Sometimes things don't go as planned – and those moments often make for the best stories. Tripping columns offer readers a chance to share their wild adventures.
What is it like to travel alone as a woman in her 20s?
I'm also a blonde.
This disclosure is not an admission of vanity or self-deprecation ("Did ya hear the one about the blonde and the airport?"). I note this because, without fail, every man has included my highlights in reaction to my solo travels.
"A blond chick alone in Central America? You tryin' to get kidnapped?" an Australian surfer exclaimed, one hand to mouth, on a hostel couch in Panama.
I assume it's because my hue differs from the norm in countries in which I have navigated solo, such as Jamaica, Nicaragua and Myanmar, marking me a target for stares, whistles or kidnappings (see above). In Costa Rica, my new friend from Switzerland and I told a bartender, a New Jersey native, how we had met an hour before while perusing earrings.
"Damn," he said, drying a glass and looking horrified. "Alone? Two blond girls like you?
"Damn, that's brave. Or stupid."
There's exhilaration found in boarding a bus, plane, train or boat alone, headed to a destination you've only seen in a photo. There's magic in strolling around a new city – blond or not.
Men will make moves. A male travel pal! He seems nice, you may think, in naive joy at the platonic beauty of it all. He may then lean in for a kiss on the beach. This will get old fast and can feel more violating and disappointing than whistles and leers. Assumptions of your sexual availability based on your solo status as a foreigner may be frequent, and yes, may bring moments of fear.
People may also be concerned and puzzled.
"Perhaps next time you come here you will have a boyfriend," said the driver of a moped taxi in Vietnam, shaking his head, giving me a pitying smile. "It is very sad."
You will answer where you're from, and what you do at home, and why you are alone, many times. On a bus from Laos to Vietnam I met two women from Victoria, who invited me to a meditation retreat in Northern Thailand, an itinerary change that led to one of my most cherished memories abroad. Spontaneity is truly explored and developed when you're solo, as is the ability to trust your own decisions.
You might also hear a lot of Eat, Pray, Love related comments.
"No, I'm not looking for love. No, I'm not going through a divorce. No, I'm not trying to find myself," then you might pause. "Actually, about that last one …"
Dangerous? I have felt more vulnerable walking alone in Vancouver than I have in a foreign country, although vigilance and research are key. Some areas are not advisable to travel alone as a female, but finding travel buddies on the road is easy – backpackers are a welcoming lot.
That doesn't mean there won't be moments when you arrive at a hostel and feel like the new kid walking into a cliquey cafeteria. Or take one too many selfies. Travelling alone you'll meet people who will change your outlook on life, and the feeling of being free is worth the feeling of butterflies. Blond or not.
Send in your wild tale from the road to firstname.lastname@example.org.