Thelma and Louise might still be alive today, had they chosen to travel alone.

I know it goes against all traditional thought, but I would like to suggest that all women would benefit from setting out on an adventure all by themselves, even if they don’t think they could. Does that make you nervous? I’d like to challenge that line of thinking.

While I am mostly joking about Thelma and Louise, you could argue that the decisions they made together paved the very path of destruction that led them, quite literally, straight off of a cliff. I don’t know that I’ve ever yelled at the screen more often for any film but “Thelma & Louise.” “No, don’t!” Over and over and over.

Now, while I think it is interesting to consider how their story might have been different had they taken divergent journeys, you really can’t say how it all might have turned out. But, I can say that my travels alone have been a great deal less harrowing, so it has occurred to me theirs might have gone smoother, too.

I belong to this cool community of women on Facebook and have seen more than one woman considering traveling alone who is concerned that she shouldn’t. A lot of women are afraid of the risks involved with striking out into uncharted territories alone. While there are legitimate concerns, I have been in a position to travel alone more than once, and I consider it to be the single greatest thing that I could have done for myself.

Back in 2006, my friend Iva Palmer invited me to come with her and her son as they journeyed to her home country of Croatia to stay with her mother in her grandmother’s home on the island of Krk in the Adriatic Sea. It is a beautiful island with numerous ancient communities, and they offered me amazing accommodations in a basement apartment that opened onto the beautiful backyard.

The language barrier in Croatia is pretty significant, or at least it was at the time. They were beginning to see more English-speaking tourists, but it was not something they were accustomed to. I was so happy to have the luxury of my bilingual hosts helping me schedule bus trips to various locations around the island, and graciously feeding me as often as I wanted. This was not what I call solo travel, mind you. I’m about to get to that.

I decided I wanted to strike out on my own to visit Venice, Italy, while there. It was just around the coastal corner and it seemed silly not to take the chance to explore. I’m not a big planner, especially when it comes to travel. I’ve written before about Dad’s job at Delta that gave us the training to jump on a plane on a whim and figure out the details later. Terrifying for many, but a way of life for our family.

I decided I’d get on a bus bound for Italy and let the adventure unfold. Let me tell you, it was amazing how many Venice experts I knew, once I announced my plans. “You can’t go to Venice without a reservation! You’ll never find a place to stay!” “Venice is packed at that time of the year!” “How will you even know where to go once you get there?”

You would have thought I had announced I was taking a bus to the moon! It was all well-meaning, of course. My people were worried for me. They wanted me to be safe and it made them nervous to have no idea where or when I might end up.

Iva kindly dropped me at the Rijeka bus station and I enjoyed a jaunt through border crossings at Slovenia and Italy, and landed in Trieste, the Italian terminus for the Eurorail. From the bus station I found a place to stay, all by myself. I strolled through the city and found a place for dinner, all by myself. Trieste is a beautiful city with far fewer tourists than the more common destinations. I would love to go there again to explore more deeply.

The next morning I got myself on the train to Venice, and the nerves began to build. I learned that I owed a $50 fine because I hadn’t noticed the signs telling me to validate my ticket at the station. This unexpected expense on a tiny budget was enough to send me into a tailspin of doubt. I couldn’t afford to make mistakes! I tried to stay calm knowing that, at that point, I was going on to Venice whether I wanted to or not.

I got off the train and headed straight to the tourist information desk, sure I would be told there were no rooms. The kind woman at the counter asked my budget. I told her I’d like to find a place for $100 and waited for her to laugh in my face. Instead, she informed me she had a room at the Hotel do Pozzi just blocks from St. Marks Square with its own bathroom for just $110! I snatched it up before she could realize the mistake she was clearly making.

I had the most amazing stay! I toured the cathedral, ate in the sidewalk cafes, bought souvenirs and drank in every ounce of the scenery and culture. And, best of all, I got to decide every bit of what I wanted to do without worrying about another soul. There is no better way to explore, nor is there a better way to discover yourself. The resilience you can find by putting yourself in unexpected places is invaluable, and I think every woman should try it. Besides, if you go it alone, there is no one to talk you into plunging yourself to a fiery death, which is a good thing to avoid, if you ask me. Given the choice, I’ll make my own adventure, thank you very much.

Monica Sheppard is a freelance graphic designer, beekeeper, mother and community supporter living in Rome.

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