Not counting my solo move to Taiwan in 2011, the first time I tried traveling solo was in December 2012. I didn’t have a plan. I was stressed out, tired, and I really just wanted to get away by myself for a while. So I looked online and chose the cheapest place to go from Taiwan, like throwing a dart at a map. I didn’t care where I went, and as a result, I ended up in Cambodia, prepared to spend 11 days alone.
I know this sounds like the start of a depressing story, but I was actually looking forward to some alone time. However, funny enough, as pretty much always happens with traveling, things didn’t quite turn out as planned. The day I landed in Siem Reap, I had no sooner gotten settled into my room, when I had a crazy idea. I decided to go online and look for people to meet.
Couchsurfing is Not Just for Surfing Couches
Suddenly feeling refreshed and more energetic to be on vacation, I felt more sociable. So the first place I went was on the Couchsurfing.org site and searched for other travelers in Siem Reap. And guess what? There just happened to be a dinner gathering posted by a traveler from India for THAT NIGHT! What luck!
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
I have a very outgoing personality, so I’ve never had any problem showing up to events by myself. I thrive on meeting new people. However, for you, this might be a real stretch out of your comfort zone. I totally get that. But I want to give you some encouragement if this is the reason you’ve never tried traveling solo. I went to that Couchsurfing dinner meet-up, and it changed the entire course of my 11-day vacation.
Because I had the courage to show up alone, I left there with eight new acquaintances. I met two guys and a girl from India (all traveling solo), two ladies from Germany, an Irish girl from Australia, a girl from Malaysia, and a girl from China. The best part? Five of them became my travel companions for the remainder of my trip, and we are still friends to this day.
New Adventures Await – But You Won’t Know Till You Try
The rest of my time in Cambodia was epic. This group of people from all over the world became my travel buddies and fellow adventurers. Together, we went to Tonle Sap Lake and watched the sunset on the lake. Then, we got up early and watched the sunrise at Angkor Wat. We went out together at night for dinner and to experience Pub Street, and we even hung out at cafes editing photos and eating ice cream.
We then took a spontaneous side trip to Sihanoukville, which wasn’t at all on my itinerary. I had to check out of my guest house early without a refund, but it was totally worth it. Even the not-so-good experiences we shared, like the “Nightmare Bus” and the lamest full moon island party ever, have become memories that I can look back on and laugh about.
The most important thing is that with these new friends, I shared laughs, I shared deep conversations, I shared culture, I shared incredible views, moments and experiences, and I shared memories of our adventure that we created together.
Why Try Traveling Solo if it Seems to Be More Fun in a Group?
If meeting and traveling with strangers is not your idea of a fun adventure, you might be tempted to just keep traveling with your friends or family. Let me stop you there. I don’t always go out and meet people while traveling. Sometimes I really do want to be alone. So let me also tell you the great thing about truly traveling solo.
In February 2015, I decided to take a solo trip to Malaysia for nine days. It was one of the most amazing trips I ever had, and I spent almost the entire time… <gasp>… all by myself! It already sounds terrible, right? But you know what? Whenever I look back on this particular trip, I always feel such a warm and happy feeling.
Cherish the Time You Give Yourself
I feel like this was a trip where I focused 100% on myself, and it was amazing! For some people, it’s hard to feel comfortable with only your own company. However, if you can spend time with yourself and learn to really love and appreciate it, your experience from it will be invaluable. The memories I have from that trip are on a deeper level, like a time I will always cherish because I focused on and invested in myself.
This feeling is a little hard to describe if you’ve never tried traveling solo, but I basically did everything that I thought would bring a smile to my face. I did all the things I would have done with the company of friends, but I treated myself like my own best friend. Of course, I still met people along the way, but my focus was on my own happiness. I allowed myself to do, see and explore anything I wanted.
Create Your Own Adventures
I took the cable car to the scenic viewpoint of Langkawi Island, where I met some really nice Chinese people and a Russian guy who helped me take photos. I walked all around the historic Georgetown area of Penang, admiring street art and drinking white coffee in the cute cafes. There, I met a couple of other travelers who invited me to join them at their table to enjoy our “photo” drinks. Then I went to the amazingly beautiful high mountain tea area of Cameron Highlands. There, I toured the Boh Tea plantation, I experienced the beauty and scenery of the high mountain rainforest, I treated myself to a luxurious lunch at a picture perfect historical house, I went on a long hike through the forest by myself, and I met a really sweet couple from Oman.
The whole trip was wonderful, and I had such a great time. It was the perfect balance of alone time with small bits of social time here and there. It was the kind of experience that made me promise myself that I would reserve a solo trip for myself at least once a year. Really, there are two main reasons you, too, should try traveling solo. First, there are really nice people everywhere you go, and you will never be lonely. I promise. And second, there really is nothing quite like the pleasure of your own company. Investing quality time with yourself will make you feel loved in a way nothing and no one else can. There is no replacement for this kind of feeling, and it’s completely worth it.
Have you ever traveled solo? If so, what was your experience, and what do you love about it? If not, what’s keeping you from doing it? Are you afraid that you will feel lonely? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and make yourself a promise to treat yourself to a solo trip soon. You won’t regret it!
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