Saturday, June 5, 2010

Banish the Naysayers: How to Convince People You Can Travel Alone

You've bought the guide book, set aside the money and time and decided on your dream solo vacation, but when you share your dream with others, they tell you you're crazy.

It happens to men also, but women get a lot of flack for trying to run off on their own. A lot of negative comments are a result of ignorance and fear, so here are some tips to help work around that and get people supporting your dreams, not bashing them!

-"It's not you, it's me..."
A lot of the time, you'll get a negative reaction because the person giving it is quite simply jealous. They may have also dreamed of travelling alone, but never worked up the courage. They don't want you to have the fun they never got to, so they'll try to convince you not to go. You can tell these people apart from the others by the way they make excuses for themselves, "Oh well, *I* was going to travel to Indonesia alone after university, BUT I got this job and...."
You can simply ignore these people. There's no reason to waste time convincing them.

-Just the facts, ma'am
Every Tom, Dick and Harry has "heard from a friend of a friend" that someone went to the same place you're planning to go and died/got injured/kidnapped or what have you. Fact is, you can die crossing the street in your home town, so that shouldn't stop you from travelling! Nevertheless, brush up on your current affairs, travel advisories and history of the place before talking to people about it. If there has been any political unrest in the past few years, people will remember and remind you of it. It's important to know exactly what is happening when you plan to go, as well as the likelihood of future issues, so that you can counter these comments calmly and effectively.

-Where am I again?
One comment I heard from people when I spoke about solo travel was, "you might get lost." Yes, I might. Actually, knowing myself, a person who can get lost in a sweater on a sunny day, it's highly likely I'll get lost at least once per any given trip. Getting lost, however, is really not the end of the world! In fact, it can be tons of fun in a foreign city and lead to interesting sites and stops you didn't expect to see. Providing you're not lost in Antarctica or a desert, I don't see getting lost as being particularly life-threatening. Maps can be bought, a lot of cell phones have a built-in GPS and locals can usually give directions.

-But what if...?
Oh, the "what if?" people! They can go on forever and usually come up with completely ridiculous hypothetical situations that are so statistically outrageous, you just need to laugh. "But what if a stranger who has the Ebola virus jumps in front of you and starts bleeding all over you, while trying to poke you with a knife and steal your camera?" Ummmmm? That just sounds like a bad day.

-But you might get hurt
Along with the crazy hypothetical situations and concern for your navigational abilities are those who worry about the more mundane and real issues: you might get sick or hurt. Yes, you might get sick or hurt. You can also hurt yourself just walking from your kitchen to your bathroom or get sick on your way to work. That doesn't mean you shouldn't leave your house! Unfortunately, these things can happen anywhere, whether you're with someone or not. All you can do is tell people you are as prepared as you can possibly be - know local hospital or emergency numbers, have medical insurance coverage, carry a first aid kit - do all the obvious and reasonable things you can do within your control, but don't let the fear of the unknown stop you.

-Women as property
One comment my husband got when he mentioned to people I was taking off for a trip on my own was, "you let your wife go alone?!"
Tied into that comment was, "is everything ok in your relationship?"

Well, in my case, I didn't come with a property deed. It was never an issue of anyone "letting" me go. Though married, I'm still my own person, and I think most people in healthy relationships manage to keep a little of themselves to themselves. You need to work within the confines of your own relationship rules and do what makes you both happy. Sometimes some time alone is good for a relationship. If you trust each other, communicate and compromise, I don't see why one of you can't go off alone for a trip. Besides, they say "absence makes the heart grow fonder"! And if I don't mind saying, two of my pregnancies occurred right after getting back from a solo trip, so there's something to be said for a little time apart to freshen up a relationship!

Also, wanting or needing some time alone should not be seen as a threat to a relationship. In some cases, it can indicate problems, but I think it shouldn't be seen immediately as an issue. You have to love yourself and take care of yourself first if you want to be loved, so some time alone to nurture yourself should not be taken personally by your partner or cause fear in your partner if you have a good relationship.

Please don't let anyone hold you back from your dreams. Anyone who tries to is probably not the best match for you.


-People who love you will worry no matter what
Remember that the people who love you most will worry regardless of your location. I advocate coming up with a plan before you go on how and when you will contact key people during your trip to let them know you are still alive and well.

The key is to be secure in yourself about what you want to accomplish and be prepared to hit some brick walls along the way. Randy Pausch said, "brick walls are only there to make us prove how much we want something." If you really want to travel alone and know you'll get some negativity, do your research and work hard towards your goal. On the other hand, you might also be surprised to learn who your biggest supporters are and you won't know until you take the plunge. Happy solo travels!
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