I must admit, booking my big solo adventure seemed like a lifetime away.. until I was driving to the airport, fresh out of some weird stomach bug, thinking “f***, what on earth have I done?”. I’m such an Aries. When I have an idea, I go full throttle at it and don’t think about it until later. Usually things work out but when I realised that I was going to be in foreign countries for the next few weeks and didn’t have any idea what I was doing – panic set in. Either way, I made it back and it was actually an incredible experience. Oh and before anyone jumps down my throat, I did spend 10 days of my trip with Contiki so technically that wasn’t solo travel but the rest of the 4 and a half weeks was. Here’s what I learnt..
Organisation is the absolute KEY.
16 flights, 10+ hotel reservations, about a MILLION taxi rides, visas, etc. Surely something was gonna go wrong right? Right. Thankfully I’m quite an organised person anyway but damn, there is so much that can happen if you aren’t onto it when travelling countries by yourself. Some takeaway points here..
1. ALWAYS organise an airport transfer through your hotel – just pay for it. It can be really overwhelming turning up in an airport by yourself, with 3829 taxi drivers yelling at you and having no idea where to go. There’s something really comforting about seeing a sign with your name on it and knowing you’re heading straight to your hotel.
2. Find out how much your visa will cost, which currency they take and whether you need 1 or 3 passport sized photos. The last thing you need is being denied entry to Thailand because you forgot that you needed two photos and only brought one.
3. Screenshot anything digital because WiFi isn’t always reliable and you’ll be glad you have photos of your hotel address, flight details, etc when things go awry.
Don’t plan too far in advance.
Okay so this sounds a little contradictory considering the first point but hear me out. I was meant to stay in Vietnam for 10 days longer than I did but when the weather turned bad, I was so glad I didn’t book that $400 Sapa trek or hotel in Ninh Binh. My point here is to plan as far in advance that you’re safe and organised but things will change and it’s nice to have a little freedom. Imagine being stuck on a mountain in the rain vs. relaxing by the pool in Bali? I’m really glad I left those 10 days open!
You have to force yourself to get up & see all the things.
There were a couple of days where I got to my hotel after a dodgy flight and a rude taxi driver and felt like crawling into bed and watching a movie. The thing about solo travel is no one is gonna stop you from doing that and when you’re homesick, or anxious, or tired – it’s easy to waste a few days. You have to force yourself to get out of the hotel and experience what you’re actually there to experience. Some of the best things I did were when I didn’t feel like going out and made myself just take a walk to a nearby market – I wouldn’t have met some of the people I met had I stayed in!
Hotels vs. hostels.
If there was one thing I would change about my experience it would be that I stayed in hostels rather than hotels. I know, you’re probably thinking it would be the other way around but hear me out. I booked hotels because I like quiet, privacy and decent amenities and they were so cheap that it’s not like I was spending hundreds for a bit more comfort right? In saying that, I met people that were staying in hostels in private rooms and they had nightly entertainment, the ability to meet loads of likeminded travellers and most of the time they were actually really nice! It’s a bit more of a community in hostels and I really wish I’d taken a chance on them.
Other solo travellers will become your best friends.
Two of my favourite memories from my trip are when a guy and I made friends on a terrible 10 hour tour in Hue and decided to go out to dinner instead of curling up in our horrid hotels the whole night, and the time I was attacked by a monkey and two girls came to my rescue. I didn’t realise how close you can become to people so quickly, but there’s something very vulnerable about travelling alone and when you find others in the same situation you kind of band together. Matching tattoos, battling through the markets and fighting with scammers – I can safely say I made friends for life.
Embrace the weird shit and get on with it.
I must admit, walking down a lane on my second day in Laos and stumbling upon a man killing a chicken wasn’t one of my best memories but it’s crazy how immune you become to weird and sometimes scary things happening! Almost got hit by a car? Meh. A crazy lady grabs you in the street cause she wants you to buy something? Brush it off. A hotel room without any air con? Okay that one is a deal breaker but you know what I mean. It’s really interesting that in a time where I expected to be on high alert, I was so much more relaxed about what was going on around me. In fact, it’s kinda changed the way I am back home now too. I’m less nervous in busy places and things that used to really rattle me seem kinda silly now. Things I thought I would worry about didn’t phase me nearly as much as you’d expect.
That’s a wrap, kids! Have you travelled alone before? Let me know your wackiest story and best life lesson you took from going solo.
Thanks for reading,
Love Lyd x