Posted: 09/10/2014 | September 10th, 2014
Last month, I announced I’d be bringing monthly columnists to this website. On the second Wednesday of the month, Kristin Addis from Be My Travel Muse will be here to give you great tips and advice on solo female travel. Her column starts this month. Let’s get to know her!
I sat on the beach in Cambodia, amazed that a white sand beach so pristine still existed in the world. There were no towering resorts or people with fancy drinks with umbrellas walking by. It was virtually empty. This was my second week traveling alone. I bought my one-way ticket to Southeast Asia, and, sitting on this beach, I knew I made the right decision.
I never did a lot of traveling when I was younger and certainly had never backpacked alone — or, really, at all. Four years earlier, I’d lived in Taiwan as a language student for eight months. After coming home and getting a full-time job like I thought I was supposed to, I couldn’t shake my desire to return to Asia. In those days of longing, I never imagined I’d eventually take off on an open-ended trip that I’m still on two years later.
So why did I quit my job to travel the world?
Even though I was professionally successful, I wasn’t happy. My cubicle felt restrictive. The job paid well, but I found that the money wasn’t enough to justify spending my twenties supporting someone else’s dream. I felt like something was missing. I needed adventure, and I couldn’t shake my desire to get back to Asia. But I wasn’t sure how to make it happen.
I spent years yearning for freedom, heavy with research into far-off places that seemed so removed from any reality I could imagine for myself. I scoured the Internet for some kind of inspiration. Was it possible to travel long-term without a trust fund? Could women really travel alone safely? I knew nobody else who could just quit his or her life and join me, so the only way was to go it alone.
The more I read online, the more I realized it was possible and the more the dream became a permanent resident in my mind. The desire became so huge, it was often the only thing I could think about. Quitting my job and selling all of my stuff was exactly what I needed to do to get back to Asia, so I hatched a plan and followed it.
The thoughts in my head echoed my friends’ concerns. Am I crazy to be venturing off alone? I wondered. Will I shoot myself in the foot financially and professionally? Will it be safe? Will I be lonely all the time? Will I have regrets?
But I knew that the biggest regret of all would have been to stay in a situation I wasn’t happy with: a world of fancy cars, high rent, and designer clothes that somehow never managed to bring me the joy I’d been promised.
I didn’t believe in the “American dream” anymore. I didn’t want a mortgage, a white picket fence, 2.5 children, and a cat named Fluffy. In August 2012, I listed everything I owned on Craigslist and sold it off in the span of one week, then promptly ended my lease and moved out of my apartment. In September, shaking in my shoes, I boarded the plane to Bangkok, without so much as a room booked when I landed.
Sitting on that beach in Cambodia, it felt like I had reached the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. What had I been so afraid of? It all turned out to be simple, safe, and easy.
I’ve traveled solo through every country in Southeast Asia while falling in love with the culture and food. I’ve hung out of doors of trains chugging past cascading rice paddies in Sri Lanka, dived with whale sharks in the Maldives, trekked over 100 miles in Nepal while carrying all of my own gear, and hitchhiked alone through China.
These experiences helped me figure out how to find the less-visited places, how to get invited into people’s homes in order to experience the true local culture, and how to delve deeper into each place without relying on a guidebook. As a solo traveler, these opportunities are often plentiful for me. People want to take solo travelers in, there’s more room for one, and it can all be experienced individually, providing an amazing learning experience about the world.
The beauty of traveling solo, especially as a female, has also taught me so much about myself. It’s made me more independent, stronger, and more resilient. I’ve encountered so many amazing women out there doing the very same thing, some of whom are as young as 18 or 19 years old.
I’ve received countless emails from girls in similar situations, those who want to leave behind a conventional life to see the world. I always tell them that if it’s in their heart, they have to do it.
In my monthly column, you can expect to see more posts on exactly how to do that — how to confront and get over fear, how to inform and quell the hesitations of your friends and family, how to end your lease and sell your stuff, what to pack, how to stay safe, how to find deeper cultural experiences, and much more. I’ll show you that it’s easier than you think to travel around the world as a woman.
Traveling long-term absolutely requires a leap of faith, but with the right preparation, it doesn’t have to be a scary one.
Kristin Addis is a solo female travel expert who inspires women to travel the world in an authentic and adventurous way. A former investment banker who sold all of her belongings and left California in 2012, Kristin has solo traveled the world for over four years, covering every continent (except for Antarctica, but it’s on her list). There’s almost nothing she won’t try and almost nowhere she won’t explore. You can find more of her musings at Be My Travel Muse or on Instagram and Facebook.