Dear Men Who Try to Insult Me By Saying There’s A Reason I Travel Solo,
The first time a man said that to me online, about five years ago, it stung. “There’s a reason you travel solo, sweetheart. Think about it,” he wrote on my brand-new Facebook page. Who was this stranger and why was he being so condescending and so rude? What had I done to upset him, other than travel on my own?
Over the years, as this blog and its social media grew, I started getting more comments that were clearly meant to hurt me. Hateful comments and harassment are unfortunately nothing new online, especially for a woman who dares go on the internet and have an opinion, but it has been an interesting journey for me to navigate nevertheless. Some were just downright trolls – they weren’t even following me on the platforms they’d comment on – and others got offended by my political views so would unleash a full-out rant of hatred against me (you know the kind, the ones who scream SNOWFLAKE if you say something like, “I’m a feminist” or “I believe gay people should be free to marry” or “Maybe there should be slightly stricter laws on how quickly you can buy a gun” or “I think immigration is good, and hey, didn’t you just brag about being Irish-American?” and “We need more diversity”).
But you – your comments were always far more insidious. You didn’t just call me stupid or a snowflake. You looked at me, a single woman, a woman who often travels on her own, and thought you’d go in for the kill. You’d get me where it hurts, right? You’d imply that there must be something seriously wrong with me if I’m forced to travel solo all the time. There must be something seriously wrong if I can’t get a friend or a family member – let alone a romantic partner – to travel along with me. You’d shame me, shame me for being single, for being solo, for being so unlikeable that I couldn’t find anyone to come with me while I travelled.
And before we get any further, I’d like to explain why I’m only addressing men in this letter, despite my readership being 85% female. It’s because, in fifteen years of writing on the internet, 99% of the people who have called me names, who have tried to insult me, or who have trolled, stalked, or flooded me with hateful messages have identified themselves online as men. I have only been told, “You travel solo for a reason,” by people named Norman or John or Mike or Stewart (usually followed by a ‘sweetheart’, ‘honey’, or ‘love’ – beautiful words that can so quickly turn condescending in the wrong person’s mouth). This is not to be confused with disagreeing with me; I’m talking about messages and comments that are intended to personally sting.
Machu Picchu, Peru
So after the tenth or fifteenth time I received that apparent insult, I realised I’d like to address those of you who believe there’s a reason I travel solo.
Because, of course, there is indeed a huge reason I travel solo.
It’s not because I’m undateable, or because I have no friends. It’s not because I can’t find anyone to travel with me.
It’s because I choose to travel solo.
Cinque Terre, Italy
It’s because travelling solo has enriched my life so much more than I ever thought it could; because I can honestly say that travelling solo has made me a stronger, smarter, more patient, more compassionate, person. It’s made me a better person. I have learned so much from travelling solo, and while I know there is so much more to learn, I am beyond grateful for the past twelve years and what I’ve been privileged enough to do.
It’s because travelling solo has allowed me to meet thousands of people I may never have met if I hadn’t travelled, or if I had travelled but stuck closely to a partner’s side – people who have taught me, helped me, shared with me, and laughed with me. I’ve travelled solo and I’ve travelled with romantic partners, friends, and family members, and I always make many more friends when I’m travelling solo.
It’s because I love my own company, and I love that travelling solo gives me the space and time I crave to explore a place that interests me, all on my own terms. If I want to sit quietly in a square in Italy and just watch the world go by with a glass of wine for hours, I can. If I want to party the night away with other travellers, I can do that, too. Call me selfish, but having the freedom to do whatever I want is a luxury I’m not ready to give up.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
It’s because – after twelve years of doing it – I still get a rush from telling people I’ve travelled solo on six continents. I still get a rush thinking that by saying that out loud, maybe that will inspire someone else to fulfil their greatest dreams, too. I’m damn proud of myself for travelling solo for all these years – it is still, in my eyes, a very brave thing to do, no matter your age or your background or your gender.
It’s because travelling solo has introduced me to a world that is very rarely frightening – even for a woman on her own, despite what you may read in the news – and is in actuality full of beautiful, funny, helpful, kind, exciting, warm people. It’s because I used to fear going to the bathroom in a new restaurant by myself and now I think nothing of hopping on a plane to Nepal, or South Africa, or Argentina, or Portugal all on my own, and sometimes I can’t believe how much I’ve changed and how much I’ve grown.
The Himalayas, Bhutan
It’s because I’ve learned to figure out who I really am, the good parts and the bad, no matter how cheesy that sounds. It’s allowed me to understand that – while I love having friends and family and romantic partners around me – I love being by myself, too, and that I have no idea who I’d be if I had never had any breathing room to figure out who I am and who I want to be.
It’s because travelling solo has allowed me the opportunity to date people from around the world, and dating people from countries other than my own is not only sexy as hell, it’s taught me what I’m looking for in a partner, whenever I decide I’m no longer happy to be single.
It’s because, lest we forget, that travelling solo is incredibly FUN. Some of the best times of my entire life have been when I set out on my own.
It’s because I’ve never believed I should wait around for a man before I live my best life – I’ve never believed I should wait around for anyone, for that matter. If I have a goal and I have the passion, ambition, and finances to accomplish it, I’m going to fucking do it.
It’s because, without travelling solo, I’d never have the confidence to see your comment for what it is. To see it as an attempt to knock a strong, happy person – a strong, happy woman – down. And because travelling solo has made me more empathetic, too, to see it as a bit of a cry for help. That maybe you’re not living the life you’ve always wanted to live, and it hurts to see someone living a life they love, especially when they created it on their own.
There’s a reason I travel solo? Damn straight there is. There’s many reasons, as you can see. But the main reason I travel solo? It’s the best thing I’ve ever done. Choosing to travel solo has allowed me to create a life for myself that I never could have even imagined, one that has filled my life with indescribable happiness. Sure, I’ve had my ups and downs, but I’ve worked hard for this life, and knowing that I’m living it the way I want to live it is the most amazing feeling I’ve ever experienced.
To conclude, I’m sorry. I’m sorry that travelling solo and putting my life and my thoughts online have caused you to react with such bitterness, envy, and aggression. I’m betting you’re not actually a terrible person – someone who wants to insult and criticise a stranger online purely because they’re happy, someone who hates to see a woman succeed – and I hope that you are able to move on from what’s troubling you. I wish you only the best in life, truly.
And may I make a suggestion? Try travelling solo. You might understand why I don’t see it as an insult if you give it a go. Who knows, it might just change your life; it certainly changed mine. If you need any tips, you know where to find me.
All the best,
Letter inspired by the comments left on this Instagram post
Brenna, I got into your site years ago when you wrote about my home town Limerick. We have a saying there; never argue with an idiot- he’ll drag you down to his level and beat you with experience. You rock, won’t travel on my own anymore (I miss my wife and kids if it takes too long when I get my haircut- let alone a trip) but I hugely respect the opinion of anyone with the confidence and happiness in their own skin to go on adventues. Keep writing one of my favourite sites. Mark
Ha ha, I like that saying! I highly doubt any of the men who have said this to me over the years will read this post, but I was hoping it might be a bit of a boost for those considering travelling solo (flip the insult on its head and all that). Usually I just block the idiots 😉 Thank you so much for following along all these years… and I really do hope to get back to Limerick one day soon. I really appreciate all of your support!
Don’t be sorry ?
I gotta give them some benefit of the doubt 😉
Ugh. I read some of the ridiculous comments one guy made on your post about driving around Scotland. I think it’s ridiculous that men do that but I’m also so glad you’re strong enough to take it. I think I first found your blog when I was following Expat Kerri before I moved to South Korea and have just been reading along since then, so for about five years. You’re the only solo traveler I follow and I find your posts to be super inspiring. I traveled southeast Asia two years ago and that trip was definitely inspired by your blog and it was one of the best trips, if not the best trip, I have ever taken. You’re right about being alone on the road. There’s this headspace that I can get to when I’m alone that I can never get to when I’m with someone because I’m always conscious of and in someways concerned about my travel partners; so the only time I ever truly do whatever I want is when I’m alone.
Anyways, thank you for this and for your blog as always.
Wow, thank you so much for so many years of support, Tasha! That is amazing, and also super amazing that you felt inspired to go to Southeast Asia solo – that is just so cool. I totally agree that there is a headspace that I love when I’m on the road on my own, and I think I’ll always love that and crave that.
As for comments like the one on my Scotland post (I actually don’t know if that was indeed a man), what I’ve realised over the years is that people will find fault in EVERYTHING you do online. I unfortunately still take some of it to heart – that’s only natural, I suppose – but I could write that I love puppies and rainbows and someone will say something cruel or critical. Just the nature of the game, as sad as that is!
Anyway, thanks again for all of your support – it means the world to me!
So on point! I remember seeing the first line of that Instagram caption when you posted the picture and thinking that DAMN right there is a reason: because solo travel is awesome. Maybe these men have tried dating travelling girls before and found them difficult to deal with – after all, who would want a partner that is completely independent, not afraid to speak their mind and not impressed by any old trick? Maybe they’re mad that they can’t date a girl with really high standards.
Can I also say that I love that you’ve started swearing in your blog posts? I don’t think you did that a few years ago. Goddamn amazing 😀
Maybe! I do think that some people find solo travellers a bit intimidating, because they just can’t wrap their heads around doing it themselves. Who knows for sure!
I don’t think I swore in blog posts a few years ago, either, but I’ve always had quite a potty mouth! I think I’ve just really embraced a more conversational way of writing, hence the swearing. I’m glad you like it, ha ha!
Thanks a lot for your comment 🙂
I frigging love you and this post.
I’m 32 and only just beginning to travel.
I spent too long listening to doubters and negative voices.
I spent too long letting others tell me what to do.
I spent too long doubting myself and whether I could see the world solo.
I’m now doing it, alongside a full time job…and I love it.
I have so many conversations with people as they try to make me feel like I need to justify myself and how I live my life.
For me it isn’t just men, but I totally relate to your entire post.
Hi Gemma, thank you so much for your comment – I’m so glad that you enjoyed this post! I’m sorry that you feel you spent too long listening to the negative voices, but the important thing is that you are now living your best life and doing what you love to do. That’s so awesome. 🙂 Here’s to many more exciting adventures ahead!
Exactly! It seems that if anyone is living their dream, it can be a hard for a few, vocal people to accept due to their own issues or dissatisfaction in their own lives. I love being around people but there is something so freeing about travelling solo and being able to do exactly what you want to do, or even just spending time by yourself at home sitting in a cafe for hours nursing a coffee and watching the world go by.
Your blog posts are just fantastic – whether talking about travel or life they resound with honesty, humor and truth and they have inspired plenty of men and women (including me) to travel or write more and figure out their own dreams.
So here’s to you Brenna and all the solo travellers out there – hope your year ahead is filled with adventures!
Aw, thank you very much, Betsy! I really appreciate that – it means so much to me and I’m so happy that you are enjoying the blog. I couldn’t do it without readers like you! I totally agree that solo travel allows us to be free, and there really aren’t many feelings like hitting the road on your own.
Thanks again for your support and I wish you many happy adventures in 2018!
An excellent response to what amounts to little more than unnecessary, small minded nonsense! Sorry you had to experience such things. You should just block these people, & move forward as unfortunately engaging with such haters is unlikely to bear fruit. But respect for your response, keep doing what your doing!
And thank you for the reasons why you travel solo….I start my next big trip next week so the timely reminder is greatly appreciated 🙂
I definitely do a lot of blocking, let me tell you! 😉 Thanks for your comment and for all of your support, and HAVE FUN on your solo adventure! I’m sure it’s going to be amazing…
I’m going to be completing the last semester of my honours degree in India and whilst women are super excited and supportive of me men are not. The amount of men who seem offended that i’m not taking my partner (hello he has his own life, work, commitments plus i’m going to be researching six days a week for three months before I can travel around), they call me selfish or ask why I would leave my partner for that long (why would I be in a relationship with someone who didn’t want me to follow my dreams?) they also try to give me tips on how to avoid being sexually assaulted, ask have I ever though about what happens to women in India (of course i know the statistics) or even going so far as to give graphic examples of how I might be raped and murdered (like i haven’t considered safety issues because i’m just a stupid girl).
What bugs me is that they would celebrate a man getting this opportunity but I am considered to be selfish with a death wish.
I prefer to go most things solo including travelling, so why would studying overseas be any different?
You’re my effing idol. You nail it, all my thoughts… every time.
Aw, thank you so much! What an awesome comment to receive.
This is everything! So often I feel judged by people asking why I choose to travel solo, and honestly it’s for many more reasons than scheduling being difficult to work out. Solo travel is extremely empowering and fun! Thanks for this post <3
Exactly! It’s so many things to so many different people. Thank you for the comment, Grace, and here’s to people leaving their judgements in the past!
Breanna , I get this all the time also. I not only travel by myself, I go to sporting events by myself. I’ve always done it and I’m going on 65 years old now. Screw the haters and do you, boo! Keep on traveling solo and enjoy yourself. Remember my motto, Staying Home is Not an Option !
Thank you so much, Jo Ann! It sounds like you have such a fun and exciting life. You’re totally right – screw the haters 🙂 Here’s to many more adventures in 2018…
“And because travelling solo has made me more empathetic, too, to see it as a bit of a cry for help. That maybe you’re not living the life you’ve always wanted to live, and it hurts to see someone living a life they love, especially when they created it on their own.” – I so so agree with this. I have started my new year with the very same outlook. Pity the people who hurt you, because they are hurting themselves. And move on. Concentrate on those who have made your life richer, better, and bigger.
Not only for the travel part, I have immense respect for you because of who you are as a person, as a woman. And the way you handled the haters show exactly how great you are.
All the best! 🙂
Thank you so very much, Kuheli! You always leave the nicest, most thoughtful comments. I really appreciate it! And yes – that’s a great way of looking at life and I aim to do more of it: to concentrate on the good ones. 🙂
I just started travelling solo (for the time being I only dare small jumps in Europe, where I’m from) and found your blog a few days ago while looking for tips on what to do in London. I’m really happy I did so, your posts are inspiring and I hope you will continue to enjoy travelling solo for a long time 🙂 Thank you!
Aw, thank you so much, Sophie! Those kinds of comments mean the world to me, and it’s so awesome to hear that you are enjoying travelling solo. Here’s to many more adventures in 2018!
It was recently pointed out to me that, despite its popularity with the “alt-right”, the term “snowflake” originated from Fight Club, a movie based on a book written by an openly gay author.
As a frequent solo traveller I’ve learnt to tune out most of the “don’t you feel unsafe” type comments. People are people everywhere on earth, and the vast majority of them are awesome and worth meeting!
Excellent comment!! Our family has travelled to 80 countries. 2 adults, 2 children ages 10 and 12. We have almost NEVER felt unsafe. Indeed sometimes, when folks see us with a map in our hands, we have to really convince them that we are fine and don’t need help. But, of course, we ALWAYS appreciate the offers.
The world is a wonderful place filled with kind, caring, amazing people. How sad that many people will never see it for the fear needlessly placed in their hearts.
Absolutely! I wrote a blog post a few years ago called “People Are Good”, because I truly believe that the great majority of people in this world want to do good things for one another. Thanks for the comment, Christine!
This was so inspiring and motivational! You are such a badass! I also dream of Travelling solo one day, and I am so excited to get to know myself even better and not have to rely on others so much. Your blog has really shown me that it is possible, and has given me the confidence to drea about it. Thank you, Brenna
Thank you so much, Cate – what an amazing comment to receive! You are going to have a fantastic time, whenever you decide to go. Happy travels 🙂
Love this post Brenna! ?
I’m constantly asked why I’m traveling solo.
“Don’t you have any friends?” ?
“Do you not socialize well?” ?
I just can’t understand why some don’t get how simple it really is;
I’m able to travel right now, so I do. ??
And the only time I’m ever sad on a solo trip, is when it’s over and I’m heading home. ?
P.s. Was that too many emoji’s!?!!! ?
Thank you so much, Suzie! And don’t worry, I freaking love an emoji, ha ha. 😀 I agree, I’m usually only sad when I’m on that plane going home. Thanks for the comment!
Awesome post, Brenna! They would never achieve all the things you have done, so don’t worry about those small, weak, mean…men. They are just scared of everything….so we should feel more pity for them than for you. You do what you love. They spend their lives with writing mean things about others.
I totally agree. Imagine living your life like that… actively seeking out strangers on the internet to insult?! Anyway, thanks for the support and for the comment!
Married world traveller here. Our 12 yr old daughter received hateful comments, ALL THE TIME, while singing 80 anthems in 80 countries. I have said for years that if Mother Teresa (or insert ‘living saint’ here) were alive today, she’d have 50,000,000 ‘likes’ but also 5,000,000 ‘dislikes’ on her feed and TONS of haters. Mean people suck.
I love your stuff. Keep writing. Ignore the haters. Sorry for the men. My daughter gets plenty of hate from girls and women as well.
Kudos to your daughter! That’s such an awesome thing to do… I hope she’s able to look past the nasty comments, it blows my mind that people are so mean to kids.
Wow, that’s an amazing accomplishment! What an inspirational daughter you have. Thank you so much for the support, Tom, and here’s to many exciting adventures ahead for your family in 2018 🙂
Ha ha, thank you! 😀
Some men are strong, confident and sure of themselves. Some men are weak, scared of anything that seems a bit ‘different’ and feel powerless. I know which kind of man it is who leaves comments like this and everyone else does too.
Amen. Thanks for the comment, Anne, I really appreciate it!
I’m happy that you have strength & confidence to ignore the comments from men who are obviously lacking in that regard…
I just left a similar comment on Kristen’s blog (BMTM) last week to say that I’m so grateful for your blogs. As a 29 yr old woman in corporate America (where people everyone thinks it’s insane to take an annual international trip, let alone 3-4 like I’ve done), it’s so great to have the mental escape and know that it’s not crazy. The thought of taking a trip by myself would never have crossed my mind if it weren’t for women like you. I’m taking a couple of extra weeks for myself as I transition jobs and fully intended to try out solo travel if a friend couldn’t come.
I’ve also always been uncomfortable with the thought of having kids because everyone keeps telling me that I have to travel now because I won’t be able to do it afterwards. Thanks to your blog, I now know that that’s total bullshit. My husband is cool enough to take care of things alone for a couple of weeks, and you are living proof that it’s not only possible, it’s a great thing to do for yourself.
Thanks for the beautiful words and photos, and keep em coming for at least 12 more years 😉
I love/hate solo travel posts like this. I love the empowerment and the adventure and the photos. But I hate the fact that I never had a chance to do this when I was single. My only two experiences traveling solo abroad (I’ve done it plenty in the U.S.), were long after I’d been married and I have to say, it’s just not the same. You fear trying to make friends with the opposite sex lest you give the wrong impression, and at my age staying in dorms just isn’t something I enjoy, so it’s even more difficult to meet people and it gets very lonely — even for a semi-introvert like me. I’m also not someone who has a strong opinion about what to do and when (unless there’s one thing I just HAVE to see, which is rare), so it’s very easy — and preferable due to my lack of planning skills — for me to travel with others.
Anyway also? (And I know you know this.) People who feel the need to cut others down are only dealing with their own insecurities. Once you fully realize this, it’s much easier to look at them with pity — and even a little compassion — as you mentally wish them better days ahead on their journey. There’s no room in your world for their negativity, so try your best to let it wash over you and elsewhere. Like someone trying to get you to carry their heavy luggage, you’re not obligated to pick it up. They need to learn better ways to deal with the load.
I love everything about this post. Traveling alone is honestly the best. You can do everything at your own pace, and you can do everything you want to do and nothing you don’t want to do. Personally, I think traveling alone allows me to reflect in ways I wouldn’t with other people. Less than two weeks ago, I was traveling alone, and I sat down for a while and just quietly observed everything going on around me. I loved it, and I highly doubt I would have had that experience had someone been with me. If I’d had a companion, we surely would have begun talking during that moment, and it wouldn’t have been as poignant as it was to me taking in the moment alone.
I travel solo because I don’t want to spend my life waiting for other people. I don’t want to miss so many amazing opportunities. I am completely capable of taking care of myself and having an amazing time by myself (if only my mother understood that). I like being selfish when I travel.
I love reading your stories and am constantly inspired.
Totally! Thank you so much for the support, Jodi… here’s to many more happy solo travels for both of us!
Every time I visit your blog, I read another incredible post. This is probably one of my favourites ever! I’m so glad you wrote this and can see past the snide comments like that, the internet is becoming more and more vitriolic and it needs more people with your attitude and backbone. Your writing is always so eloquent too. 🙂 Thanks for being an inspiration!
Aw, thank you so much, Clazz! What a wonderful comment to receive today – especially as this week also marked my first death threat. Yep – the internet is indeed becoming more vitriolic and there’s nothing I can really do but laugh, ignore it, and move on. Thanks for being a positive light online!
Thank you sister xoxo
It seems that human beings as a whole are afraid to do anything alone. And that is sad. In the last year I have started to get into reading travel blogs (like yours) and it is so inspiring to see people, especially young women, who want to go out and explore on their own. I started small. I went to the movies by myself, then a hike by myself. Then I saved my money and I took a trip to Baltimore, Maryland by myself. I have to say that anyone who has never ventured out on their own is missing out. It is exhilarating. And like you say, it really does teach you who you are and what you are capable of on your own two feet. I’m going to Portland in September and I can’t wait. Thank you for being an inspiration.
Well said, Brenna.
Fellow solo traveler here, reporting from Kathmandu. Found your blog trying to figure out what to expect in Bhutan.
Sorry to hear about the crass comments from trolls.
Completely empathize with your simple joy of a cold drink at an open cafe, watching the world go by. Hard to enjoy that moment when you feel the need to hold up your end of a conversation!
Anyway, keep up the great writing.
We met in the Galapagos Islands while you were traveling with Kerry and I was on holidays with my mum. The resemblance of Kerry with a friend of my mum who had passed not that long ago plus how nice you were to her made my mum never forget about you guys, and, of course, your passion for travel and how fun and outgoing you were did inspire me. I have been binge-reading your blog lately and find in you kind of a friend who understands how I feel, and who I laugh with, although you don’t know it. So, just letting you know 😉 thanks for all the great stories and traveling tips (Specially the what-to-wear ones).
Loved the post and your website and your travels 🙂
Thanks for sharing all of this.
As a privileged Indian woman, I wrote an open letter to India and the world. Do visit my website and check it out.
Not only does it talk about the minor nuisances and judgements that we face as women but also what we go through every day walking on the streets, in our homes, working with colleagues, white travelling and in public places.
Let me know if you like it 🙂
Hi Brenna. Their comments say more about them than you. Thank goodness you’re not traveling with one of these idiots, for the sake of male company. They’d cramp your style and bore you to tears.
It’s often a much better idea to travel solo as you only have yourself to look after and are in charge of your own time. To travel extensively with another person or other people means knowing them very well. Plus you don’t get to meet other people on your travels nearly so much.
YES! I am just now really embarking on this journey of traveling solo and have only done a couple trips but I love it. It is good for the soul and it does make you more confident. Plus, I adore meeting people from all over and I will pretty much talk to anyone! And no one is stopping you from taking a dorky photo if you want to. 🙂 Just found your FB page and I am now a die hard fan. You inspire me!
Just stumbled in to your blog, while looking for inspiration for my own…
And I fricken love every damn thing about this post.
As a woman who does everything in my life alone, BECAUSE I CHOOSE TO, this is a fantastic letter.
Men do not get to dictate what women can and cannot do, and do not get to decide she is defunct for choosing not to be glued to a man to live her life. I started out my travels with a man, and it was literally the worst time in my life. There is nothing worse than walking some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, being berated by a prick, and feeling so unfree. (Yes, yes I know.. *not all men….*) This inspired me to do it my way and enjoy my freedom and independence putting what I love first, so I could get the most out of my life. I have had a few good travels with friends, but really, travelling alone is FREEDOM at it’s finest.