Last winter, I traveled solo to South East Asia. I told my then-boyfriend that I read in a fitness magazine that every woman should travel at least once by herself. And I was really glad that I did because traveling solo had a profound effect on me. The best thing about traveling solo was that it let me indulge my whims. I had no fixed schedule. I slept as much or as little as I wanted. I rested when I wanted to rest. I ate when I wanted to eat, what I wanted to eat. I went where I wanted to go, when I wanted to go. Once, I had insomnia; so I went to a famous pagoda at three in the morning.
I skipped some tourist sites just because I just didn’t feel like going there. And that was perfectly okay because I was my own boss, and I didn’t have to worry about anyone else’s tastes or preferences.
At the same time, I found that people approached me with more ease because I was by myself. I met some other solo travelers from Australia and England with whom I went to a night market. We had delicious grilled veggies and noodles one night. I met a family from California who asked me to join them at a fancy Burmese restaurant on a beautiful lake. I met an Austrian woman, and we went shopping one day. I met some expats from the Philippines, Singapore and Switzerland (they were friends with each other) who took me to popular night spots and house parties, where I met many other expats and had a blast. I also met some locals who told me their life stories and the country’s political situation. I learned a lot about the country from these locals because they felt comfortable opening up to me. And I made a lot of good friends. I even keep in touch with a couple of them.
Don’t get me wrong. I love traveling with a companion, too, and not just by myself. It’s nice to have shared experiences. When I was by myself, if I really liked something, I couldn’t share that experience with anyone, even if I wanted to. When I was traveling solo, I had to worry about safety, too. One night, I walked to a pagoda ten minutes away from the hotel. It was not that late, and it was on a rather crowded street. Yet, I was hassled by a couple of locals. That was the last time I walked by myself at night. Even in the day time, whenever I went to places by myself, I had to exude confidence and avoid appearing lost or unsure. A couple of times, I had to eat by myself.
But all in all, I learned a lot about myself by traveling solo. I learned what my limitations were. I learned about my own preferences and likes. I learned about my fears. I learned to be more confident. I learned to be okay with being alone and being a bit uncomfortable at times. I learned to trust everyone. And I learned to trust no one. Most of all, I learned to rely on myself and only myself.
I love traveling. It is one of my favorite activities. Yes, it’s definitely nice to travel with a companion. But then, it’s a great experience once in a while to travel solo. Next, I am traveling solo to San Francisco. I already have my plane tickets. I already made hotel reservations. I’ll tell you how it goes. I’ve never been to San Francisco, and I’m excited to see it and experience it.