From messy micro-ventures, to long-haul lols. Follow my exclusive travel journal for Rein as I plunge head first (standard) into a series of solo missions, occupying the arena of the Gonzo on a #freerein exploration of what it means to travel alone as a woman.
The first time I ever properly took off on my own was to buy a Nike jacket. Proper, in the sense that I had proudly paid for the necessary travel arrangements myself and the journey involved leaving the immediate confines of my small town suburban existence for the big, bad city.
So, aged 13 and powered by paper-round funds, I took the 300 mile train journey from Darlington (NB: piece of helpful info for anyone who’s sense of North, at best, doesn’t extend beyond Peterborough - that’s North East UK) to London on a mission to get hold of the - relatively unremarkable - jacket I’d read about in a magazine which at the time was only available from one place on Carnaby Street and that if I didn’t get my mitts on it, I might, like, die.
Without even the tiniest shit given about the fact that I was 13 year old girl and all alone without responsible adult, or best mate in tow and on public transport for three hours each way (with all the presumptive weirdos and perverts who travel along with), I just booked my tickets went after what I wanted. Discovering along the way that the majority of all piss-heads on the East Coast Line get off at York, buying food on the train will leave you with no money left for food and drink for the rest of the day and that watching the world whizz by with headphones in and top tunes on, is one of the better simple pleasures. All aforementioned proving to be enduringly true; for better or worse.
And that was it. Unwittingly and in part thanks to a hopelessly banal jacket that I think I probably wore three times, I set a self-precedent for setting off on solo-missions which has been greeted by varying degrees of applause and - it’s not an exaggeration to say - total disgust, along the way.
Fast forward to present day and I’ve just recently announced that I’ll be heading off solo to Chile for a couple of weeks in September and that I’ll be there for my birthday - alone. This announcement was met with the following, but not limited to, reactions:
“Alone? Babe - I could come with?? Aww please don’t be alone!”
“I couldn’t travel alone - won’t you get lonely? How will you be safe on your own?”
“You don’t have to go alone though - can’t Andy (super cool husband) go with you?”
“That’s so exciting! Can I buy you some Pesos for your birthday to take with you?”
(NB: I love you, mum)
Of course it’s not a completely unheard of pursuit to hit the road on your own (male or female) and people will sometimes even approve: particularly if you’re wearing a backpack and even more so if you intend to do something universally accepted as ‘worthy’ with your time. Such as volunteering, or embarking on a quest to ‘find yourself’ as part of some organised retreat next to a beach that will inevitably have an insta-ready swing on it and an overpriced - wholly unrelated to the destination - macrobiotic breakfast option. The alarm bells will start ringing when you wish to do something other than lie on a yoga matt and fart in front of strangers; when you want to go ‘just cos’ and possess a no fucks given attitude to whether you see a single soul for weeks, or not.
So, and after much googling of “women travelling alone” - full of articles including the phrases such as, “as a single 26-year-old living in New York, I was sick of seeing my friends with significant others post photos of incredible journeys” (ZZzz..) - I thought it might be time to readress the balance and pour a little sass on the search results.
My travel journal (if you like) here, will be an account on behalf of those of us who are more mojito than macro-biotic (and as a result, might accidently burn a remarkable imprint of their bikini on to their pale skin while enjoying a few on the beach in Rio, and other misadventures) and who deliberately, whenever they feel the need, seek out the solitary, for solitary’s sake.
“Solitude, the kind we elect ourselves, is met with judgement and enslaved by stigma. It is also a capacity absolutely essential for a full life.” (Maria Popova, Brain Pickings)