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Annaleise Walker: The Solo Female Traveler

When traveling solo you get to meet all kinds of people. That’s the beauty of traveling around the world. These people you would never get the chance to meet otherwise. Whilst traveling Spain over the summer I came across the beautiful city of Sevilla where I met Annaleise. Sitting at the bed next to mine in the hostel we got to chatting. Turns out we had a lot in common and I loved listening to her share her own travel stories. At the time she was on a month-long backpacking-adventure through Europe, similar to me except she went to many more cities and countries than I did. At only 19 years old, I admired her and saw so much of my own wanderlust in her. Fast forward to today, I knew she was perfect to interview because I knew she had stories and advice that needed to be heard. After all her travels, Annaleise sits on the phone with me in Canada with a smile on her face, eager to chat.

Annaleise: This is where I was born and have lived for the last 20 years! You should go. It is beautiful. The culture is very different and it’s worth it. And if you come, you can see me. I definitely think that the people in Canada are just extremely kind. Like over the top kind of nice. And it’s not like that in other countries. People aren’t necessarily rude in other countries, but people in Canada, they’re constantly saying sorry and excuse me, and it’s just very over the top.

Caitlyn: You travel quite a bit! But what was the first one like? Where did you go?

Annaleise: The first big one that I did on my own was the European trip. I did one month in Europe. I did 15 cities in Spain, Portugal, Italy, Netherlands and France. My first time in Europe and my first time traveling alone. And it was amazing.

Caitlyn: What was your favorite place, the best city, best country?

Annaleise: Definitely Portugal was the best country by far. I loved Portugal and then I also really liked some of the small little towns in Italy. I mostly traveled by bus, but I did have a couple of plane rides. I tried to do the least amount of plane rides as possible to keep it cheap. If you want to travel, I would say do it by yourself first to kind of figure out what you like and then do it with friends, but totally try it by yourself.

Caitlyn: How did you first think of, ‘oh, I want to go traveling around the world alone’? That’s such a scary thought to some people. So how did you first come up with that?

Annaleise: I just remember in high school, something about traveling to Europe just appealed to me so much. I heard so many cool stories from there, and I’d never been. And then when it was kind of time for me to go, when I had the time and the money to do it, I just really wanted to go by myself. There was nobody else that would really want to go for a month with me. And I was like, I’ll do by myself. Honestly, I would just recommend going. I don’t really think it matters when you do it. For me, going, I couldn’t go before because of

Covid, and going after is a little bit inconvenient because with my degree, there’ll be practicums that kind of gives you an entryway into jobs, so it just kind of pushes you right into it. So halfway through was kind of the right time for me, but I think.

Caitlyn: How did you approach situations with men who made you uncomfortable?

Annaleise: I’m so happy you brought that up because it was such... unfortunately, it was such a big part of my trip, going alone as a young woman who was very visibly a traveler in these countries. And I think that you deal with it just because you have to. You don’t have any other choice but to deal with it, and especially when you’re in a foreign country by yourself. For me, at least, the only option was really to ignore it or to just smile and

keep walking. That was the safest option. Sometimes if it was a little bit of a safer environment, maybe I would glare or something, but I could never say what I really wanted to or act how I really wanted to, because that’s just not safe. Different things that I did when I was at home, if I was going out alone at night, I would definitely make sure that I was more alert, even during the day. Honestly, I was just kind of always being a lot more alert than I was at home. I wouldn’t want that to deter anybody from going, especially women, because it was not a big enough problem for me that I would not want to go again or that I ruined my trip at all.

But it was something that was frustrating, and I think it’s important to talk about, because I don’t think that it’s acceptable. Just because it didn’t ruin my trip doesn’t mean that it’s an

okay behavior. I remember sometimes being, like, very, very scared that something bad was going to happen, that I was halfway across the world and nobody would know, and I probably couldn’t do anything about it.

I was only genuinely scared maybe like, once or twice. The rest of the times it was just more frustrating, and it made me angry. But it usually seemed mostly harmless. I say that was quotation marks because emotionally, not very harmless, but physically, I fell safe.

Caitlyn: What was the scariest part about traveling alone?

Annaleise: I think the scariest part was just there were so many unknowns. Everything that I was doing there, I had never done before, and I had no idea whether I was going to like it. What happens if I don’t like it? What happens if I’m stuck in Europe for a month and I am miserable and I hate it? What happens if I don’t have a place to stay one night? What if I get really injured and I’m in a hospital where I don’t speak the language? Like, there was just so many things that could happen, and I think that having that many unknowns was the scary part. But I quickly realized that for most things, no matter what happens, you’ll be okay. For most things, you’ll be able to kind of just move past them.

Caitlyn: How do you personally deal with loneliness who solo traveling for long periods of time?

Annaleise: I think it might be different for everybody, but for me at least, I was actually more lonely at home than I was when I was in Europe, which I did not expect at all. But if you’re going to go travel by yourself, you have to stay in hostels. When you stay in hostels, you are constantly surrounded by people who are just as excited to explore the world as you are. So even if you go explore by yourself, you can come back and talk to people. There was actually so many people and the other thing was just finding little things that made me happy and not kind of needing someone else to make me happy. So sitting and watching the sunset and being happy just because the sunset was there. Or seeing a really pretty bird and just taking a moment to be like.. that is a beautiful bird and just letting that make me happy. Which it sounds kind of silly when you think about all those things. But when you kind of put it into practice. You stop worrying about whether there’s people with you or not.

Caitlyn: How did traveling change you as a person?

Annaleise: One of the things that I noticed is that I just appreciate everything more than I did before, because when you’re traveling, you physically have nothing. I learned to just appreciate these tiny little things I never appreciated before. Like a couple of minutes of silence when you’re riding the bus and you can just see the sunset as you’re passing by it,

or when you’re having a warm bath, and you have a couple of moments just to yourself. I was happier and less anxious, and I just realized nothing matters. So many of the things that I worried about at home, I realized, do not matter.

Caitlyn: What would you tell travelers that are going on their first solo trip?

Annaleise: Do it. If you’re even thinking about it just a little bit, do it. Even if just the tiniest part of you wants to do it, go do it. Because chances are you’ll love it. But if you don’t, at least you try and you know. Be okay with how things go, be okay with missed buses, missed opportunities. Be okay if things don’t go to plan, because they’re not going to go to plan. And it doesn’t matter. You can’t do everything. You can’t see everything. So just appreciate the things that you do. Get things you get to see, but don’t make a super rigid plan because it probably won’t work out.

Caitlyn: What was the best part?

Annaleise: The best part? Just exploring the world. Honestly, just seeing everything and experiencing everything was definitely the best part. I just wanted to experience the world in a way I never had before, and I was really curious to discover whether I would enjoy traveling, especially by myself.

Caitlyn: What would you say to yourself before she was a big solo traveler?

Annaleise: “I am so proud of you for taking the leap and going for it, this is going to turn out to be the best decision you’ve ever made. Your life is going to change in ways you can’t even begin to imagine right now, and you’re going to fall in love with yourself and the world. So don’t listen to everyone that is telling you not to do it and doubting you; trust your gut because it is going to be unbelievably worth it.”

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