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5 inspiring stories from women who travel solo

Sept. 17, 2021
8 min read
Solo traveler wearing a backpack
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I traveled solo internationally for the first time when I was 25 years old.

Like most second-language learners, studying or traveling abroad was inevitable but something most students did when they were younger than I was at the time. As a graduate student studying Spanish, I was excited to travel alone to Costa Rica to teach English and have what I thought would be this transformative, life-changing experience — which it was, but not how I’d imagined.

With my first step into the airport, I was almost immediately terrified and regretted my decision to go so far all by myself. San Jose wasn’t the cosmopolitan city I’d made it out to be in my head. I didn’t feel safe the first few days that I was there, and my accommodations weren’t what I expected. Looking back, I can’t believe how naive I was.

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But, I spent two weeks getting lost in San Jose, surprising myself at how comfortably I communicated solely in Spanish. I even took a bus to the coastal town of Manuel Antonio on my free weekend. Everything about my trip was harder than I expected, and I wanted to give up and come home every other day. Regardless, the trip emboldened me to be brave in a way that I’d never had to be before and I was changed forever.

I wanted to share the stories of other brave women of varying backgrounds whose lives had been transformed through travel. So I asked the women of the TPG Women Facebook group to share their stories for this article. Through solo travel, these women found community, paths to their future and most importantly — though undoubtedly a tad cliche — themselves.

Here are just some of their stories.

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Lisa Tsering, editor

Lisa Tsering’s story begins in 1992 when she traveled to Northern India on an award ticket on Pan Am. She had just enough miles for one free ticket and India was the farthest she could go.

Though this trip to India wasn’t Lisa’s first solo trip, she admits that traveling solo to India was a challenge. She told herself to trust everyone — something she admits was a strange idea — which ended up making her experience that much more special.

Lisa felt so at home in India during that first trip that she ended up traveling there 10 more times and working as a journalist for the Times of India for 17 years. She was the first non-Indian to cover Bollywood for Indian readers and even became a Bollywood movie reviewer for the Hollywood Reporter.

Lisa's story of how her decision to be open and trusting of strangers encourages us to be more open to others when we visit new places.

Related: How to travel solo — and why you absolutely should

India's Taj Mahal. (Photo by Kriangkrai Thitimakorn/Getty Images)

Miriam Magnuson, nonprofit fundraising

Miriam Magnuson's first time traveling solo was for a friend’s wedding in Vienna. Her significant other was unable to attend but she decided to spend a few days in Prague by herself.

Miriam remembers that she didn’t have anything in particular to do — she wandered the streets, saw the sights and ate delicious food.

She tells the story of how one day she was sitting on a park bench near the castle, people-watching and enjoying the day when she thought to herself that she should probably get going soon — but she actually didn’t have anywhere to be. In fact, she was free to do whatever she wanted and so she spent four more hours that afternoon enjoying the park.

Miriam writes, “I didn’t set out with some kind of goal of ‘becoming the kind of woman who travels solo if she wants to because she can,’ it was just something I did that on reflection showed me I was (already) that kind of woman.” For Miriam, traveling solo didn’t change her so much as reveal who she already was.

Related: Why you should visit Prague as a solo traveler

(Photo by emperorcosar/Shutterstock)

Julie Olum, travel writer and digital content creator

Julie Olum was born and raised in Kenya and has been traveling full-time for the last six years. Her story began as an undergrad at university in South Africa, where she studied to be an architect before embarking on a month-long trip around Europe in her last year.

At the start of the pandemic, Julie was visiting Uganda on the first stop of a longer trip through Tanzania, Malawi and Zambia. When Uganda closed its borders at the end of March 2020, she decided to stay and wait it out, living and working in a hostel for seven months. But this seems right in line with the type of traveler Julie is — she makes the most of every moment.

(Photo by Chiara Salvadori/Getty Images)

Traveling as much as she has is what changed her trajectory from professional architect to travel writer — following a passion that was awakened as she explored different places around the world. Despite only ever traveling alone, Julie balances traveling solo with building community and says that she values collectivism and community in addition to individualism.

Related: 4 reasons why you should visit Cape Town, South Africa

Alexa Cayce, engineer

Alexa Cayce studied abroad in Norway while studying engineering in college in Texas.

She describes herself as a typical introverted engineer in college but quickly realized once she was settled into her new school — and living alone for the first time — that she was going to have to make friends or her experience wouldn’t be much fun.

Alexa was able to step out of her comfort zone for the first time by making friends with who she would eventually travel to Oslo, London and Copenhagen with. Everything about her study-abroad experience was new to her, she said, even taking public transportation for the first time. At the end of her study-abroad experience in Norway, she traveled solo to Stockholm before returning home.

Alexa’s trip transformed her into a more confident person, something her dad says he could see the minute he picked her up from the airport when she got home from Norway. She adapted to her environment in a way that she hadn’t had to before. Alexa said that she "grew up" during her time traveling solo to Norway.

Related: Why you might want to visit Sweden instead of Norway

(Photo by Kolbjørn Hoseth Larssen/Getty Images)

Maria Neve

Maria Neve was dreading the first anniversary of her husband’s death when she decided she needed a break. She booked a last-minute trip to Paris, where she stayed with family and spent most of her time exploring the city.

As she was sitting at the base of the Eiffel Tower, she came to the realization that she needed a fresh start and a second chance — Maria was feeling trapped by her memories and unable to make decisions.

Maria says that her solo time in Paris freed her mind to make a transition she didn’t know she needed and that that trip set the stage for her life today. After returning from that trip, she moved to a new state, started a new job and began to feel alive again.

In a way, Maria saved herself by taking that trip to Paris.

Related: 11 things I learned during my trip to Paris

(Photo by Benét J. Wilson/The Points Guy)

Recurring themes

As I read through all of the stories that women were sharing in the TPG Women Facebook group, I was inspired to know that so many women find solace and safety in solo travel. One woman told the story of learning Arabic after 9/11 and even though she is now married with children, she's only ever traveled solo in the Middle East and has felt safer there than in some American cities.

Hillary LaReau, a traveling nurse, writes about a time she was dining alone in a fancy restaurant in London. "I used to think I had to wait for a partner to do amazing things," she writes. "But I finally realized that doing them alone was the most amazing part."

Feature photo by GaudiLab/Shutterstock.com

Featured image by (Photo by GaudiLab / Shutterstock.com)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
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Best starter travel card
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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Rewards Rate

3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
3XEarn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
1XEarn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening

    Earn 80,000 ThankYou® points
    60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $95
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent, Good

Why We Chose It

The Citi Premier’s 3 points per dollar spent across a wide range of popular categories is one of the more lucrative offerings in the world of points and miles. The Citi Premier comes with a $95 annual fee and is currently offering a solid sign up bonus of 80,000 points after you spend $4,000 on purchases within the first three months. It also has some valuable transfer partners to make the most of your rewards. Add in access to Citi Entertainment plus a $100 hotel credit for any single-stay hotel booking that exceeds $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through the Citi travel website, there are few reasons why the Citi Premier should not be in every traveler’s wallet.

Pros

  • Earns 3x points on restaurants, supermarkets, gas stations, air travel and hotels.
  • $100 annual hotel savings benefit (on single hotel stay bookings of $500 or more, excluding taxes and fees, booked through thankyou.com)
  • Points transfer to 16 airline programs, from JetBlue to Virgin Atlantic.
  • World Elite Mastercard benefits, extended warranty, damage and theft protection.

Cons

  • $95 annual fee
  • Lacks travel protections that other travel rewards cards come with
  • For a limited time, earn 80,000 bonus ThankYou® Points after you spend $4,000 in purchases within the first 3 months of account opening
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Restaurants and Supermarkets
  • Earn 3 Points per $1 spent at Gas Stations, Air Travel and Hotels
  • Earn 1 Point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Annual Hotel Savings Benefit
  • 80,000 Points are redeemable for $800 in gift cards when redeemed at thankyou.com
  • No expiration and no limit to the amount of points you can earn with this card
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees on purchases