It started with an Instagram post. Last September, a friend who moonlights as a part-time photographer shared that she was booking mini portrait sessions: “Friends, whether you’re hoping to document this life season in photo form or gearing up for holiday cards, I’m stoked to offer mini portrait sessions this fall in DC!”
I saw this post at a crossroads in my own life. I was in the midst of achieving a long-held goal to work abroad from a country I love. I found great fulfillment from making this happen, along with immense gratitude. But that fulfillment was tinged with worry.
Although I was working abroad from my favorite city, I was also single with no children or pets to my name. I was also grieving the end of a friendship I had cherished. Much as I value my own independence, my extroverted self found this hard to reconcile.
So, when I saw my friend’s call for mini portrait sessions, I didn’t question whether I wanted them: I knew that I did. My real question was, “Do I deserve them?” I wondered if I should book a session for myself as a single woman with no kid, partner, or pet in the pictures.
In short, I wondered if I alone was enough to deserve this.
I did end up booking that session. My friend (who I hadn’t seen in over a year) told me between takes that she had finally left her job of several years without anything lined up. She also told me that she wanted to take a solo trip abroad and reflect on what to do next.
I replied by telling her how I had come back from the UK a few weeks prior and suggested that she consider it. I also offered to give her advice. In the end, I got some gorgeous portraits, she took a solo trip to England and Scotland, and both of us realized – in our own ways – that we were enough to do what we wanted.
I want to write this post because I think many women wait for the “right” time, person, etc. to travel. We are unconsciously trained to view ourselves in relation to others. As an unintended consequence, we sometimes don’t believe that our dreams deserve to exist as standalone ideas. The end result is a lot of wasted opportunities.
We don’t have all the time in the world, and there are times when taking a trip alone is your only option. Much as I prefer traveling with loved ones, traveling solo has taken me to corners of the world I wouldn’t otherwise have touched. I’ve skied the Swiss Alps, gotten lost in Florence, spent 10 days in Taiwan, and walked the streets of Southern China alone.
I had these experiences because I wanted and pursued them. And as a result, those memories will be mine forever. A separate friend and fellow solo traveler said it best:
“Do yourself a favor and travel somewhere ALONE. It doesn’t have to be fancy, or international. Take a day trip somewhere; maybe a quick road trip, train/bus ride. Traveling alone and fending for yourself teaches you so much about YOU. When you have no one to rely on but yourself. When you get to do what you want, how you want, when you want. You learn what you like and what you don’t like. You learn that you are resilient and can enjoy your life with just you. You learn that you are enough. During my solo travels when folks would hear I was traveling alone, they would be sad for me. I’m like, ‘Why?!? I ain’t sad about it- it’s my preference!’ Til my forever travel bae comes along, I’m going to live my life and enjoy being able to move about without anybody checking for me. If we waited on a significant other or for our friends to be ready to go somewhere before we traveled, we might never go anywhere and spend our lives without seeing this big, beautiful, amazing world. Stop waiting on others to live your life. And remember, if you don’t like spending time with yourself, why would anyone else?”
As you plan for the year ahead, I’d like you to ask yourself: Do you feel that you’re enough to deserve what you want? Will you buy that ticket to Bangkok even if friends can’t come with you? Will you take that dream job in a country full of strangers? Will you fly to Chile and plan what to do next without external voices trying to choose for you?
If you’re privileged to have time and money that allow for these to happen, I ask you to consider what is stopping you – the answer might be you, yourself.
Humans weren’t meant to live alone, and we all have obligations to other people. The problem comes when we let those obligations drown our own desires. You have finite time to see the world: How will you use it this year?