Are You Alone? Insights From a Female Solo Traveler

Heather Markel, Writer, Speaker, Photographer, Traveler, Business Strategist

“The solo traveler appears alone, lost in thought
But takes in the entire world – sights, sounds and reflections.
Long walks, surprising discoveries, love found, love lost, new friends awaiting in every town.
A journey from the inside out in mind, in body and in earth.”

Heather Markel, May 2019.


Are you alone?

This is a question I am often asked. Solo traveling the globe, alone, means, well, I’m on my own a lot. Depending on who asks, and when they ask, I vary from bristling and wanting to protect myself to feeling openness to a new friendship. The few solo male travelers I have met do not appear to be asked this question as much as we women. I imagine, in part, because fewer men travel alone than women.

Enjoying a view in Ushuaia, Argentina.

March 2019

And sometimes I laugh at the question because none of us are really alone, ever. We may be physically in solitude but we are constantly connected with thoughts. So many times, I’ve thought of a friend and had them reach out shortly thereafter, or I’ve reached out to them to discover they were just thinking of me. So, mostly, I don’t feel alone.

“Even when we appear alone, we’re not really.”

Having solo traveled on vacations, and now for the past year, I realize I’m not phased at all by solo travel. Sure it would be nice to have a travel companion (but that has it’s own set up challenges unless you find the right one!) but the fact is, most people will more easily find excuses to travel than time and money to make it happen. So, for myself, I’ve found that if I want to pursue my passion, I have to, at the onset, do it on my own. I find this question really hits home with the wonderful women who dream of traveling the world, but can’t imagine doing it on their own. Whether for safety, for companionship, or something else, there tends to be a lot of fear and perhaps disappointment, around this concept for those that haven’t done it. 

Meeting friends everywhere I go.

March 2019

Of course, as a woman, I carry the burden of needing to think about safety more than a man – I always ask my hotel if it’s safe after dark. If there is ANY hesitation in the answer, I’m home by dark and in my room. I don’t drink much and I don’t go home with strange men, and even avoid talking to them unless I’m in a safe environment. But here’s the irony; traveling alone I meet way more people than I might have done if I were traveling with someone. In fact, South America, for some reason, has been a wonderful haven of beautiful encounters with people that have either been traveling the same direction as me, or with whom I have met up, sometimes more than once, in different cities!
Traveling alone, I find that thoughts are so much more powerful for me than ever before, especially around companionship. The other day I decided to take a hike I thought would be easy to get to with a bus. I thought “It would be nice to meet someone else going to the same place so I have someone to hike with”. I arrived at the bus stop and quickly befriended a French couple going to the same place. Good thing, too, because I didn’t know I’d have to hitchhike! Thankfully we were 3 but that meant most people turned us down indicating room for only 2. Just as I was about to give up and tell the French couple to go without me, a Swedish girl joined us and then a van pulled up and took all of us! And I ended up with company for the whole walk and hitchhiking return.

On another day I take a tour and no sooner than I stepped into the tour office to hand in my reservation ticket did I meet a lovely Argentinian family on vacation from their home in California who offered to take care of me all day. If you read my recent thank you post, you’ll see that, in fact, I really haven’t been alone much at all. Even at the beginning of my journey, where I was much more in need of solo time and headspace, I still made wonderful friends with whom I am in contact to this day. So, in the end, I don’t feel I’m truly alone, at all. In fact, it is because I travel alone that I am less alone than I’ve ever been – finding companionship every place I go means more friends in more places. 🙂

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