In a pre-COVID world (anyone remembers what that was like?), I would always make it a point to travel by myself at least once a year.
Whether it was a quick weekend getaway or a full on 10-day overseas vacation, solo travelling was an annual pilgrimage I would go on almost religiously. I believe that being able to travel solo as a woman is a privilege we should enjoy when we have the chance.
The concept of solo female travelling is not new. One of the most celebrated records of solo female travelling in record is the 2006 memoir Eat, Pray, Love by American writer Elizabeth Gilbert. There are also a growing number of solo female travel content creators on social media.
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However, it must be said that most of them are from Western countries. To travel solo as an Asian female traveller is to ponder both gender and racial risks that come along when travelling anywhere.
Growing up, my parents were always worried about the potential dangers that may happen to me in a public space. As a pre-teen girl and later a young adult, I would hear about how dangerous the outside world was for women. When you add in the race factor – how Asian women are often hypersexualized in the media – worries become even more heightened.
While the safety concerns are understandable, they can be stifling and restrictive. Society seems to be punishing women for potential crimes that only may happen to them. If COVID has taught us anything, besides learning to wash our hands rigorously, it is that staying cooped in is not natural. Even introverts need fresh air.
With the right amount of research and alertness in place, we can still visit certain parts of the world solo, safely. Personally, I have been to Tokyo, Osaka, Hiroshima, Hong Kong, Perth, and Melbourne in the past 10 years alone, and am safely here to type about my experiences.
My verdict after all that solo travelling? Well, I cannot wait for my next solo trip again.
The digital world may make the global village a smaller place with yearly advancements in technology. However, nothing beats experiencing the world with your own five senses – to see, hear, smell, touch, and taste the world through every fibre of your being.
It is only by doing so that the knowledge and understanding of another culture and society is ingrained into your memory, and perhaps right into your very soul.
We are lucky to be born in a time when travel to almost everywhere in the world is possible. Well, unless a global pandemic hits us and shuts travel down, but that is usually true under normal circumstances. It would be a shame to not take advantage of this to discover our world – the only planet we can live on safely so far.
In Japan, I took the bullet train by myself from Osaka to Tokyo and wandered into a small neighbourhood police station to ask for directions. I went to the digital art museum TeamLab by myself, and happily ate alone in many delicious restaurants. I took the bullet train from Osaka to Hiroshima for a day trip and got slightly lost while looking for the Peace Memorial Museum, before taking the tram and ferry to the island of Miyajima.
I booked bus tours in Melbourne to see the Great Ocean Road, and also caught a musical alone in Melbourne. In Perth, I wandered into cafes and strolled through parks, simply enjoying my own company.
My favourite thing about solo female travelling is the way it has taught me to enjoy being alone; to have me time while also enjoying what the world has to offer. In my various roles as daughter, relative, partner, friend, and employee, the days can get overwhelming trying to balance everything.
On a solo trip, the only things I care about are where to go, what to see, and what delicious food to eat. I don’t need to follow a crowd or do things that I do not want to simply because it is what the majority wants.
Most importantly, solo travelling is a time to reset and rest from the tiring daily duties one might have. It might sound cliché, but it truly is a time to find yourself – and to be yourself.