a daughter, a sister, a friend, and a million other definitive identities. But when I travel alone, I am nothing but a presence in a place I have never been before. There is nothing and no one to contradict anything I say, do, or feel.
When I travel alone, I am me as I choose to define me.