Today marks exactly a year since I flew from London to Bangkok, kicking off my solo travel adventure.
In this post I highlight some of the realities of solo travel and speak more on some of the things that I’ve experienced over the last year.
Being in my own company
I’ve always been content in my own company and haven’t had any issues with it in the past but solo travel has really tested that sometimes as there has been many an occasion where I haven’t been able to speak to anybody who speaks english. The key for me is to find distractions and ways to cope; listening to music, reading, learning Spanish and writing this blog (when I get round to it) are some of the best ways for me to do this and help take my mind off what’s going on.
Being on my own often makes making important decisions more crucial. If you’re travelling with someone else it allows you to talk through the situation and make a judgement based on multiple opinions however when you’re on your own you have to trust yourself and the decisions that you make. In Asia especially many things are uncertain and unfamiliar so making the right decision is even more important. Luckily for me the decisions that I made throughout Asia all worked out but I’ve heard many horror stories of people losing bags, having things stolen, missing transport pickups and having to sleep rough.
Social situations, meeting new people
When I was at home I’d never imagined going up to random people and starting a conversation with them. With travelling though it’s different, everybody seems to have their guard down so it makes it so much easier to socialise and meet new people. When I eventually come home I’m sure that I’ll be more forthcoming with approaching new people – although I don’t know how well it’ll work out as most people will probably have their guard up. Either way I am a lot more comfortable in ‘these’ sorts of situations and that can only be a positive.
With solo travel those types of interactions are essential as you don’t want to be stuck on your own the whole time. I remember a period of 1-2 months near the start of my travels I was travelling with people the whole time. Whenever plans and timings work out with other travellers I always try to make the most of it and create a little group to travel with as it makes travelling so much easier and so much more fun. In Cambodia I travelled with Beth & Henry who I had met on a sunrise tour of Angkor Wat, I asked them whether they’d like to go for lunch after the tour and it turned out that we’d continue to travel with each other for next couple weeks going south. As soon as I parted ways with Beth & Henry I met Laurine from France on a boat from Koh Rong Sanloem, a paradise island in the South of Cambodia. Laurine and I went on to travel for a couple weeks parting ways as we crossed the border into Vietnam. It was only a matter of a couple days before I then met my next travel companions, Britt & Imaan from England who I travelled pretty much all of Vietnam with and went on to meet back up with in North Thailand before they flew home.
Ever since I left college and started work I’ve grown in confidence, but its a different ball game whilst travelling; being completely out of my comfort zone and travelling remote areas of the world has boosted my confidence more than ever. What travelling solo does is force you to make decisions and trust yourself; this is just a small part of my change in confidence. The other, larger part of it is that travelling pushes you into scenarios that you’d never/rarely find yourself in if you were working a 9-5 job or something similar – this increase in exposure allowed me to gain confidence a lot quicker than before.
Travelling solo means that you always have to be thinking and aware of what you’re doing, you’re vulnerable in a sense but when you’re actually travelling around you don’t often feel like you are. I’d probably have to liken it to a domino effect; at the very start of my travels I felt lost and not confident in what I was doing but booking and catching my first bus from city to city or going out for drinks with someone at my hostel started the domino effect. Doing one small thing right right allowed me to feel confident in my next decision and the process continued along that line. Don’t get me wrong there have been many wrong decisions that I have made and many setbacks but they never stopped me from moving forward and continuing my journey of building more and more confidence. If anything some of those setbacks helped… well some more than others!
Dealing with being away from home, not seeing family and friends
Without doubt the main thing the majority of travellers have to deal with is being away from home and I was aware of that before leaving. On the very first day that I arrived in Bangkok from London I experienced homesickness more than ever but since that day it’s never been as bad. I was lucky enough to have booked onto a tour to kick off my travels so on my second full day in Bangkok I got the chance to meet some people from my tour and it all fell into place from there. I found myself in a rhythm of travelling and meeting new people, keeping myself busy and distracted from feeling homesick along the way.
Since that first day I’ve only felt homesick on a few occasions, less than I can count on one hand which is a lot less than I thought I would. The first eight months were a breeze, it was only until it got to Christmas when I started to feel homesick again (like I’d expected) as I was away from loved ones when I’d usually be with them. Christmas was definitely the toughest time but I got through it by calling friends and family whenever I got the chance and spending my days in Australia with friends doing lots of fun stuff to distract myself. Once that had passed I knew I’d got through the toughest part so could deal with anything.
Now that COVID-19 has come around I’ve started thinking of home again as there has not been a lot else to do stuck inside during lockdown but I’ve managed to cope as I’ve had the experience already so it’s all good.
What my future holds
One thing that I love to do is plan and save ideas for future travels; I have many instagram travel inspiration posts saved as well as an abundance of lists for places to visit from people that I’ve met whilst travelling. However, as the recent COVID-19 pandemic has proven there is only so much planning that you can do.
I still don’t know what’s to come in the near and long-term future but I know it definitely still involves travelling; especially to those places that don’t necessarily feel like home. I absolutely loved travelling through SE Asia so I’ll definitely go back there so that I can visit the countries and places I missed the first time round. There’s also many more things to do and places to see left on my travel bucket list so I’ll still be ticking them off for years to come.
All in all I’ve found that travelling for the length of time that I have and am planning to do comes with a lot of sacrifices; being away from the ones you love and putting other things like buying a house on hold. For me though the sacrifice is worth it as I’m doing something that I truly want to do, of course I’d love to see my family and friends but there’s no greater time than now.
This is the video that made me take a leap of faith and commit to travelling, I recommend giving it a watch if you’re questioning what you want to do – when I initially watched it, I rewatched it a couple times and showed it to my parents straight away as it struck something in me to say ‘Just do it’ and maybe, hopefully it’ll empower you to take steps to start your travel journey.