When we sat down to speak with influencer and travel blogger Lindsay Mukaddam, she’d just landed in Croatia. After a bleary flight and a solid nap, Mukaddam labored to install a Zoom update on her Airbnb’s spotty Wi-Fi. Between the loading and buffering, we discussed rescheduling, but Mukaddam was joining friends on a weeklong boat trip up the coastline, and the open sea promised even worse download speed. Through divine providence (or a well-placed kick to the router), the clouds parted, and Mukaddam appeared on screen, grainy yet visible at last.
Such is life for the world traveler. For half a decade, Lindsay Mukaddam has been sharing her adventures under the multiplatform handle One Girl Wandering, amassing nearly 200,000 followers along the way. From her comprehensive travel guides to organized group trips with her fans, Mukaddam hopes to convey a core message: you don’t have to wait on others to see the world. Here, she shares some of her most important lessons.
You started this venture to prevent stagnation in your life. What was the process of becoming One Girl Wandering like?
I definitely didn’t set out to have this turned into a business. I had started traveling, but my Instagram at the time was just a personal account. I had some friends and family who were like, “You should start a blog.” Of course, none of them have their own blog. They don’t know how hard it is. I was like, “Yeah, sure, I’ll do that.” And so I started a blog and started sharing through that and through social media, and it just kind of took off from there. Attracting a community came with opportunities [to work] with brands, other companies, and tourism boards. And from there, luckily, I’ve been able to make a little business out of it. So that’s what I do now full time.
You assemble travel guides, share tips, and advise women on the best way to travel. Why is it important for you to help others see the world?
A lot of women hold themselves back from traveling. They’re waiting on friends or on significant others. Solo travel is something that’s been taboo for women. So, I wanted to prove a couple of things. One, you can do it—you don’t need to wait for anybody, and you shouldn’t wait for anybody, because life is too short. You never know what’s going to happen in life, and you should be able to get out there and explore and not be waiting on other people to be checking their calendars. Two, I’m married, and a lot of women think that once you get married, that’s it. You’re with your husband 24/7, and you guys have to do everything together. A big part of my mission is to let women know that you should try solo travel even if you’re married. I still travel with my friends, with my husband, and go on group trips. I just want women to know that this is an option for them, and for them to be bold enough to take it.
What are your biggest tips for women who are overwhelmed by the prospect of planning a solo trip?
You don’t need to take a gigantic international first trip; you can start off slow. You can take yourself out for dinner. Take yourself to the movies. Go to the museum by yourself. You can work up through your comfort level by doing small things, like taking a trip to the next town over or doing a weekend trip. You don’t need to jump completely off the cliff of your comfort zone.
You don’t count the number of countries you’ve visited. Why is that?
One of the reasons I don’t count is because, what determines visiting a country? Is it staying there overnight, or is it visiting for a few hours? I’m a big lover of going back to places, so I’ll do return visits. I think I’ve been to Paris four times now. I’ve been with my husband, with friends, and by myself, and each time was a different experience. I’ve been to Japan three times. I’ll be going again next year, and I’ve got a group trip going to Japan soon. I’m definitely a person who’s in support of slower travel and return travel. I try not to rush through destinations. I feel that a lot of times, especially for us in America, we have such limited vacation time that when you do finally get [to travel]I see people who come up with these wild itineraries of trying to hit five countries in a week and you’re just like, “Slow down and truly enjoy where you are.”
In all your solo adventures, have there been any standout, “This is it” moments?
I might get emotional. It was toward the end of my first solo trip that I was sitting atop a mountain in Switzerland. I was staying at a hotel with a funicular to the top, but at a certain time the funicular stopped running, so [hotel guests] were the only ones on the mountain. I decided to get up at sunrise, and I remember sitting on top of this mountain thinking, “This memory is going to be all mine.” It’s something that I’ll get to treasure, like a little gem that I get to hold on to.
Is that one of the most fulfilling elements of travel, getting to see those wonders firsthand?
That’s definitely part of it. Another part of it is just seeing how different people live their lives. You think so much about how you live your life and what’s normal for you, and then when you get to go see other people, it really shifts your perspective. You learn different things, and sometimes you learn that there are better ways of doing things. And I think that has helped me a lot when I return from travel—thinking about how I am living, how I can improve that, and how I can bring into my life what I’ve learned from meeting other people.