I recently returned from five months of volunteering in Asia.
You will never meet a bigger advocate of traveling solo. Women, men, old people, young people...traveling alone is a unique type of exploration. I think everyone should do it once. That being said, if you are a single woman traveling alone in a developing country, bring your fake ring and your A game.
In Nepal, I taught English to high school students for a few weeks in Kathmandu. Naturally, I didn't want to look like a loser eating alone every day so I tried to befriend some of the other teachers. When, on my very first day, I was invited by 3 male colleagues to the bench [a literal bench which is their version of a cafeteria], I jumped at the opportunity. After spending a few weeks in Nepal, I should have anticipated what was to come.
I'm going to transcribe the "get to know you" chat starting with the first word:
Nepali 1: Are you married?
Erin: [laughs] No, I'm not married.
Nepali 2: How old are you?
Erin: I'm 31.
Nepali 1: That's old not to be married. Why aren't you married?
Erin: [Because underneath my clothes, my entire body is made of scales.] Well, [if you must know] marriage hasn't been at the top of my list of things to do over the last few years.
Nepali 3: Do you want to marry a Nepali person? [as he lowers his eyes to my chest, which is well concealed]
Nepali 3: Do you have a boyfriend?
Erin: Yes. [like I would say no to you vultures]
Nepali 2: Well then, you are single like us. We're single too.
Erin: You don't say.
This conversation would repeat itself every few days.
That is, until I bought a cheap silver ring and began disguising myself as [dramatic pause] a married person. Am I ashamed that I sold out? Hell, no. I have to have that conversation bi-annually with my grandmother and frankly, that's enough. I'm headed back to Nepal in a few weeks to build a school in a rural village and I'm thinking about sticking a few photos of my friends' kids in my wallet for added affect.
Chris Brogan recently wrote an excellent blog about the power of story in writing and in our lives. He said, "It's about living a better story." Ladies, if you are about to travel the world alone, you know you have the best story of all. And, go without the ring for a few weeks to bring a few laugh-out-loud stories home.
But be ready. The vultures are waiting.