Why Traveling Alone Doesn’t Take Bravery

The question is not whether traveling alone is scary, but if staying still is more terrifying.

Whenever I tell people I enjoy traversing foreign countries by myself, it’s usually met with disbelief. People can’t understand why a young woman would risk the dangers of traveling alone, or what the appeal could be.

There’s a certain rebellious thrill to embracing the fears that would stop most people from setting off solo. From visiting a country they don’t speak the language of, or following passions that society told them wasn’t what they’re “supposed” to do. Few women who’ve had a taste of guiltless self-indulgence soon forget it. Some would characterize that as bravery but I disagree.

There are things I’m more afraid of than traveling alone

If people stay within their comfort zones out of fear, what drives me to leave it is fear too. It’s fear of falling into routine. Of blending into a faceless herd of responsible adults who’ve forgotten how to have fun. Of waking up one day 20 or 30 years from now, not knowing where “the time” or life has gone.

Why Traveling Alone Has Nothing to Do with Bravery

Grown-ups who’ve forgotten how to have fun from “The Little Prince” (2015) / Credit: ON Animation Studios

There’s a passage from Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Moonwalking with Einstein” that I love to share with people.

“Monotony collapses time; novelty unfolds it. You can exercise daily and eat healthily and live a long life, while experiencing a short one. If you spend your life sitting in a cubicle and passing papers, one day is bound to blend unmemorably into the next–and disappear. That’s why it’s important to change routines regularly, and take vacations to exotic locales, and have as many new experiences as possible that can serve to anchor our memories. Creating new memories stretches out psychological time, and lengthens our perception of our lives.”

It justifies to me the belief that we don’t all have to spend our lives doing the same thing.

There are other benefits to traveling alone

The truth is, I first adopted the practice of traveling alone because it was convenient. I worked freelance, so I didn’t need to get approval for time-off unlike most of my friends. I had no boyfriend, no dependents, and no reason to stay still.

Being out alone in the world among unknown dangers, risks, and potential pitfalls reminds me that I am a strong, independent woman. That I am still capable of change and growth. And getting myself out of a whatever rut I always seem to be in.

Embracing the fears of traveling alone is the way I cope with the related, but far greater, fears of both dying and not living. I’m not brave for that, any more than those who submit their lives to chance and hope it was worthwhile when they reach the end of it.

Why are you traveling alone? Let us know in the comment section below!

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