Today, we have Audrey Farnsworth, a writer, traveller and a journalist from Los Angeles, who solo-travels a lot for her work and also loves travelling to learn about the world, people and herself. She also loves trying new cuisines and local delicacies on the go. She is now answering the most common questions she was asked regarding her solo travels.
What are the most common reactions you get while travelling alone?
The reactions are mostly mixed. Like some are, 'Oh Cool!' very similar to the normal response you get to anyone's job, while some are like, 'What? You go alone???"
Who gives you more of such responses? Men or women?
Both the men and women I meet while travelling. But mostly, from men. Even on my Instagram account, I noticed a common occurrence: people–sorry, men, it was absolutely always men–asking me leading questions about how it must feel about travelling alone. And if it wasn’t a question, it was a direct statement as to how I must be feeling (i.e. “You must be so lonely being there by yourself!”).
Why do you think solo women travellers get such responses?
With my experience, both in reality and social media, it made me think about the global politics of being alone. While eyebrows are raised for solo travellers, regardless of gender, there is a lot of stigma in being "uncoupled" women travellers. Women have always been looked down upon by society for being unpartnered. Terms like 'spinster' and 'old maids' are commonly used for unwed women of a certain age, whereas unwed older men are referred to as 'bachelors' or 'silver foxes'. The framing of these titular discrepancies, though not particularly nefarious, illuminates another lens of patriarchy—one where solitary women are to be pitied or scorned, while men are celebrated.
Can you tell us a few of the common questions you are asked while travelling?
Yes, I would also love to answer these questions!
You often go on romantic vacations alone. Does this upset you?
When I am asked this question, I answer straight away that it’s not a vacation I’m taking, I am travelling for work. I highly doubt that a man travelling solo (business or otherwise) would be asked whether or not he’s sad to be solo in a destination because it’s considered “romantic” or be asked this question at all.
Why would I be upset about being myself? I am enjoying this beautiful place I don’t live in! Let’s talk some more about the term “romantic,” please. Just because something is considered “romantic” doesn’t mean a person shouldn’t experience it without a partner. Yes, Venice is very romantic and a perfect setting for couples. However, I don’t define myself by relationship status, and therefore do not define an entire city by it–no matter how much of a “perfect honeymoon locale” it may be to some. Romance is subjective, and only an adjective you can use to describe something when you’re in a certain state of mind. As I’m not in that state of mind on these trips, I’m not moping about Venice like, “Wow, this place is garbage because I’m uncoupled,” but rather I’m walking around with an open-mouthed, weird grin saying, “This place is pretty, and I don’t live here!”
Sorry to interrupt, but what is the first thought you have when you are asked this question?
It is extremely sexist that women are asked if she is upset about being at a destination which is considered romantic, alone. Firstly, the concept of romance is based on experience and not a place and secondly, why this question is not asked to men visiting such 'romantic' destinations? Why are only women associated with romance while men are always rugged?
Next common question I always get is: Why didn’t you bring a plus one?
For obvious reasons, to start: my friends, family, and potential +1s have jobs, and they understandably can’t necessarily drop everything and pay a bunch of money to go with me to wherever my work is sending me, or I am choosing to explore for a couple of days. Also, when I am travelling for work, I am working! It’s very different than going on a vacation in that I need to be professional when I’m there, and I can’t put a friend’s enjoyment as a top priority, so it’s generally easier to go it alone anyway.
Why did you come [to this destination] alone? Don’t you have friends?
My friends are at home, and they have jobs, and I plan on hanging out with them when I get back into town!
Don’t you feel unsafe travelling by yourself?
I have never seen anyone asking this question to a man. I know there is also a concern involved in this question as women travelling by themselves are much more vulnerable than men in terms of safety, as there are countless horror stories from women (who did not even necessarily put themselves in “harm's way”) being attacked while travelling. But travelling by myself has taught me many safety lessons and made me a much more cautious traveller. However, the answer to this question is: Yes! I do feel unsafe while travelling alone—not all the time, but periodically. The thing is, I also feel unsafe walking down the street in my own city periodically, as well, so this doesn’t just apply to travel, unfortunately. Feeling unsafe in certain places or at certain times is just part of being a woman.
Is it usually men that make you question your safety during these times?
Nine times out of ten, yes—that’s been my experience. As it shouldn’t be our responsibility as women to have to go to extra measures to keep ourselves safe while travelling alone, we don’t have any other choice. Because we also shouldn’t have to forgo the ability to see the world.
It seems like your work is very solitary. Is that sad for you?
A man asked me this very question on a first date! To you, sir, I say: Well, first of all, stay away from me. That is quite the projection! And second of all: Sad and solitary are not the same thing, actually. During these “solitary” times, I am teaching myself how to get around in the world and do so without anybody’s help. During these “solitary” times, I am writing and creating. During these “solitary” times, I am thinking and being and learning and enjoying my surroundings, and also making myself laugh and having a REAL good time, because, actually, as it turns out, I am pretty damn fun, even when I’m by myself.
Travelling alone helped teach me to enjoy spending time by myself, which was something that I didn’t always know how to do. So, no, it’s not sad. It’s actually pretty rewarding.
Oh, and in many cases, during these “solitary” times—and I cannot state this enough—I am working! People take business trips all the time. Why would it be sad? Why wouldn’t it be exciting or affirming of my own personal success?
Do you have any messages for solo travellers and for those who ask such questions?
People need to stop pairing travelling alone with loneliness. I think everyone should learn how to be alone and travelling teaches that very perfectly and fast! At the end of the day, as my mother always told me, “We’re all in this together, by ourselves.” As important as it is to cultivate meaningful relationships and connections with other people, it is equally as important to nurture one with yourself. Travelling alone has had a big hand in my own journey of learning how to trust myself, and it’s shown me that I am capable of figuring out many a dire situation.
I’ve been lost in the middle of the night in foreign cities. I’ve missed flights and thought I was to be completely stranded somewhere. I have been in situations that the past-me would’ve assumed I would be so stressed out that I would’ve just straight up fainted, but you know what? I didn’t. Perhaps, at first, I did it kicking and screaming, but over time I stopped kicking, screaming, and crying, and learned to pull myself together and just get it done. This lesson is invaluable. This lesson stays with me for the rest of my life.
So, now, whenever I get a comment from a dude about how I must be sad while travelling alone, I always say the same thing: Hahaha. No, dude. I’m fine.