Embracing the Un-Average Girl in All of Us
Let’s get something out in the open. I’ve got a few years on the author of The Art of Solo Travel: A Girl’s Guide, Stephanie Lee. This is important for me to mention when evaluating this book, because there is something about traveling where we always feel as if it’s something we had better get to now. There’s an all or nothing panic that can set in. Next year or in ten years or whatever, it’s going to be too late: We’re going to have new labels such as wife, mother, career woman or even someday, if we’re lucky, “elderly.” As females we feel as if we are “girls” and that the label of “woman” is something reserved for former grade school teachers and our mother-in-laws; that it looms out there like a dark cloud that one day will overcome us. I feel compelled to tell you that it isn’t that bad. No matter what your decade here on beautiful planet earth, don’t buy into any of the labels. And this book has much to offer the female traveler, no matter what her age.
I know I’m waxing philosophical during a book review, but belles, gals, and girl, and yes, guys too, just like the words “love” and “friend,” there aren’t really enough options in the English language to nail down the things we, as women, or humans, have in common. In the afterwords of the book, Lee states the central message of the book is “Embrace your individuality and sense of adventure.” Now that is something I relate to; so do my daughters and so does my mother. My point? If you are a female of any age who is considering traveling alone, or even simply, foreign travel, short or long-term, don’t let the implied demographic deter you from considering this book. You will most definitely pick up at least one or two useful bits of information, which is really the most you can expect from any one source. Those one or two things, however, can make it well worth the price, and you may just find some inspiration along the way.
The Art of Solo Travel: A Girl’s Guide is well written and easy to read; the graphics are hip and beautiful without being distracting. As far as content, Lee covers the right bases. I was particularly impressed with her information regarding the cost and financing long term travel. She breaks down exactly how much her own trip cost, and how she saved money in advance (which could serve as useful for any money saving initiative.) She manages to speak to both those who may not take the major financial undertaking seriously enough, and those who would quickly discount this kind of travel as impossibly expensive.
Often books of this nature send me off on a Google searching rampage, for all the questions posed, and left unanswered. In the foreword Lee, discusses her own frustration with having to pull applicable information from many sources in her own trip preparations, and how this served as part of the impetus for writing the book. Undoubtedly some serious thought went into sections covered here. She goes into the right amount of detail in clearly organized sections on topics such as how to work a foreign airport, what tech gadgets to bring and what to consider leaving at home, and how to pack and what to pack it all in. (Stephanie, I’m struggling with leaving the high heels at home, but I’ll consider it.) When she evaluates various countries as options for visiting, she sticks to the ones she has had experience with firsthand including lots of great tidbits. No useless generalities found: She may refer to “Europe,” but with the right amount of elaboration throws in the same kind of telling specifics a good friend might share.
Until I read the well done section on safety, it didn’t occur to me to ask my daughters what they thought of the book. (They thought it looked “cool.”) I’ve always encouraged them to have a healthy sense of adventure, but frankly, now that they’re actually talking about a future of cross-country road trips and Eurail passes, there are times when I want to nix it all (as if I could.) Since I know that much of the advice I would offer on these topics would fall on deaf ears, I’m tempted to go the wrapping- them- in-cotton route. Realistically before putting them on a plane with a wheeled backpack and an open itinerary, however, I could at least insist they study the practical and personal safety advice offered here.
Yes, they could learn how to deal with loneliness, how to pack, about couchsurfing, how to save money, how to stay safe, and the many other practical things they need to be equipped for traveling. Perhaps I could then make them recite the book back to me. Too much? I don’t really think so; I trust they would do the same for me.
* linked via affiliate relationship with Indie Travel Media Ltd.