There was a moment, the last time I traveled alone, when I was stuck in a dark alley in Mexico, with two wild dogs and a lazy pony roaming around that I thought, "hmmm... maybe this wasn't the best idea I've ever had."
But, that moment of uncertainty passed. Maybe it wasn't the best idea I've ever had, but, until Michael Fassbender comes along and whisks me away to Paris, it was the best vacation I've ever been on.
While I think everyone (gals and gents alike) should travel alone, I'm banging this drum hardest for my fellow ladies. Women often have a harder time escaping the pressures and expectations forced on them by well-meaning friends and family and creating physical distance between yourself and people's expectations can have lasting, positive effects.
There are plenty of reasons to travel alone, but embarking on some Eat,Pray,Love adventure to find yourself or some hokey, new-agey, mumbo jumbo like that, is not one of them. In fact, I think you'll be pretty disappointed if that's what your expectations are. Sure, you may discover a few things about yourself when you're vacationing alone, but the "real you" won't suddenly emerge after a weekend in Cabo.
So, put aside your visions of Julia Roberts rocking a sarong and think a little more practical.
Travel alone, because "I couldn't get anyone to go with me" is a terrible excuse for not doing something.
When I checked into my hotel in Mexico, the woman behind the desk asked if I was with my boyfriend. No, I said, it's just me. She shook her head with pity as she swiped my credit card, "Even no girlfriends come with you, Miss?"
She didn't really understand that I was there alone, at least in this particular case, by choice. This was my surf vacation. I wanted to learn how to surf, no one else I knew did, so I came alone.
Do not postpone what's important to you simply because others don't share your priorities.
With other people, come expectations and compromises. Travel alone so you can, for a short time, live without compromise.
Don't want to get out of bed? Don't! It's your vacation. Want to spend the whole day shopping? Go for it! Want to wander from museum to museum without a break? Knock yourself out! For these few days, you can be exactly who you want to be and do what you want to do.
We compromise a hundred little ways every day, so give yourself the chance to live untethered.
Most importantly, travel alone and you will discover that you are a total bad ass.
And I mean this in the most sincere way possible; nothing is as empowering as doing something totally on your own. For me, Mexico started as a vacation but ended up becoming a bit of a personal triumph. Just the simple act of trying something new, something scary will make your inner bad ass shine. Trust me.
Of course, there's being adventurous and then there's just being plain stupid. When you do travel alone as a women, there are some key things you should keep in mind:
Have a Plan A, Plan B (And a Plan C, Plan D etc.)
You get my point. Don't expect to just wing it wherever you decide to travel. Do your research to minimize surprises. Run through some possible worst case scenarios and make sure you are prepared to handle the unexpected.
In Mexico, I ditched the original hotel I had booked because I just didn't feel safe there. I found a spot closer to the beach that was more expensive, but had secure locks and way better views.
(Plan D was sleeping in my rental car and then driving back to the airport at the first sight of daylight, but thankfully it didn't come to that.)
Get wherever you're going before nightfall
90% of the problems I had on my solo adventure could have been avoided if I'd arrived with some daylight hours to burn. I found myself white-knuckling it through the Mexican desert on a dirt road as the sun was setting, and it was not a good idea.
Plan to arrive at your chosen destination before nightfall and you won't have to wonder if your family will one day have to find your body in the desert half-eaten by coyotes.
Never get trashed when you're traveling alone.
One night, my surf instructor, who was baked 90% of the time he wasn't in the water, invited me to a beach bonfire. Despite trusting him with my life in the water, hanging around in the dark on an isolated strip of beach with a bunch of dudes didn't feel like a good idea. I declined this particular invitation and spent the night in bed reading the one magazine I brought and feel asleep by 10. Lame? Maybe. Safe? Absolutely.
You will get a little bit lonely
Keep this thought some place safe, some place easily accessible, because you'll need it when you're eating alone at a bar while rowdy groups of sweaty tourists are all around you: alone doesn't mean lonely. It just means alone. It just means that for now, you're on your own, and that's not a terrible thing.
If you get lonely, strike up a conversation with your fellow travelers, or approach someone who looks least likely to rape you at a bar. You don't need to be in self-imposed isolation for the duration of your vacation. Meeting new people, without anyone else's expectations lingering around you, is incredibly liberating and you'll be amazed at the experiences it opens up.
The real reward of all this adventuring will come after you get home. You'll have a sense of confidence and self-reliance that you can draw on in your every-day life. Remember that part about being a bad-ass? It stays with you for long, long after you get back.
Follow Hemal Jhaveri on Twitter: www.twitter.com/hemjhaveri