See the World, As a Woman--Lead, Don't Follow!

Do you have the Sweet Courage to Travel Solo?

"Travel brings power and love back into your life." - Rumi

What is your journey? We all have different paths, different journeys, and even contrasting goals and ways to achieve them. My journey isn’t like yours. I grew up in a family that was poor. We were unable to really even afford the basics in life. It was just plain white rice and vegetables. And occasionally, a piece of candy.

Candy is always sweet and satisfying. Can someone live on candy? Of course not. But, eaten in moderation, candy can be one of the absolute joys in life. That first whiff of a chocolate bar and the mass of fluffy spun pink cotton candy from the local fair are delicious drops of sweetness.

In my candy-loving opinion, Forrest Gump’s mother had it right. “Life IS like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.” My box of chocolates is travel: The pleasure of planning my trips. What unique place should I visit next?

So Many Decisions

What to do? What food to indulge in? So many exciting decisions to make – and, quite honestly, from that first sweet, sticky bite of planning my trip, until the last licking of my fingers as I return, I enjoy it all. Oh, of course, there can be parts of travel that are frustrating, scary, or give you a tummy ache. When you bite into that box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.

Traveling solo in Peru.
Traveling solo in Peru.

I meet people, especially women, who are leading lives of quiet desperation. Often they’re women in my generation, who grow up believing that we don’t deserve the candy of life. Sometimes it’s cultural, but often it’s just conditioning. We’re raised to think that, instead of opening that box of chocolates, we should crawl inside the box and carefully avoid even nibbling on the chocolate. So often, so many of us have the mindset that we shouldn’t enjoy the chocolate. We’re so caught up in life – and making everyone else happy that we forget to experience the joy of life itself.

Single or married, most women have been conditioned to think of others first. Perhaps it is our nurturing instinct, but it doesn’t matter. If it isn’t a husband or kids, it can just as easily be a parent or two, a boss or a job.

Now let’s fast forward 15 or 20 years. Where DID those years go? Maybe it passed by, taking with it, the thrill of the first love, the heartbeats of your first child, or the gut-wrenching agony of going to the funeral of your best friend. Perhaps there are scars from cancer surgery – or internal scars, barely healed from a divorce.

Women playing in the pristine beaches near Ocean Soul.
Women playing on a pristine beach in Bali. It's often more fun to travel solo, if you can just get the nerve.

Taking Care of Others

What about the years of taking care of everyone else? Did you invest your heart and soul into ensuring your partner’s health was up to snuff? Or, perhaps you were given the responsibility of being the primary caregiver for your elderly mother with dementia?

So now – isn’t it time? Isn’t it time for you to start enjoying yourself, your life? You deserve to start living – to squeeze every drop from life that you possibly can. You deserve to experience that box of chocolates, to take a bite and discover the pleasant surprise inside.

Meeting in Munnar to review new fabrics created by local women. photos by Stacey Cunningham.
Meeting in Munnar to review new fabrics created by local women. photos by Stacey Cunningham.

Oh, what would happen if you if you were to open up that box, lean over and take a whiff of the deep, rich chocolate candies in that box? Would you, inevitably start craving just one tiny, little lick? Just a meager taste? And oh my, what about just grabbing a piece and shoving it into your mouth? And as you bite down, you discover the surprise in the center. Maybe the center is filled with cherry that oozes out that red syrup. Or perhaps caramel topped with sea salt that marry together so perfectly. Once in a while, it might be a chocolate that’s rare and surprisingly delicious.

Be willing to dive into the assorted chocolates and savor each bite. And that is what embarking on world adventures are like.

Women Traveling Solo

I have met so many women who took a chance and traveled the world by themselves. I have a very special story that will truly leave you inspired.

Carol is a friend that I got to know for a short period of time. She was adventurous, 72-years-young, full of a zest for life, full of spirit, and very passionate about travel. Two summers ago, we spent three fun days in Rome, Italy between our solo trips. She also met Bob, a handsome young 50-year-old man, upon her arrival.

Balinese women dancing in a temple.
Balinese women dancing in a temple.

"Sorry I didn't call you last night, Melanie, but I had a slight diversion. I met Bob near my hotel and he invited me out for a drink," she explained.

"Wow! You haven't even set foot in Italy for 24 hours and you have already met an Italian. Ooh la-la," I laughed.

"Well he's actually Canadian. Let's meet for lunch at the piazza at one o'clock and I'll give you the dirt."

We spent a delightful afternoon lunching at the café as we shared our solo travel experiences. Later, we visited the Capuchin Crypt. Carol loves anything morbid and is a big fan of horror movies. I am the opposite, but this crypt fascinated me with the three-dimensional wallpaper, the bones of 4,000 Capuchin monks.

"Ok. You see the old security guard at the end of the hall?" whispered Carol, as her eyes glanced to the right.

"Yep! His eyes are fixed on us," I waved my arms at him with a cut smile and a wink.

"Stop that! We don't need any further attention. Try to distract him so I can snap a couple of photos of these skulls."

"Okay, but make it snappy." We both chuckled.

It wasn't long before we heard, "YOU! No photo!" He shouted as his finger pointed directly at us. We were two giggling girls as we walked past him.

A monkey in Ghana.
A monkey in Ghana.

Two Timer

For the next two days, Carol was two-timing. Perfectly orchestrating her time between Bob and me. She and Bob strolled along picturesque Villa Borghese Park, and later, enjoyed a candlelight dinner. With me, she squeezed in a Carvaggio experience, explored the Pantheon, and lunched at Vittorio Emmanuel II Monument.

"You're amazing, girl! You have more energy than I do. I am so happy we met in Rome. I had a great time with you. It was worth meeting up for three days!"

"I am really happy we met, despite this cold I have," she exclaimed. We were going our separate ways - Cinque Terre tour for Carol and for me, Budapest, to visit my friend, Ani.

She returned home in late October, still with a nasty cold. I urged her to see the doctor and she did.

"I can't believe you went to see the doctor and all you chatted about was his and your summer trips to Italy," I said, shaking my head. After pressing the matter a second time, she went back to see her doctor. She told me her news.

"Melanie, I have bone cancer," she said somberly.

"I am sad to hear that," I replied with disbelief. I hugged her with tears in my eyes.

My heart sank. I was completely lost for words. It was difficult for me to accept her condition. I thought she had a bad flu bug. Six months later, I went to visit her in hospice.

"Travel As Much As You Can!"

"Carol, you know I am writing a book to inspire women to travel and to teach them how they can build unshakable confidence by travelling. As an expert solo traveler, what would you say to those women who haven't traveled solo or haven't traveled before?" I asked.

"I want you to tell as many women as you can, to travel as much as the can, regardless of their age. See the world! Yeah, they'll be scared at first, but after that, they'll be fearless. You and I know that. And if they are afraid to travel alone, they would be smart to travel with you. I lived my life fully, and I am happy that I got to experience what the world has to offer," she proudly announced as tears filled her eyes.

Carol died 10 days later.

She was a remarkable woman who lived every single day with zest. I encourage you to take a leaf from her book and do the same.

You can be a passenger or you can lead in life - the decision is up to you. My adventures, like yours, are just beginning. Any journey can be priceless and your experiences, when faced boldly, will forever change your life.

Live like you've never lived before!

Melanie Eng
Melanie Eng

Melanie Eng was born in Victoria, British Columbia where she learned to be adventurous on her parents’ farm. Melanie also known as “Gutsy Lady” of solo travel adventures, business entrepreneur, and speaker. She wrote a best-seller – “Gutsy Lady Travel – How to Build Unshakeable Confidence by Travelling”. Her mission is to assist mature women to be more, to do more, and to see more through global travel. When Melanie Eng is not immersed in world cultures, she enjoys culinary delights, photography, and connecting with friends. Visit her website.

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