Women, spend time with yourselves (instead of the “travel alone” thing)

ALONE. Separated from others. Exclusive of anyone or anything else. Having no one else present. On one’s own. Indicating that something is confirmed to the specified subject or recipient.

Every two or three months, I book a night or two of accommodation for one person in Warburton. Yes, I have a husband, a best friend, a sister who could accompany me, but I choose to take these trips without a companion. Why? Because I believe that it’s incredibly important for people to spend some time with themselves. Especially when those people are women. It’s important for men, too, but it really hit me that this really is still predominantly such a women’s issue when I was sitting in a café on the weekend waiting to order breakfast; I eventually called someone over to take my order, and he said “ohh, I just assumed you were waiting for someone.” That’s when I decided to write this post instead of another food review.

If, like me, you’re a lady who enjoys her travels, you’ll have no doubt read the myriad articles and blog posts out there titled “Why All Women Should Travel Alone” or one of its variations. You’ll be a better person if you can be more independent, they say.  You’ll meet so many new people that you’d never have had the change to meet if you were travelling with a companion. You’ll be forced right out of your comfort zone. You’ll be able to eat and drink and see and do whatever you want and no one can stop you!!! Oh, and you should definitely do this before you turn 30. Because apparently your years of excitement and adventure end and your carriage will turn back into a pumpkin then.


These articles aren’t all bad; I’m all for anything that encourages women to take control of their lives, but I think there is a HUGE difference between “travelling alone” and “spending time with yourself.” 

As a textbook introvert who suffers from depression and anxiety, I actually really enjoy having my husband with me when I travel. It’s not that I can’t travel alone (I have) or that I don’t enjoy it (I did) or that I got nothing out of it (I did) or that I’m helplessly reliant on him (I’m most certainly not); it’s that he actually really is my best friend and I have way more fun when I’m sharing my adventures with him. The reason we’ve worked so well for almost 13 years is that he encourages my natural tendency to be independent. I’m just as capable of speaking to a stranger in a foreign country with him by my side. And forcing an anxious introvert out of her comfort zone without backup isn’t always a great idea! So I really don’t think “travelling alone” is all that relevant or important.

Some other articles propagate the idea of travelling alone in order to feel more freedom, to increase your confidence, to become more self-reliant and to better understand yourself. Those are all brilliant things for any lady to have at her disposal, but I don’t think they come from “travelling alone;” I think you’ll find they come from spending time with yourself. Go back to the definitions of the word “alone” at the start of the post. I read that as being isolated and cut off, maybe even from yourself. When I take my little solo trips, I don’t see them as taking time to be alone, I see them as taking time to be with myself. I meditate. I reflect on the last few weeks or months. I try to understand how I’ve come to be where I am right now. I set some goals for myself, treat myself to a massage, a riverside walk where I say hello to everyone I pass, a trip to an antique shop where I chat with the gentleman behind the counter.

Yeah, I’m taking these trips without a companion, but I don’t feel “alone,” separated or exclusive to anything. I’m spending time with me. Instead of ignoring the niggling feeling of “not enough-ness” that drives so many people to travel (thinking that if they ignore those scary feelings and just escape, they’ll magically find some answers), I’m learning to make friends with it. Instead of shoving it aside while I take a selfie under the Eiffel Tower and post it to Instagram with an “I-don’t-need-no-man-to-take-me-to-Paris” caption, I’m sitting down to a pot of tea and a jam-smothered scone with it and trying to work out how I can let it go on its way without me.


You don’t need to travel the world alone to grow as a person, ladies. You just need to spend a little time with YOU 🙂

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Back to reality, observations of Tokyo oddities & what I learnt about myself

There’s no place like home 🙂 as much as I absolutely LOVE being on the road and living out of a suitcase and being in completely foreign situations and places, I’m always grateful to return to Melbourne. I’m glad to come home to my home, my husband, my dog. I’m thankful that I’m in a position (particularly as a female, because there are still a lot of oppressed women out there in other countries and cultures) that I can work hard enough to be able to travel as much as I do, and I don’t take that for granted.  
Although I travelled there and back with a friend, we were interested in quite different things while we were there, so we spent a lot of time solo. As a single female traveller, Tokyo was the perfect place for me! It was easy enough to navigate, people are friendly and helpful to almost unbelievable standards, and it is the safest city (including Melbourne) that I’ve ever been in. 

Accommodation aside, it was also a lot cheaper than I expected – I went away with around AUD$1000 worth of spending money, and spent only just over half of it!
 

One of the best things about travel is how much it opens your eyes to things that aren’t your norm, and while Tokyo was a very modern city, there were a few curiosities and oddities I noticed…

– early morning cafe breakfasts and brunches aren’t a thing.

– most stores don’t open until around 11am, but they stay open later into the night, around 8pm (as opposed to Melbourne’s general 9am – 5pm hours).

– there’s a system and procedure for everything, everyone knows them, and everyone obeys them.

– ATMs for international cards pretty much only work in 7/11.

– cuteness is EVERYWHERE!!  

– that said, they are truly elegant ladies and dapper gentlemen in Tokyo – heels, pearls and full suits are standard.

– public transport is quiet time. No talking to the person next to you, no talking on the phone, no eating.

– litter doesn’t exist. Anywhere. People are literally employed to sweep the streets and walk them with giant tongs to remove rubbish!  

– there are designated smoking spots outside, and people actually stick to them. There are “no smoking on the street” signs and they are strictly adhered to without the need for enforcement.

– people line up for EVERYTHING. Especially food. And locals really don’t seem to mind waiting over an hour in (a very orderly) line for their favourite eatery… Incredible!

– one of the things that surprised me the most was the amount of people who refused to use tissues!! I find the sniffing thing pretty disgusting (I don’t understand why anyone would want to sniff the snot back up their noses and down their throats rather that just blow it out into a tissue), and was really surprised at the amount of people who would rather just sniff incessantly and occasionally use sleeves to wipe snot on rather than just blow their noses…?!

– while a lot of the older buildings are in the grey/beige/brown 70s styles, the modern architecture is incredibly impressive. Buildings just keep going up!  
I also learnt a bit about myself… 

– my organizational skills are one of my biggest assests and truly help me see and do more than a lot of other travellers.

can read a map like a boss.

– observing and writing and recording has always been (and will always be) what I love to do most.

– anxiety attacks followed me but depression didn’t.

– slowing down, taking time to breathe, and just stepping away mentally for a few minutes helped the anxiety attacks.

– I’m happiest when I’m in new places surrounded by strangers speaking in foreign tongues, where I can just slip into the background and explore and observe at my own pace.

– knowing how to say “excuse me” and “thank you” in the local language is indispensable. 

– I think I’m actually a bit smarter, stronger, braver and more resilient than I’ve given myself credit for..

 
 

No doubt over the next few weeks I’ll write a lot more about my time away, but for now let me just say that I had the most amazing time there and would happily jump on a plane back tomorrow 🙂