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As my best friend and I were amusing ourselves with ridiculous stories (the kind that only we find funny) from our trip to San Francisco, our one-man audience asked us something like this: “How do single girls travel and not meet guys?”

To be honest, that thought never crossed my mind. When traveling, I thought of nothing more than enjoying time with my travel buds and forging new experiences. Meeting guys fell nowhere on our radar—and frankly, I’m glad it didn’t. But his question made me think about life when not traveling.

Why are we always acting like single life is the travel equivalent of waiting for a delayed flight at the airport—thinking only of our much-anticipated destination? And that euphoria I experienced traveling as a single girl with my friends—what’s stopping me from having that in my “normal” life as well? I really wondered: “How can I live my time as a single woman so fully that I wont stop to wonder what (or whom) I’m supposedly missing?

I know I’m not the only single woman who wonders whether singleness keeps her from experiencing all life has to offer. “I was getting a bit anxious,” Kara Eschbach, cofounder and editor in chief of Verily, wrote in an article. “I had already cycled through many roommates who had moved out upon their happy nuptials, and the summers of weddings every other weekend had morphed into summers of baby showers and birthing stories. I wanted to move into the next phase of my life.”

A lot of women are guilty of thinking that marriage is the beginning. Sure, it’s a new kind of beginning, but it’s not a prerequisite for having a great life. There’s more to being single than waiting, just as there’s more to any trip than the hours spent in airport terminals. Being single is a journey in itself, one of self-development, joys, and adventure.

I know the waiting area mentality will never get me anywhere—literally—so I’m choosing to live this stage of my life to the fullest. When we travel, we discover not only the world around us but also something about ourselves. Traveling has taught me that there’s no reason to wait around for a relationship (or any marker or milestone) to make the most of life.

Cultivate Your Interests

Traveling has allowed me to pursue my passions. When researching a trip, I scope out sites such as art museums and bookstores because these are the interests that stir my soul. When I studied in Paris, I looked forward to savoring hours at one of the city’s best art museums. I never missed a chance to stand before works by my favorite artists. At the same time, I didn’t expect my friends to sacrifice their time to fangirl over paintings with me, so I went to the museums alone. I followed my particular interests even without others to share them with me. After all, how could I not make the most of my time there?

Being single grants us a similar opportunity to indulge our interests for the sake of enjoyment or even self-betterment. If there’s something you want to experience, don’t wait around for someone to join you. Volunteer at your local soup kitchen, learn a language, try canoeing, take cooking classes, plant a garden. Find something that nourishes your mind or soul. If you want to keep your single years from going to waste, spend time indulging your sense of discovery and pursuing your interests.

Build Self-Reliance

Exploring cities on my own has helped me become braver and bolder. Navigating foreign metro systems, shoving myself into unfamiliar situations, communicating with non-English speakers—all of these experiences revealed to me how savvy and self-reliant I could be.

Living in Orlando for an internship, I took advantage of being a tourist during my two months there. I tend to cling to others in unfamiliar situations, but I braved the time alone and genuinely enjoyed it. I used to cringe at the thought of going to a restaurant by myself, too self-conscious to consider it. But in cities where hardly anyone knew me, I let go of my insecurity. Sitting at a restaurant with only a book before me became liberating. Driving sixty miles round trip to visit the Rifle Paper Co. flagship store and explore the neighborhood alone: also worth it.

Alone time may seem unsettling at first, but a little introspection helped me know, and even appreciate, myself more. In a way, I learned to date myself. Stepping into that metro, museum, or restaurant alone really meant stepping out of my beloved comfort zone. Being single dares us to be self-reliant. We all must learn to take care of ourselves before we can take care of others. Knowing and loving yourself before a relationship, I’ve been told, better prepares you to know and love others.

Good Friends Are Just as Important

Adapting to a foreign country or even an unfamiliar city can be challenging. Living in Paris for a short time seemed like a dream—and in many ways, it was—but I had to grin and bear it through initial homesickness, culture shock, and the peculiar, disorienting feeling of being in a foreign place.

For me, nothing eased the adjustment like finding a small support system. I formed two of my best friendships that summer. We were bound by a common love of old-world churches and rosé, and we shared everything from frites (the French word for, well, French fries) to heart-to-hearts on the train.

We often hear about friendships that were lost because one person gets in a relationship. But seeing what comfort I found from friends while traveling showed me that whether single or not, friends are crucial. Friendships are essential to our well-being in any place or phase of life, for not even marriage can be the one and only relationship a person needs. Being single gives us the chance to pour ourselves into our friendships. Nurture a solid support system now, and those friends will be there for you wherever you go.

Pursue Adventure Everywhere

I used to see faraway places as the only conduit for adventure. New cities compelled me to be more daring, as I found myself motivated by a “now or never” mindset. At the same time, I overlooked similar experiences in my own backyard.

When the places we frequent seem too familiar, we think we need to travel afar. However, my friends and I have realized that we can find fun and adventure closer to home, too. I think there’s something to be said for being a tourist in your own area, exploring unfamiliar places and taking in experiences with fresh eyes.

It’s hard to find time for fun when life gets busy, but investing in small adventures like concerts, hiking, or poetry readings can keep life from feeling stagnant. No one wants to sink into a rut, but being single for a while can feel that way (of course, relationships aren’t immune to that feeling either). No matter your relationship status, seeking out new experiences will make life interesting. Adventure is out there; we only need to pursue it.

Embrace the Unexpected

I’m such a planner, especially when it comes to traveling. Before visiting NYC last summer with my best friends, I typed up itineraries, important phone numbers, and even the walking distance from one spot to another. In spite of that, our favorite memories from the trip came as total surprises.

Traveling has taught me to be intentional with my time as a single woman—but not to the point of grasping for strict control of every facet of my life, relationships included.

Likewise, little moments of surprise and serendipity can be our most cherished in the end. As much as we may want to map out our lives, that doesn’t mean things will go according to plan. Being single may not be what we anticipated for ourselves here and now, but this time in our lives can be unexpectedly satisfying, marked by fun and fortuitous moments. You may be surprised by the places you go or even whom you meet along the way. Just remember to enjoy the journey.

Photo Credit: The Manchiks