How Solo Travel Made Me a Bichota Boss B*tch

“a moment of feeling sexy, flirtatious, daring, strong, empowered, and to a certain extent, [it] translates into personal motivation and self-confidence”
-Karol G, Colombian reggaeton artist, in an interview with Billboard in 2020

I didn’t choose the solo travel life. It chose me. It was March 2015. I was in my final year of medical school, and I had just found out that I had matched into a residency program of my chosen specialty. Every moment of my educational career had been built up to this point. I spent most school breaks in the hustle, taking extra classes or working because I had one penultimate goal: to become a doctor. This was my biggest accomplishment thus far, and for the first time in my life, I felt like I could finally celebrate. Do you know that feeling you have after finishing an exam? The one where you spent so much time stressed to cram the information into your brain, and the second you leave the room, you feel a huge weight lift off of your shoulders and you can just be free? That’s what this felt like but multiplied by infinity. So I started planning an experience I could finally allow myself to have after years of sacrifice: international travel.

I planned a backpacking itinerary through Western Europe ending in Italy, my dream travel destination since my high school Latin class days. (And yes, I even took Latin because I thought it would help me get to and through medical school.) But there was one problem I didn’t plan for. I couldn’t find a travel companion. Many of my friends were on different paths in life, unable to travel freely for a few weeks due to job or financial constraints. I was torn. I knew that this was possibly the only time to have this experience in my life. The next three years of my life were going to be the busiest and most difficult time of my life, but how could I take this dream trip if I couldn’t find anyone to go with me? And then my best friend encouraged me to do something radical: to go alone.

Solo travel has transformed my life in so many ways, and I would recommend it to everyone! Here are the lessons I have learned throughout my years of chasing adventures around the globe as a solo female traveler.

1. Everything that I need is within me.

I remember arriving at my hostel in Barcelona on that trip feeling incredibly accomplished after crossing international borders and navigating public transportation in a different language AND without cellular service. Time and time again, I am amazed by my ability to figure things out when I had no idea how it worked before. I can do hard things. From taking a chicken bus to a beach town in Nicaragua to crossing the land border in between Thailand and Cambodia by foot, I have realized that I am incredibly capable on my own. Yes, the unknown is terrifying. But you already have everything you need within you to succeed in whatever you choose to pursue.

2. I am my best company.

When you have no external companion, you start to realize that you yourself are the best companion you could ask for. When you travel alone, you get to choose your own adventures, and there is no one else to convince you to do anything you don’t want to. You answer only to yourself. Do you want to sleep in instead of taking that early morning tour? Go for it. Do you want to have pizza instead of pasta for dinner? You do you! (Although why don’t you just do both? You can do that too!) It is an incredible journey of self discovery that transforms you into your best self. Who wouldn’t want to hang out with you?!

3. I can (and should) laugh at myself.

From language barriers to getting lost to figuring out how to order the local cuisine, awkward things will inevitably happen when traveling in a foreign place and trying new things. Give yourself some grace. After a while, you learn to just laugh things off and embrace the journey. You become more open to having new experiences and adventures when you stop worrying about what you or other people will think of you. (News flash: they think you are a bada*s!) And as an added bonus, you’ll have plenty of hilarious memories and stories to share later!

4. Everything will be all right.

In travel, there are many things that are out of your control. Your flight gets delayed. Your baggage is lost. You find out your taxi driver charged you way more than he should have to take you to your destination. You cannot control everything in travel or in life. You learn to surrender and go with the flow. Sometimes a bit of spontaneity makes the journey more fun. In the end, everything will turn out just fine.

5. I am powerful.

A few years ago, I took a solo trip to Thailand, and when I mentioned this to a coworker she told me, “that’s been on my and my husband’s bucket list for years!” And that’s when I realized something incredibly empowering. I not only make my own dreams come true, but I also live out other people’s dreams. I choose my own path. I break out of comfort zones and achieve what some perceive as impossible. I break stereotypes. I can do anything I put my mind to. I can do anything I want. I create my own happiness. 

Solo travel helps me to be my best self anywhere and everywhere, even when I am not traveling. Many of these lessons have even translated into my professional life as I navigate the early stages of my career! It empowers me. It gives me freedom. It gives me independence. It gives me self-confidence. It dares me to do whatever I want. Really, it makes me a bichota, and I couldn’t imagine myself in any other way.

Fellow bichotas, let me know what you’ve learned from your solo travels in the comments below. And if you’ve never traveled solo, what are you waiting for?

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