Posted: 05/05/2011 | May 5th, 2011
This is a guest post by Ayngelina of Bacon is Magic. She will be writing a series of articles on traveling as a solo female in your thirties.
I had a textbook childhood. I went to university, graduated with a degree, worked hard, and eventually landed a great job as an account director at an ad agency. It paid well, and I wore jeans to work, practiced yoga at lunch, and went for pints with coworkers after hours.
But I wasn’t happy. The problem was I wasn’t unhappy either.
I was plugging away, doing my job, with no real highs or any real lows either. I worked, had dinner with friends, and went out on the weekends. I had enough money to go on vacations and do as I liked.
This was what life was supposed to be about, right? Work hard to score a great job and money to afford the trendiest clothes and best restaurants? I chased after that in my twenties, but once I hit my thirties, I realized that none of it made me happy.
I had always wanted to travel more than just for a short holiday. On vacations to Europe and Southeast Asia, I met people who gave up their careers to travel long-term. I was envious. I wished I could do that.
After ten years of working, that dream was neatly tucked away in the cabinet of things I wanted to do but was too afraid to. I had lots of excuses: I didn’t make enough money, I didn’t have enough in retirement, I wasn’t where I wanted to be in my career. None of those were true, but they helped me legitimize not traveling. But I promised myself I would someday.
But we all know someday never happens. We tell ourselves we’ll go after the dream in our head…but only if all the stars align, there’s a full moon, and we get a perfect Yahtzee score. In reality, “someday” rarely comes, and we resign ourselves to simply dreaming about it.
What finally pushed me over the edge was turning 32 and sensing my biological clock ticking. I didn’t know if I really wanted to have kids, but I knew if I did, I had to travel now. I believed once you had kids, your life changed too much to travel. My friends with children never contemplated going to Colombia or Mongolia; they just wanted a decent night’s sleep and a sale on diapers. If I was going to have children, I wanted one last taste of glorious independence.
When I fantasized about this one last great adventure, I thought it would be with someone else. I tried to beg, cajole, and bully my then-boyfriend into coming, but it wasn’t his dream and I was too scared to go alone.
I had traveled alone once before, on a week’s vacation, eating my way alone around Rome. But that was easy. A week in Italy is much different than selling everything, quitting your job, and taking a one-way flight to Mexico. This time, I would be giving up my comfortable life, and that was a scary thought.
But one lazy Sunday afternoon as I was watching a movie with the boyfriend asleep on the couch, I looked around and thought:
Is this all there is? Is this my life? Is my dream to travel over?
I was on this track for the boyfriend/apartment to turn into husband/house/kids, and I suddenly realized wasn’t ready for that. There was no convincing him, though — I would have to go alone.
Someday had turned into now.
I got up from the couch, went to my laptop, and started figuring out my finances. That was the beginning of the end of my old life. I was so afraid to go, but more afraid to face the regret of not going. I made a promise to myself, and I was too stubborn to break it.
Somehow, thinking that children were the end to independent travel gave me the push to finally go travel. I slowly started selling off all the pieces of my life, from furniture to clothing to my beloved book collection.
I put on a brave face when I told friends and family I was going, but inside I was terrified. What would I do alone for a year? Would I be lonely the entire time? Would I be scared to travel in countries where I didn’t know the language?
After going away parties, goodbye lunches, and farewell dinners, my boyfriend drove me to the airport. We broke up outside airport security. As I gave him one last hug, I clung to him tightly. He represented all the safety and security in my life. I had a hard time breaking the embrace. I was so scared of the next step.
But he was stronger and let me go. We said goodbye, and as I walked through security, I looked back the entire time, glassy-eyed, watching him watching me go. I finally turned around and walked through the security doors. And, as I passed the metal detector, all my fear and doubt vanished. It was replaced with this strong sense of knowing I had done the right thing.
Now, a year later, I look back with certainty that it was the right thing. I have no plans to return to my old life. I have no idea what the future brings on the road, but I’ve never been happier.
Ayngelina left a great job, boyfriend, friends, and apartment to find inspiration in Latin America. You can read about her adventures at Bacon is Magic (which it is!).
Conquering Mountains: The Guide to Solo Female Travel
For a complete A-to-Z guide on solo female travel, check out Kristin Addis’s new book, Conquering Mountains. Besides discussing many of the practical tips for preparing and planning your trip, the book addresses the fears, safety, and emotional concerns women have about traveling alone. It features over twenty interviews with other female travel writers and travelers. Click here to learn more about the book, how it can help you, and you can start reading it today!