7 Women Share How Traveling Alone Changed Their Lives

By Lauren Krouse
June 13, 2023

Traveling by yourself can be daunting or feel self-indulgent if you’re used to group or couple trips. It’s important to take safety precautions, of course. But setting off on your own may give you the space you need to reflect and grow as an individual.

Looking for an excuse to buy that plane ticket or splurge on a resort? Take some inspiration from seven women who say traveling alone changed their lives.

1. I Learned to Be Happy By Myself

Mary Joye, 65, Winter Haven, Florida

“While I was married to a very controlling and abusive man, I couldn’t go anywhere. But I’d always loved traveling. When our divorce was almost final, I decided to visit a retreat in Sedona, Arizona.

“Walking around hiking trails, I had the revelation that I didn’t have to have a man in my life. My fear of abandonment fell away. For the next four years, I didn’t date anyone. I learned to be happy on my own.”

2. I Was Free to Explore My Interests

Jodi Bird, 47, Lancaster, Ohio

“In 2020, I went off to explore Ohio’s Amish country by myself. I hadn’t realized how much I’d been tied down by others’ opinions when traveling with my family or friends in the past.

“Alone, I could relax and peruse alleys and side streets, taking in murals on my own time. Driving down a back road, I could pull over and take pictures to my heart's content with my kids saying ‘Seriously? or ‘Hurry up!’ Since then, I’ve viewed solo trips with a whole new outlook—they’re a time for solitude and reflection.”

3. I Let Go of Consumerism

Heather Markel, 52, New York City

“After working in corporate America for over 25 years, I had a stable career and a nice apartment, but I felt like my life was going nowhere and I was just waiting for retirement. A health scare became the catalyst to pursue a love of travel I’d had since I was 16.

“I quit my corporate job for travel and have spent the last four years doing just that. I went all over—Easter Island, Cape Town, Argentina, Peru, New Zealand. Living out of a carry-on bag and a backpack, I realized I’d bought into this idea that the point of life was to buy a box and fill it with stuff. But I didn’t need all that. Now, I travel full time. Without the weight of so much stuff, I’m free.

4. I Realized I Deserved Better

Dawn Pick Benson, 49, Grand Rapids, Michigan

“I’d been married nearly 20 years when I decided I needed a solo trip to Kosovo to see if I was still brave on my own. For three months, I walked in nature, enjoyed slow mornings, and explored local sites and food.

“I slowly realized I hadn’t been very generous or loving toward myself for a long time, and because of that, I hadn’t expected others to love me well either. Being in a new culture and location helped me see life with a new lens. I realized it was okay to expect more from my relationships, and a year later, I filed for divorce.”

5. I Discovered What Fulfills Me

Joy Huber, 45, Lincoln, Nebraska

“I’m a stage four young adult cancer survivor, and last June, I took a trip by myself for National Cancer Survivors Day. At a spa retreat in Echo Canyon in Oklahoma, I got off my work computer, stopped answering emails, and didn’t have to deal with anyone else’s demands. And then it hit me: I wanted to guide others through cancer.

“A moment of peace helped me realize what I wanted to do and gave me the space to make a concrete plan. A few months later, I launched Dose of Joy, a podcast focused on facing cancer.”

6. I Was Inspired to Live More Slowly

Gwen Corrie, 52, Roanoke, Virginia

“As a typical American who gets little vacation time, I’ve been taking opportunities for solo travel whenever I can squeeze them in. I didn’t realize how much this was wiping me out until my trip to Hawaii and California last year.

“After crossing numerous time zones and staying up late for nights on end, it took me days to recover. This experience taught me I need to slow down as I get older. As a single woman in the US, this is challenging. So, I’ve established a long-term goal to move abroad where I can afford a more slow-paced life. I hope to relocate soon.”

7. I Learned to Care for Myself

Susan Harbourt, 47, Saint Joseph, Illinois

“One day, just weeks from my 45th birthday, my husband asked me what I wanted. I told him I wanted to go to Italy—by myself. Like many women, I was beginning to ask myself deep questions and felt unsatisfied, like I was missing something in my life. Two weeks later, I took off for the most amazing trip.

“With only myself to please, I realized the connection I’d been looking for was to myself and my feelings. I’d shut that down to become a people pleaser, the martyr mother, everything to everyone—except me. As I traveled, I learned I’m brave and enjoy being in charge of my own journey. For me, travel isn’t frivolous anymore. It’s a necessary form of self-care.”

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