After 3 months of solo traveling, I was finally reunited with my friends. They started to ask me all kinds of questions but one was so deep that I kept thinking about even after the whole talk was over.
“What if you married someone who is gonna stop you from traveling on your own?” Asked one of my friend while smiling cunningly,
I smiled back and said nothing.
Endless hiking and shopping trips; to malls, to farmers’ markets, to high-end fashion stores. Various dining options to choose from. Zillions of conversations to hear or participate in. Millions of people to make friends with. Theaters, operas, cinemas, bookstores in every corner. This is how people imagine solo traveling to be. But behind all that glitter, there’s reality. Harsh reality.
Many Saudi female travelers would never confess how emotionally hard it can be to explore the world on their own. Especially when you are away for an extended period of time.
These are three secrets no Saudi female solo-travelers will ever tell anyone:
1- After an accumulation of daily lemons of life, a woman needs a comforting hug. Things like dealing with a rude comment for being a Muslim or for wearing a head cover, or like not finding a taxi easily while carrying a lot of heavy bags, or even like looking at happy couples everywhere you go, can be draining at times. If you are a stranger, the easiest way will be holding a poster with “free hugs” in public. How will that work for a Muslim female solo-traveler?
If a man approaches to hug, she would/may not accept. Even if she does, she may end up with agonies of mind having done something she shouldn’t do from a religious perspective.
If she hugs a woman, that might be understood as a lesbian act. Something which she is not looking for at that point.
If she hugs a child, that may look like harassment.
It is complicated to hug others if you are a Saudi female.
2- The first few days of the travel are the most exciting days. That’s when you are at full gear to try all new things. By and by, you lose some of that spark. Things start to look ordinary. Daily tasks such as getting yourself food can become eventually boring.
At this point, you wish to be with a company. To be with someone who takes charge a little. To make you laugh when you suddenly feel homesick. To spoil you. All those acts of kindness will feel double as good than when are done at home.
3- A Saudi Female solo traveler faces weird looks of many Saudis out there who think such a woman is given too much freedom to be allowed to wander. Such people thinks that a woman is naive by nature, and that she constantly needs a man to protect her from going astray!
When a woman is determined to do something “morally” wrong, there is no power on earth that could stop her. She does not have to travel any distance to do that. She can do everything in front of a man without him even realizing it.
This article is not intended to discourage anybody from solo traveling. Solo traveling is a wonderful thing. But you have to be really brave to do it.
It’s not about money or luxury places to go to. It is more than dealing with missing bags, getting lost, getting robbed, or walking next to big scary dogs all by yourself. Solo traveling is about embracing solitude fully and entirely and inventing new eyes to look at the world.