When I took off from Boston Logan Airport on a Wednesday evening and arrived in Bali, Indonesia that Friday evening, I had cumulatively been through 20 hours of air travel, an 11-hour layover in Amsterdam, and some serious time-zone hopping.
Although fatigued and in desperate need of a shower, I had made it in one piece to my villa in the beach town of Canggu, where 11 other women travelers from all over the globe had settled in for the night. I was the last to arrive.
While I have traveled before on my own, and did so to get to Bali, I would be exploring the island with a group of women I had never met before, through a program for women wanting to share adventures.
I was on one of The Solo Female Traveler Network’s Global Meetup Tours, of which group founder Amanda Black says are a great way “to spend time traveling with like-minded people.”
Originally from California, Black has been living in various places around the world for seven years and is currently based out of Melbourne, Australia. She started the network as a Facebook group just three years ago as a way to connect with people she had met along her travels.
Pro: Camaraderie Brings Perspective
Bali is a popular retreat destination for travelers who want to experience all things wellness-related; spas and massage parlors dot every corner of the island, yoga and meditation is a popular pastime, and smoothie places and vegan cafes abound.
We bounced between beaches, temples and spiritual ceremonies and spent time lounging by the pool and checking out the local nightlife. We watched the sunset at Tanah Lot Temple, braved the waves in Kuta during a surfing lesson, and delighted in the hundreds of monkeys skittering around at the Monkey Forest in Ubud.
The women in my group were all in various stages of their lives — from serial backpackers to retirees to first-time travelers — and we all came to Bali for very different reasons.
For example, one woman in our group, in her late 60s, had just regained the ability to walk after major surgery less than a month prior to the trip; she didn’t want her recovery to impede her from experiencing adventure.
Once we all converged upon the Island of the Gods, as Bali is known to be, we did end up finding common ground in our goals for the trip: Reflection, relaxation and cultural awareness. And, of course, a shared experience with other women.
Pro: Safety in Numbers
Being able to explore a new corner of our vast world is invaluable, but there are always risks involved with traveling, especially as a woman on her own.
You don’t want to find yourself in a vulnerable situation, like robbed and broke in Mexico, as Black once did. “I didn’t have anything,” she says. “I knew people would help if they knew I was there, but I had no way to connect with them.”
By sharing travel experiences, women can turn to the group if they find themselves in a sticky situation in a foreign country.
“As human beings, we want to have a support system,” says Black. “And, while some people prefer to travel solo, it doesn’t mean they want to feel alone while doing it.”
Pro: Traveling With Authenticity
Being part of an organized group tour gave us the added resource of having local experts on hand to educate us on the local customs and to watch out for common scams and over-inflated prices for foreigners.
It is custom for Balinese Hindus to make daily offerings to the gods at personal, family temples. These offerings are typically small boxes made from banana or palm leaves filled with colorful flowers and other symbolic items.
We had the opportunity to visit a temple dressed in traditional sarongs, and we left our own offerings, which we learned to make by hand.
The Balinese people’s immense sense of gratitude, attention to detail and regard for beauty is admirable.
Pro: Adventures Come to Those Who Seek Them
Travel is truly for anyone. There is no age limit to adventure-seeking.
This became abundantly clear to me when, deterred by tall ocean waves and my subpar swimming skills, I was bested at surfing by someone much older than me.
Nevertheless, this voyage enabled me to make other strides of courage of my own, including traveling to the other side of the globe, solo but not alone, for the first time.