Solo Travel Inspiration-Time to Run Away from Home?

Solo Travel Inspiration-Time to Run Away from Home?

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Womanin front of European lake providing solo trip inspiration
Lynn’s Trip Around the World

Have you ever fantasized about running away from home?  Not because home isn’t wonderful, but because on some days you long to escape the humdrum and have a bit of an adventure. Recently, I came upon a post in a Facebook group that provided some solo travel inspiration. Lynn Strough mentioned that she left home to go around the world for a year and did not return home for almost four years! I was intrigued so I reached out to learn how she did it.

 As I spoke to Lynn, I kept pondering the famous J.R.R. Tolkien quote:  “Not all who wander are lost.” At forty-nine, Lynn relocated from Michigan to Northern California. In the past, she had pursued work as a graphic designer, children’s book author and illustrator, plus a fine artist. In California, she  also worked in the wine business.  Although she had changed creative careers over the years, she had no idea that a major life shift was about to happen. 

All was going swimmingly until she was hit hard by the effects of the 2008 financial implosion in the U.S. As a woman in her mid-fifties, the job prospects were pretty grim. After analyzing the stark financial realities, Lynn decided that, if she was going to struggle and watch her retirement savings dwindle, she might as well do something she had dreamed of since she was a child-travel around the world. As Lynn considered embarking on this adventure, she began to explore solo trip ideas.

             

Solo Trip Ideas to Keep You on the Move

Woman sitting on rock providing solo trip inspiration.
Lynn Strough

As Lynn sought some solo trip inspiration, she originally intended to be gone for about one year. Her solo trip ideas turned out so well that she ended up away for almost four years and only the recent birth of her first grandchild brought her home to the U.S. When I asked Lynn about her favorite solo trip ideas she said that she liked a lot of places but for different reasons.

High on her list of places for female solo travel was New Zealand. Lynn said that New Zealand has the most stunning scenery she has ever laid eyes on. Her descriptions had me quickly googling –New Zealand travel guides and blog posts on places to visit.

Her suggestion of Japan as one of her solo trip ideas also caught my attention. Lynn loved Japan because of its fascinating culture and she emphasized that you can get by without speaking Japanese. This is definitely a country to add to the Bucket List and I even found  tours to Japan just for women.

Woman at a castle in Europe surrounded by lavendar looking up at the sky with a smile on her face providing solo trip inspiration.

A trip around the world would not be complete without a mention of traveling alone in Europe. Certainly, Italy is a fun zone if ever there was one, but I must admit that Lynn’s stories of travel throughout Scotland and Ireland had me ready to book a trip asap. I found more ideas for traveling alone in Europe in this article on best European cities for solo travelers.

Don’t Let Questions about Traveling Alone Stop You

Like you, I had so many questions about traveling alone. At the top of the list is how to afford it, assuming one is not independently wealthy. Looming large is the cost of hotels while traveling. Lynn encouraged me to “think outside of the box” and consider non-traditional options such as AirBnB, housesitting, hosteling and even couch surfing.

The AirBnB option allows you to achieve the closest approximation of home. Generally, you rent an apartment, home, or even just a room in someone else’s fully furnished abode. One of the things I love about AirBnB travel is that it allows you to live like a local. Obviously, being able to cook in a kitchen versus eating out is far less expensive. Often you even have access to a washer and dryer which is very useful when you are traveling light with only a few outfits.

One of Lynn’s preferred options for accommodations was housesitting. She mentioned that housesitting assignments often included an overnight pet sitting job. She did mention that dogs are more challenging and time-intensive than cats. This is a way to have beautiful accommodations for free in exchange for your sitting services. There are several sites online-Lynn used mostly Trusted Housesitters. Here is a case where our age is an asset because most homeowners feel more comfortable with a “mature” house and pet sitter, rather than a young partying teen or twenty-something year old. 

Cheap Overnight Stays Make Solo Travel Affordable

During our chat, Lynn Strough mentioned that one of her biggest takeaways from her worldwide adventure was that it was actually cheaper for her to live overseas and travel from city to city as opposed to residing stateside. After transportation costs are covered, the biggest travel expense is accommodation. Apparently, hostels have come a long way since our college days. Some even offer private rooms, although I read some travel forums and they mentioned that a small hotel can often cost the same price as a private room in a hostel. There is a wealth of information on hosteling at Hostelworld

The couch surfing idea sounded interesting. Lynn said you do have to be careful, but there is a verification process. Learn everything you ever wanted to know about couch surfing at the website. Lynn emphasized that couch surfing is more of a cultural exchange-people are looking to meet new friends, learn about other countries, and be social.  It is recommended that you bring a small gift from home, take your host out for a drink or cook them a meal. In short, it’s not just a free place to stay

When I asked about the safety aspects of couch surfing, Lynn mentioned that young females tend to be more at risk. However, when selecting potential hosts, there are filters where you can choose whether you want to stay with men, women, couples, or families, and what age range you prefer.  I would imagine that other single females in foreign countries are also more open to making friends with a foreigner when it is a woman traveling alone. Usually, you have a Facebook, phone, Skype or email conversation with your potential hosts prior to staying. 

Throughout our conversation, Lynn said more than once that as she got to know people throughout the world she found that we all want the same things and have the same hopes and fears. Your potential hosts can tend to be very trusting to open their homes to a stranger and can be as interested as you are to connect before you show up on their doorstep. This provides a certain comfort level with this process. The verification process is there to protect both parties. 

Don’t be the Clueless Traveler

As our conversation continued, we both landed on the “elephant in the room”- are these places for female solo travelsafe?  Lynn mentioned that you certainly need to keep your wits about you and use common sense. As a precaution, you can carry a decoy purse with incidental, easily identifiable items, while keeping your I.D., credit cards, and most of your cash elsewhere on your body.  I found these travel pocket underwear a particularly good idea for the super-cautious traveler.

Completing a self-defense course prior to extensive world travel is certainly a good idea, but Lynn say that too many women let their fears get in the way of pursuing their goals. In many places, you might even feel safer than you do at home. 

Another important tip Lynn provided is the importance of trying to blend in. You certainly want to wear clothes that are not instantly recognizable as the “other.” For Americans, that might mean no t-shirts emblazoned with your alma mater, no baseball caps announcing your favorite teams, and no water bottles with logos that loudly proclaim your political leanings, religious beliefs, or pet causes. Respect local customs, for instance in some countries it’s not acceptable to have your knees or bare shoulders showing while visiting shrines or temples. 

Traveler’s Insurance-Is it really necessary?

According to Lynn, that’s a big yes! She mentioned the time she lost her cell phone and how grateful she was to have a policy that would reimburse her for $500 towards replacing that $1,000 phone.  Generally speaking, traveler’s insurance can cover medical care, trip cancellations, transportation delays, and lost luggage. One of the best companies for those traveling through multiple countries is World Nomads and you can click here for a quote. If you prefer to compare several different options, here is a travel insurance comparison site

Also, I promised Lynn that I would remind all solo female travelers to check their health insurance plans before leaving the country. You are not necessarily covered by your plan when in a foreign country. This is an important consideration when making your travel plans and one more reason to think about traveler’s insurance. 

Is Traveling Alone Fun?  

I always wondered, “Is traveling alone fun?”  Clearly it is. If you travel alone, you get to go where you want to go. No compromises necessary. Many of us stop ourselves from ticking off the items on our Bucket List just because we are plain scared.  We are scared that we just plain cannot afford it. Once you purchase that flight and get halfway across the world, you can see now that you can find work arounds for overnight stays. Also, you can explore different avenues for making money while abroad, although be aware of visa laws-if you are on a tourist visa you may not be allowed to work. Admittedly this is more doable if you possess a skill in demand, such as writing, sales, marketing, web development, or teaching.

Several times Lynn mentioned that she met others on her travels and often felt she was included more in social gatherings because she was traveling solo. Other people are interested in the fact that you are doing something daring and unusual-they want to hear about it. And you aren’t busy talking to your travel companion so you are more open to meeting others.

Major Takeaways from a Trip Around the World

Originally, Lynn’s Facebook comment provided a shot of solo trip inspiration for me. When I asked her about her major takeaways from her four-year trek around the globe she mentioned a few things. I think it’s best to let her tell us in her own words:

“Most of our fears in following our dreams are unfounded. What is your dream and what are you afraid of? Some of my biggest fears about selling everything and traveling solo around the world were running out of money, not being able to communicate since I only speak English, and not being able to get my migraine prescription (and there were many more fears, lol!)

 In regards to running out of funds, I discovered it is so much less expensive to travel in other countries than it is to live in the US, especially when you find out about things like house and pet sitting in exchange for accommodations, couch surfing, and renting by the month vs. by the night or the week. 

Communicating was not only not an issue, as English has become the universal international language, but figuring out other ways is actually fun – charades, drawing little pictures, using a translation app. 

And my prescription? It costs anywhere from $40 to $100 a pill by doctor’s prescription only in the U.S., but I found it in other countries over the counter for as low as $4. Yes, not only was it not a problem to get the same brand, but I discovered that it’s actually very affordable elsewhere. 

Another big lesson is that people are way more alike than different, no matter where you go in the world. We all tend to want the same basic things – food, safe shelter, community, and affordable education for our children. And that there are way more good people than bad. I met so many people who took me into their homes for a meal, or showed me their town, or even invited me to stay overnight with their families. We’re still friends several years later. Trust is a lesson experienced in a big way.

One more thing my travels have taught me is that being alone is not the same thing as being lonely. You can be alone and not lonely, whether you’re on the other side of the world with a backpack, or at home in your own country. Likewise, you can feel lonely wherever you are, but surprisingly I rarely felt lonely traveling solo, as I met so many wonderful people, and when you are alone people you don’t know are much more likely to include you in their fun.

And last, be yourself, whoever that may be. Let go of what other people think. There will be people who think you’re crazy, while others will think you’re the best thing to come their way. What matters is that you love and accept yourself; then you have a much better chance of loving and accepting others, which makes the world a much nicer place.”

I could not have said it better myself! Lynn Strough said that someday she is going to publish a book about her travels and I can’t wait to read it. Until she does, you can read more about her travels at Travelynntales.

After those bits of solo trip inspiration, I only have one question for you:  What’s stopping you?  Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” So start your daring adventure and go order a scratch-off world map and scratch these countries off your Bucket List one at a time. Carpe Diem!

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5 Replies to “Solo Travel Inspiration-Time to Run Away from Home?”

  1. Thank you so much for this! So many people question me when I travel alone. I love to travel alone. It’s nice to just do what I want and not worry about my spouse or my kids. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate this post.

  2. Awesome post!

    My biggest question about traveling alone is where do I keep my personal documents like my passport and credit cards so they’re safe and they don’t get lost or stolen?

    As for places to visit, Japan is one I’ve heard about several times.

    In fact, might just be going there next year.

    1. Regarding personal documents, I did several things – before I left I made a photo copy of my passport, driver’s license, credit cards, etc, and kept it separate from the actual items, so if anything was lost or stolen I had the info to get replacements. I also emailed a photo of the photo copy of info both to myself and to a trusted friend. While traveling from place to place I kept my cards and documents on me in a slim under-clothes waist travel pouch (there are many different kinds). While in a country, I left my passport and any cards I didn’t need that day locked in my backpack in my room. At hostels I used a locker. For the most part, in almost 4 years of living as a nomad, I had no problems at all. Once I had my credit card info stolen (I still had the card, someone in a store stole the info). My bank caught it right away, shut down the card, and sent me a new one all the way to Thailand. This has happened to me while in the US before I was traveling too – a good reason to always have 2 credit cards and keep them in separate places 🙂

  3. It was such a pleasure to talk to you, Lynn! I’m sure that we can all agree that you provided some wonderful solo travel inspiration. I feel a sense of relief knowing that I don’t have to wait around to find a travel companion who wants to go where I want to go, when I want to go. The time is now!

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