Meeting Melissa, another female solo travel junkie…
I met Melissa on Twitter. By browsing through her blog I could feel her passion for travelling alone that is shining through her posts. Here below you can read my interview with Melissa and her solo travel experience around the world.
1) Tell us a bit about yourself What you do in life and when has your passion for solo travel started ?
I’m Melissa Shearer, I’m a 27 year old travel blogger from Toronto, Canada. I grew up in a family that took me on annual vacations – whether it was down in the Caribbean or to Disney World. The desire to go out and explore the world is something that came to me very early on in life, and the first chance I got to step out on my own and do some solo traveling I did. I was 22 and on the heels of a fairly traumatic break up, so needless to say I was in some dire need of some escapism.
2) When did you make your first solo trip and what did you do on your own ?
Back in September 2010, my first solo trip was a 3-week trip to Europe (Sweden, Amsterdam & Paris). Arriving in a country where you don’t even speak the local language can be a bit daunting. Admittedly, when I got to Paris (my last stop of the 3-week trip), I had a bit of a cry cause I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get around on my own. Needless to say, I eventually put on my big girl pants and ended up having a wonderful trip.
3) What was the trigger or motivation for you to go solo ?
As I mentioned, 10 months prior to my Europe trip, I had broken up with my boyfriend of 3 years. It had been a very unhealthy relationship, and despite the breakup, at times I still felt as though I were wrapped around his little finger. I felt that if I took off to the other side of the world, I could commence my healing process. Thankfully, it was during my 4-months in Australia in early 2011; that this really began and I was able to forgive myself for being caught up in such a terrible relationship. Getting to see some beautiful places and meeting incredible like-minded people along the way also helped.
4) The biggest challenge, fear or weird situation you had to overcome in your solo travel trips ?
Initially it was making new friends that scared me – I kept thinking “am I going to be all by myself for the entirety of my trip?” I soon realized it was a lot nicer and easier to just chat someone up, as opposed to sitting there by yourself. I also feel it’s important to accept that things are going to be different than your usual life at home –your mommy wont be there to clean up after you, your best friends wont be around to talk to all the time, you’ll have to put on your big girl (or boy) pants and live outside your comfort zone.
5) When you choose your solo travel destinations what are your priorities, i.e. safety, political issues, religion, etc. ?
Safety and political issues are always things I do consider – however, it didn’t stop me from traveling through some rough areas of Africa. Cost is another big thing I look at (as it’s important to have a budget and stick to it as best you can), and really factors into determining where I end up traveling to.
6) What are the main benefits and the downside of travelling solo as a woman ?
The benefits are countless… not only as a woman, but just as a solo traveler. It can help give you a sense of self-confidence you may not have had before. Downsides? Some places can be harder to travel through (safety-wise) as a woman. This is where doing your research and finding out how women are treated in a certain area of the world. India has received a terrible reputation in recent years in terms of being a safe place for women to travel solo. Be aware of current situations and adapt your choices to suit the region. Ie) don’t dress provocatively in a conservative destination.
7) What do you think is the biggest fear that prevents women from going solo ?
Nowadays I think more and more women are taking the leap. Certainly more than ever before. That being said, there are still prevailing stereotypes that solo travel is more of a young male thing to do. Perhaps this is because of the misconception that there are added risks of rape, unwanted (and/or unexpected) pregnancies or that woman simply cannot hold their own when traveling in a foreign country. Personally I think these are all ridiculous. Women definitely need to get out there and travel, and take the opportunity to do it solo. At least once.
8 ) Do you think that solo travel is for every woman ?
No. But not everything is for everyone, if it was, then we would all be identical and live identical lives. The solo travelling woman has to have a level head on her shoulders, be able to hold her own, and have a certain level of confidence (or be able to fake it really well). Common sense and street smarts helps too! Unfortunately, not all women (or men) fit this bill.
9) Plans for your next solo trip ? What will be the purpose / focus ?
At the moment, I’m taking a break from the solo travel and doing something I haven’t done a lot of in the past – travelling with my partner. The only concrete travel plans I have for the coming year is my 11-day trip to California with the boyfriend, where we will be roadtripping from San Diego to San Francisco.
10) Do you think solo travel has taught you something over the years and if so what have you learnt from travelling alone ?
Over the last few years of solo travel, I have learned SO much! I’ve learned so much about the world around me – about causes, cultures and places all over the world. I’ve also learned a lot about myself – and have watched myself grow as a traveller, and as a result my travel style has evolved. While a few years ago I’d be more keen to save a few bucks and choose large dorm rooms, I’ve now learned I appreciate a good night’s sleep and will opt for either private rooms, small dorm rooms (6 or fewer), or hotels.
11) Do you have any special tips that you would give to a woman who is willing to start travelling alone ?
Don’t be afraid to connect with travel bloggers online (through social media) to try to get a better idea of the location you will be travelling to. Try to connect with travel bloggers from the area and plan a meet up in person. I did this when I first went to Sydney and it was nice to have a local there that I could consider a friend right off the bat. Also look into Travel Massive – it’s a monthly meet up for travellers, bloggers and travel industry professionals and it happens in 40+ cities around the world. It’s a great way to meet like-minded people in a new city.
Melissa Shearer is a full-time travel blogger, dream-chaser, and adventure seeker. She has given up the 9-to-5 in pursuit of living her life on her own terms and has been traveling, working and living abroad since 2010. Originally from Toronto, Canada she has called the likes of Sydney, Australia and New Zealand’s Far North ‘home’ and prefers living her life out of her 80L backpack. When she’s not too busy throwing herself out of airplanes, scuba diving with sharks or volunteering hands-on with lions, she’s sharing her experiences with the world on her blog The Mellyboo Project. Be sure to follow her on Facebook and Twitter and don’t be afraid to say “hi.”