How to keep the concerns of others from overshadowing your adventure
Every single choice we make carries some level of risk. Getting out of bed in the morning, driving your car, eating raw fish…even eating cooked fish can be risky! We do these things without necessarily thinking about the “dangers” because they feel routine and normal to us.
When someone breaks the mold, though, we experience a heightened sense of intrigue and concern. Those feelings can go hand-in-hand – and bring an onslaught of unsolicited comments you might not expect.
The trick is to set boundaries for the many different opinions you’ll encounter.
Sometimes, the same people who think they’re being well-wishers, can also be the doubters, the hand-wringers, the uninformed, and the downers.
When I planned my first solo trip, I got a mixed bag of reactions. Some were expected and others were totally out of left field. I noticed that people projected everything from fears and misconceptions to regrets and genuine support.
Here are a few of them.
“Wow. I ALWAYS wished I’d done something like that. Now my life is crazy, I have children and so many responsibilities. But I hope you have an amazing time.”
This is a really nice and genuine reaction. I always want to argue, You can still take the trip! But I also recognize it just isn’t that simple for everyone. My hope is that this tone of regret will one day be turned around and fueled into their own adventures.
“You’re going abroad alone? Like BY YOURSELF? Wow. I’d never let my girlfriend do that.”
So...first of all, women don’t need your permission (but that’s another post entirely). As for how I process this, I think you also just have to shake off those -not so subtle- notes of disapproval. Guess what? You can celebrate your freedom and privilege to choose your own adventure.
“Is that even safe? I don't know...I'm not convinced. Don’t take any chances.”
It’s nice to know that people care about your safety. But I also know people probably wouldn’t tell me that before I took a walk in the park by myself. Just because something is unfamiliar to someone else doesn’t mean it’s unsafe. It’s important to be aware of the legitimate risks your destination or journey may carry.
And possibly my favorite of all: “Why?”
Contrary to how it might feel, the truth is that you actually don’t owe anyone an answer. Travel, be it solo or with others, means different things to different people. You don't have to justify or explain. Women are so often expected to have a companion or partner when they appear in public space. In some cultures, women are viewed as existing outside of the traditional family structure if they travel or adventure alone, particularly without a man. Again, in these instances, you really don't owe people an answer. Being vague yet friendly usually gets people to back off.
My top take-away’s from dealing with the mixed “feedback” that comes with solo travel:
1) You have to trust yourself and your decisions, even if other people are skeptical. Use your common sense, do your research, and decide what you are and aren’t willing to do. At the end of the day, it’s about your own goals.
2) Limit the channels where the comments come from. If you know someone is going to rain on your parade, don’t text them a photo! And don’t give their comments traction on social media, either. Of course, if someone is being flat-out racist, xenophobic, or rude, you might want to either hit “delete” or respond in the most appropriate way, depending on your relationship to them.
3) Remember that people’s reactions don’t dictate YOUR adventure! I still keep my travel plans somewhat close for that very reason. Own what you planned, what you dreamed, and what you intend to do, and don’t let anybody stand in the way.
“The more you love your own decisions, the less you need others to love them.”