What I Gained from Traveling Alone
Nobody does my job because they love the wacky hours, the unruly guests, or the incredible food. Nobody does it for the pay, either. Rather, we all are in pursuit of one thing: freedom. Despite being raised in a society that doesn’t encourage solo female travel (and often perpetuates the fear that women traveling alone will get murdered while abroad, amongst other things), I was bitten by the travel bug at a young age and have been afflicted by a lifelong condition of constantly seeking new sights. So, after graduating successfully with my Bachelor’s Degree, I threw up my middle finger at the American Dream (go to school, graduate, get a job, get married... blah, blah, blah) and pursued a career that would allow me the freedom to do what I love every day: traveling. In case you hadn’t figured it out yet, I’m a flight attendant.
After working in the Stratosphere for a year and a half, I have been lucky enough to see 21 states, 16 countries, and 4 continents. My first big trip was to the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico, then I spent time in Guatemala, Belize, Italy, Spain, Aruba, Fiji, Australia, and most notably, Indonesia. Most of my travels have been done with close friends by my side, but for my 24th birthday, I wanted to take a solo trip somewhere that was going to change me. I wanted to utilize my work benefits to foster internal growth, so I packed up my bags, kissed my mama, and headed to Southeast Asia... Alone.
Ever the independent spirit and introvert (I'm an Aquarius, what do you expect?), I thrive when I’m by myself. This is especially true when I’m in strange places because I’m left to my own devices and am able to do literally whatever I want, whenever I want. Traveling alone means I am unencumbered by an imposed agenda, untethered to the desires of others, free to lay in bed all day or wake up before sunrise to explore, or stay out all night, or read for 7 hours straight while laying in a hammock. For 3 and a half weeks, I traveled through Bali, did all of those things and so much more.
I rented a motorbike and road-tripped around the island for a week. I surfed in the rain, surrounded by shallow reefs populated by angelfish and manta rays. I rented private villas that had personal docks surrounded by black sand beaches. I chased waterfalls and was then chased by screeching macaque monkeys. I celebrated my birthday surrounded by strangers, hailing from as close as St. Louis to as far as Siberia, who became friends overnight. I learned a little bit of Indonesian, and ate a lot of Indonesian food (tahu goreng with sweet chili sauce and a side of cap cay? Yes, please!). I went without cell service for a full 36 hours and loved every damn second of it. I almost got arrested, then upon being released, was asked by the police officers for a photo with them because white women rarely came through the small town I was detained in.
The experience was breathtaking, spiritually awakening, and revitalizing. It also was lonely, and downright difficult at times. These polarities often come with solo travel, despite it being constantly conveyed by luxury travel bloggers and Instagram models as a glamorous, glowing life with never-ending photo ops. While it often does come with beautiful moments, it is so important to understand that traveling solo is neither easy nor is it painless, but that does not mean that it isn't peaceful and natural. I have found that through my travels, with every challenge presented to me, whether it be getting lost in a city where no one speaks English and my phone has no service, or having to sleep in a bedroom with stained sheets and bugs crawling along the walls and no air conditioning, or not understanding a menu and accidentally ordering some poor deceased animal's brain, I come out on the other side feeling more intimately connected to... well, me. Coming home is always a journey in and of itself because when I return, all of the simplicities of home bring to light the incredible amount of changes that have occurred within me while I was away. I came home feeling confident, radiant, strong and empowered beyond belief.
As many ciswomen can testify, it isn't easy growing up in this world while living in a girl's body. Women are taught from the time we are born that we have certain roles we need to fill -- ones that suit the world's maternal, sexual, and feminine needs -- and that a woman who strays from these roles is unwomanly. We are confined to boxes. We are encouraged to be essentially a sum of our parts, walking, talking sex dolls with no substance. Yet, on top of that, we have to be smart enough to hold a conversation, but not smart enough to make a man feel stupid. Funny enough to make a light joke, but not funnier than a man. Successful enough to hold a job, but God forbid that job earn the same amount as a man in the same role. Constantly throughout our lives, we are told that we need to walk down the path that has been laid out before us by society, and for a lot of us, this path is completely unsuited to ultimately making us feel happy. Seeking joy, fulfillment, pleasure, and above all else, empowerment, through means that don't line up with society's expectations can be terrifying at first. I've learned, however, that it is much more rewarding.
That empowerment felt so out of reach when I was younger. It was like I was constantly going to be striving for something that was held just out of reach because I didn't gain joy from the things that society told me to rejoice in. However, the empowerment I so deeply craved as a young girl has come to me effortlessly through my travel experiences. It has come to me simply by choosing to live hard and fast and to say "Hell yes!" to every opportunity that is presented to me. I, Haley Fox, an anxiety-riddled woman with seemingly inherent low self-esteem and a tendency to have minor internal breakdowns whenever my food is mixed together, have become not only a Yes Woman but also a HELL YES! Woman. Something that seemed so out of my reach for so long is finally in my grasp, and it feels incredible. Would you like to know what the best part of this transformation is?
My career is singlehandedly responsible for it. How lucky am I? I remember when I was growing up, I was always encouraged to find my passion and then find a way to get paid for it. Isn't that everyone's goal, to make a comfortable wage, love what they do every day, and make a life out of chasing their dreams? Words will never encompass how grateful I am for the decisions I made that led me down the path I am currently on, for it has brought me to the most fulfilling and empowering career I could have asked for. As a flight attendant, I don't have the best hours, awesome passengers consistently, delicious food, or substantial pay, but I do have a career that allows me to be free to live the life I have always wanted. Isn't the most empowering thing to be able to choose your path, and be in love with your life?