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The Forecast is Summersalt’s global content hub for all things travel, packing, style, and discovery, packed with informative and inspirational pieces for (and featuring!) women who are going places.

Why Every Woman Should Take a Solo Vacation

Megan Lierley

Three years ago, I started a new job. A few weeks in, I realized how much I loved everything about my new role. I see myself staying here for years! This is what I’ve been waiting for! My career path makes sense now! These thoughts were almost simultaneously clouded by the realization that if I were to forge a path at this new company by staying for more than a couple of years, I might forego a long-time goal to take time off to travel solo in my 20s.

As life tends to unfold, I jumped the gun with these thoughts; six months, an evil new boss, and a company reorg later, I found myself in an unexpected position with both a lot of time and a little bit of money. (Thank you severance.) And when an opportunity unveils itself so obviously, I’ve learned it’s good to take that nudge from the universe. 

So, without much thought or planning, I booked a one-way ticket to Bangkok.

I bought a 40-liter backpack from REI and spread across my bed piles of clothing I thought I’d need for 12 weeks. My friend Dan came over and tossed half of it back into my drawers, then halved the remaining clothes again. In the end, I had only two pairs of pajamas, two pairs of running shorts, a handful of tank tops, two swimsuits, a pair of Chacos, and running shoes. I didn’t bring makeup, nor a single Instagrammable outfit. This was already the most freeing trip of my life and I hadn’t even left for the airport.    

I landed in Asia with one of my best friends, Jessica. I’ll forever be grateful I had someone in my life who said “hell yes” to booking a trip across the world for just one week (some people still had jobs, of course). On day four, when she was too hungover to function on our little Thai island, I went to lunch alone. I journaled, read, and started to quietly panic, realizing that this is what my days would look like once Jessica flew home. 

She did fly home. And over the next 12 weeks, through Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, my mornings of journaling, reading, and solo dining became a gloriously comforting routine — and one I knew would fade into dreams and nostalgia once I eventually returned home to bustling San Francisco and settled into a new job. 

Image Courtesy of Unsplash // Frankie Spontelli

Let Go of the Eat, Pray, Love Expectations

The thing about unexpected adventures is that you have very little time to set expectations. Most of my greatest disappointments and heartbreaks have been born of high or unrealistic expectations. One of the most important internal shifts I felt from solo travel came from not expecting much, be it from the food stall I’d stumbled into for lunch or the strangers I’d just met in my hostel.

When we fully relinquish the ideal of stumbling upon the best bánh mì in town or meeting a forever friend to adventure with, we become open to the uninhibited beauty of the unexpected.

I felt visceral awe and unfiltered joy as I gazed out across a mountain range in Nong Khiaw, Laos, where from the top I was looking down on the clouds. This was a village completely unknown to me before I randomly hopped on a bus heading there because I had a few days to kill before a flight. 

I felt genuine pangs of sadness as I said goodbye to three new friends I’d met early on and with whom I rappelled down waterfalls in Vietnam, ate green curry in Thailand, and whose advice and friendship I came to rely on as I was thousands of miles and a 12-hour time difference away from my friends and family in the US. 

It turns out that not having time to plan for what you expect to feel cracks open a level of authenticity I’ve only experienced half a world away from home.

Courtesy of Unsplash // Foto T

Leave the Labels at Home

Of course I’d encourage everyone to travel solo because of all you’ll learn about the world. But perhaps just as compellingly, the journey is about watching yourself in these new places, interacting with new people and trying new things, observing why certain experiences feel tough, what comes naturally, and, where you really struggle with something.

Until this trip, I considered myself a capital E extrovert. I didn’t need alone time and I got all of my energy from being around other people. Or so I thought, until I actually gave myself the space to be alone. Traveling alone to countries where I didn’t speak the language forced me to spend hours and even days without talking to anyone. Alone with my thoughts, I realized that my own company wasn’t so bad after all. This time for introspection and to do what I wanted, when I wanted, and without the influence of friends or coworkers or a partner, enabled me to realize things about myself that I probably never would have noticed by maintaining a schedule created on the false (or perhaps evolved) notion that I don’t value alone time. One of the most empowering takeaways from this trip was how many times I was wrong about myself.

Image Courtesy of Unsplash // Sven Scheuermeier

Practice Gratitude, Always

I’ve only grown more aware with time of how fortunate I was to take this trip. The privilege of having a financial and emotional safety net, a severance package that gave me an unexpected chunk of cash that I didn’t need to spend on medical bills or education, a healthy body that — no matter how many motorbikes I fell off or mosquito bites I got — healed and moved and walked and swam through four countries. There were days that felt lonely, the day I went to a doctor in Cambodia with strep throat or spent too much time with a new hostel acquaintance whose company I didn’t necessarily want, and I’m thankful for all of it. The worst parts make the best stories, anyway. 

I felt deeply and without distraction, and I focused. I focused on who I was with, what I was doing, what I was seeing, thinking, and feeling. Sometimes it wasn’t fun or magical or beautiful, but it was all meaningful. Even the less than ideal moments culminated in an opportunity that, though I didn’t seek it out, turned out to be just what I needed.