There’s been quite the uproar within the travel community over the past week, due to the tragic death of an American solo female traveler in Turkey, and the surprisingly harsh comments people expressed about her choice to travel solo.
“Women should not travel alone, ever.”
“Her husband was irresponsible to allow her to leave for a foreign land by herself“.
Naturally, travel bloggers and solo travelers around the world were insulted by these reactions, with reason – what is this, 1950? Do women need a written authorization from their husband to leave the house?
It goes without saying that travel does have its fair amount of risks – but the truth is, tragedies can happen abroad, or right out your front door. Nobody can predict them. That’s the very nature of a tragedy. It doesn’t pick wisely, nor is it ever planned.
I, for one, felt very strongly towards this woman. Not just because she chose to travel solo – but because she was married, and decided to go solo anyway.
As a solo female traveler, I’m all too aware of the precautions I have to take to stay safe – don’t walk in dimly lit street alone at night, don’t talk to weird strangers, don’t showcase your expensive photo equipment. Common sense, or the usual “city smarts”, as I call them.
Knock on wood, nothing bad has happened to me. But it might. I know that. Again – tragedy doesn’t plan in advance. Anything could happen, both abroad and right at home. With or without my husband.
And as a married women traveling solo, I get all sorts of questions, stares and snorts.
“Are you and your husband separated?”
“Do you have one of these modern open relationships?”
“Trouble in paradise?”
And every time I reply that I’m happily married, I have to explain why I chose to travel solo, when I technically should stay at home with my husband, be joined at the hip, be sickly lovey-dovey. But that’s not who I am. I was never that person. And neither is he. We are two independent persons, we each need our own “me” time every once in a while. We complement each other, but we are not extensions of each other.
His “me” time is spent playing video games or reading about Japan. My “me” time is spent in planes, trains and historic European squares. Since he doesn’t nearly enjoy traveling as much as I do… I knew I had a choice to make:
Do I stay at home with him, or do I travel solo?
I learned very quickly that life is too short to wait for people to do the things you want them to do.
And that doesn’t make me a bad wife. That doesn’t mean my marriage is not successful. If anything, I love my husband even more now that we are not together 24/7. I love to miss him, and I love to look forward to seeing him, and have him pick me up from the airport and take me to a nice restaurant whenever I get back. I love to talk to him about my travels, even though I know, in the back of my mind, that he’s not really listening my enthusiastic verbal diarrhea, nor will he remember anything I said – he’s just happy to see me.
Of course, I won’t lie and say I didn’t need a few adjustments.
I had to perfect my skills in the auto-portrait department.
I had to get used to not have anyone to talk to in the morning.
I had to get strong enough to carry my suitcase around by myself (never underestimate the value of a husband for that).
I had to get used to the funny looks I get whenever I ask for a table for one at the restaurant. But I don’t mind – my smartphone is a very good companion.
And that’s what travel is to me. A choice. Even though we do travel together every once in a while, the rule of thumb in the house is to book a single ticket in my name. And it’s really, really ok.
I hated traveling solo with every fiber of my being the first few times I tried it. I didn’t see the point. But several years after, I have come to piece with this lifestyle, and everything it means. I even came around to appreciate it for what it is.
I chose to go solo. And I don’t regret this choice one bit.