Indeed, traveling alone is quite scary especially for us women. The thought of walking alone at night and someone might just pull you in that narrow street is creepy. Or, the dreadful sight of lovers eating at a restaurant getting all chummy can be awful and painful. Sometimes, the fear of getting ripped off or getting lost in a country that does not speak English as the primary language is haunting. But as soon as i stepped out of the Tan Son Nhat International Airport at Ho Chi Minh City, adventure awaits and the my fears were suddenly changed into excitement. And as the days go by, i debugged some of the misconceptions and turned it into lessons when it comes to traveling alone.
IT IS NOT AS SCARY AS YOU THINK
I have once read that everything you want is on the other side of fear. Truth be told that’s what i felt days before I leave. i cringed with the thought of embarking this journey alone since Jona cannot come with me. I lay awake in the wee hours of the morning thinking was this decision good? or worse? But on Day 1, while walking the around Saigon, the fear slowly subsided. The locals were nice; the streets are safe though motorcycles were wild in Vietnam. The receptionists were so warm and welcoming, they help me arrange my transfers from one county to another. Taxi drivers didn’t rip me off and locals were very accommodating and answers all my questions and the locals were respectful. What’s exciting is you see other foreigners doing solo travel too!
NOBODY CARES IF YOU EAT ALONE
Really nobody does. Admittedly, we Filipinos have this mentality to be very observant to others. (putting it mildly). There is a stigma that eating alone at McDonald’s or KFC is so sad and lonely while everyone else is with family or friends laughing their asses off or making chismis. Other culture don’t really have this mentality (or so i thought) While I’m eating alone at the Backpacker’s area at Pham Ngu Lao in Saigon, there were others who ate alone at the side of the street just enjoying the view of people walking around the busy area.
In Siem Reap, i super enjoyed my fried veggies with pork at the sidewalk because others were eating there too. There is no”YOU CANNOT SIT WITH US” sign so you don’t have to get scared when you need to share a seat with the others. hahaha. If you can’t bare the sight of seeing lovebirds or a group eating and laughing together, go to the bar and engage a conversation with a stranger or the servers. It’s fun and less lonely.
LET YOUR FAMILY KNOW WHERE YOU ARE
You cannot discount the fact that your family will become worried about your whereabouts. Constantly update them which country or city you are currently located, give them your accommodation and plans if the need be. I met this German woman, in her 50’s traveling alone for 3 months while I’m on my way to Siem Reap from Phnom Penh. She said her family agreed that she travel alone with one condition: Let them know where she is. And so she did. constantly Skype-ing with them everyday for the past 3 months of her travel.
IT TAKES A LOT OF RESEARCH
Planning is essential especially if you enter the realm of backpacking. Unlike visiting a country for a few days, backpacking entails a lot of hotel transfers, airport and/or bus transfers. I Google mapped the streets of every tourist spot, bus station and offices offering tours. Know the weather and currency values either in Dollars or in Peso. Buy bus or train tickets as soon as you reach one destination. For instance, as soon as i reached Vietnam, i asked my Johnny, the Hotel receptionist to book me a ticket going to Phnom Penh. Though you can do this personally but i prefer asking for my receptionist’s help. It may have additional charges but who cares. Or you can contact them ahead of time by emailing or messaging over at Facebook for your land transfers.
KEEP VALUABLES IN CHECK
This is a gimme. No need to expound. Unless you have a tendency to be careless. Then read this: http://coolmompicks.com/blog/2014/12/15/ramily-road-trip-tips-back-seat-essentials/
P.S always bring paracetamol with you. In case you need a remedy for that hangover.
OTHER TRAVELERS OR LOCALS ARENT SNUBS
I can be a snob sometimes but this trip taught me a lot. It can be very easy to make friends. I met a lot of interesting people during the trip and they all invited me to go to their country! I, likewise did the same. Starting out a conversation may not be an easy thing for other people but here is a blog that shares great tips about talking to other travelers since i really don’t know how i started befriending them. But you can spot solo travelers from the others and a simple smile or eye contact can go a long way (not sexually. Haha). I remember i met a Thai friend at the BTS while on my way to the airport. I accidentally hit her with my backpack and i asked for apology. Thais are known to be very respectful and kind and forgave me. While waiting for the train, she engaged in a conversation and we instantly became friends. Too bad i was not able to get her email or Facebook account. haha Blame it on Bangkok Rush Hour. Additionally, i also met an Aussie friend just because i was talking to the receptionist about an online game. haha
I love the locals especially the receptionists. They are warm and very funny. I am always thankful i met Johnny who was very accommodating and helpful during my stay at Ho Chi Min. Peasy, Eath and Sophea were very kind and always greeted me by my name when they see me during my stay at Babel GuestHouse. and to Katrina who is also the co-owner of the guesthouse I’m staying, she is lovely. She even added me on Facebook and messaged me just to make sure I’m comfortable in my new room!
WONDER AND WANDER
We are too afraid to get lost. Loosen up homey! Go out, and walk even if it meant getting lost somehow! Yes the streets are unfamiliar and you don’t know where your taxi driver will take you. I have experience a lot of funny encounters like riding a taxi even if my next destination is just on the other block. Or, i was freaking out when the taxi driver suddenly turned into a parking lot only to find out he used a shortcut going to my hotel in Bangkok. Or the time i decided to waste about 100 baht on the BTS to go to Chatuchak only to find out it is just open during weekends. All these are parts of traveling.
But wandering also leads you to wonderful places. I was just walking around Siem Reap when i stumbled into a beautiful and solemn Wat right smack in the middle of the central area where a lot of tuktuk passes by. And these are the moments that you cherish because you are able to see the beauty of the place in unsuspecting times of the day.
BACKPACKERS ARENT ALWAYS IN FOR HOOKUPS
Just because you’re sad doesn’t mean you’re lonely. And that you need someone to be with at night. Sure there are some backpackers doing this. I don’t blame them nor judge them but i’ve never done this. Im content meeting few friends and sharing beer with them. In the end, hooking up is really up to you. So go where your heart and mind leads you. Admittedly, my friends told me to try this but i just couldn’t.
JUST BECAUSE YOU ARE ALONE DOESN’T MEAN YOU’RE LONELY
When my friends found out i was traveling alone, they asked “Isn’t it lonely?” aside from asking about the safety. I simple answered them “No it isn’t.” Loneliness is subjective and as long as you travel with positive vibes, you can have fun on your own. The only thing that i didn’t like the most was no one else can take pictures of me doing yoga poses at the Angkor Wat Archeological Park. haha
IT IS ONE OF THE MOST EMPOWERING FEELING ANY WOMAN WILL EXPERIENCE
It takes a lot of responsibility being a solo traveller. You have to be mindful, strategic yet you have to let loose and have fun at the same time. i read an unknown quote saying “As you travel solo, being totally responsible for yourself, it’s inevitable that you will discover just how capable you are.” And at the end of my trip, i looked back and gave and imaginary tap on my shoulder because the past 2 week have been very empowering and unforgettable.
So go! Explore!