There is an ingrained societal belief that travelling alone is dangerous. A lone traveller is vulnerable, especially a female. We could get lost, kidnapped, coerced, raped, murdered. The prognosis is grim.
So, we don’t travel. We stay at home and follow the expected path. Or we travel with friends, family, boyfriends, husbands or on arranged tours and with groups.
As the years pass, the yearning to travel grows. But so does the fear. Fear is a learned response, children are not born fearful of travel, freedom or being alone. Fear breeds in adults. We believe it is common sense to avoid risk. I think we are wrong.
As adults, we get jobs, become parents and take on responsibilities. We deal with stress in our everyday lives. Situations change in a flash and we are expected to cope. We have to cope, we are adults, it’s what we do.
And if we have never voluntarily pushed ourselves out of our comfort zones, are we fully equipped to deal with the unwelcome stresses and strains of everyday life? If we didn’t face up to our fears in our own time, what will we do when those fears are thrust upon us?
As a child, I rarely travelled with my parents. Through school, I went on a few trips abroad and there was one overseas holiday with my mum.
But deep inside, I knew that there was a big wide world out there, and I wanted to see it.
But here’s the thing; I was scared. I knew nothing about travelling. I’d never even ventured into London on my own, how would I find my way? What if something went wrong, how would I ever cope?
I’d never know if I didn’t try. So, I chose a university course that would involve living abroad. Only in France, not too culturally different and not far from home. But it would broaden my horizons.
Having lived there, my attitude to travel changed completely. My unfounded fear started to subside and it was replaced by a wanderlust that I’d never experienced before.
Finding myself between jobs for a couple of months, I decided to head off to New Zealand and Australia. I travelled with a friend around New Zealand, but in Australia I was on my own.
I’ve now been to every continent, usually travelling with people but equally happy to go alone. I regularly found myself out of my comfort zone. Face to face with a great white shark or a drunk man with a gun. Never ideal, but definitely character building.
Taking myself out of my comfort zone voluntarily made it so much easier to cope when life got tough. I had experiences to draw on, but most of all I’d faced up to my fears, in my own time.
So what about the dangers of travelling alone? They are real, of course. As are the dangers of travelling in company. It’s all about research, knowing your destination and where you should and shouldn’t go. Understanding the dangers and keeping a cool head, coping despite it all.
And the dangers of not travelling? Finding yourself thrust out of your comfort zone when you least expect it. Unplanned and having never developed your own way of facing your fears head on.
Life becomes your danger zone, you face your own personal battles without weapons. This is the greatest risk of all.