Meet Leyla Giray, a Fifty Is The New Forty guest blogger! Leyla is publisher of WomenOnTheRoad.com. Leyla shares her thoughts with us on how solo travel for baby boomer women is more empowering and exciting than ever before!
When Solo and Alone Aren’t the Same
Have you ever skipped a trip because you had no one to go with? Stayed home because your travel partner backed out? Then you’ve probably tasted the bitterness of regret as images of glorious canals, exotic foods or extraordinary museums fled by, to be filed away for another day, another time. Did you ever ask yourself why you stayed home? Perhaps you were afraid of feeling lonely, confused about organizing your own travel, or unfamiliar with the places you were off to visit. We’ve probably all felt similar pangs of insecurity but these days there’s no reason to. It’s just a question of shifting a bit of perspectives. What if solo travel could actually be better and more fun than travel with a partner or a group? Would you be willing to consider that assumption for a minute or two?
The Myth of Loneliness
Let’s debunk this one first, because it’s one that causes much angst. Solo travel does not have to be lonely. In fact, it rarely is. One of my major challenges as I travel solo is finding alone time: I meet so many interesting people along the way I’m rarely at a loss for companionship. I tend to stay in hostels (no, they’re not just for students anymore) and the lobby is an active crossroads of people coming and going somewhere. I also stay with families so I can learn more about the places I visit. Either way I’m surrounded. Don’t underestimate people’s curiosity. A woman on her own raises eyebrows in many places and that often facilitates conversation. You’re more likely to be approached if you’re on your own: it’s much harder to break into a couple or a group.
Freedom, Blissful Freedom
This is one of my favorite things about solo travel: no negotiation, no compromise – it’s all about me, me, me and let’s face it, how often do we get to say that? I don’t have to be in synch with anyone. If I want a museum day, I get one. If I want to stroll along a boulevard, get a massage, go shopping or see a play, I just do it. I don’t have argue, discuss or negotiate. Some days I like to do absolutely nothing. And that’s fine too.
Solo Means Stronger
One of the most important things solo travel has brought me is increased self-confidence, an almost physical understanding that whatever happens, travel-related or not, I’ll be able to cope. Making yourself understood in a foreign language or sorting out a difficult problem in an unfamiliar place is distinctly empowering. There’s a satisfaction lying in wait, a genuine desire to jump up and yell ‘Yesss!’ while punching the air. Solo travel has always pushed my boundaries. With no one to fall back on, I’ve had to make efforts I would normally have avoided. I’ve learned to swim (after almost drowning), walk on high mountains (in spite of my vertigo), or look at creepy-crawlies with disdain rather than horror.
Just C’mon Down
Boisterous as I can be, I’m really quite shy and the bluster is more of a façade to protect myself. When I travel, I sneak out of myself and that shy person often disappears. Because I’m on my own I need to take that extra step to meet people.