“Why would you do that?” was the first question from people when they know that I was on a solo trip. Followed by “Are you out of your mind?” because this is not what we normally do in my culture. My parents freaked out, some friends of mine, and even strangers I talked with wondered why I did so. There are times when you just want to pack your bag and have a little escape somewhere, just you. Nobody else, but just yourself. At the same time, once you are in your 20s or 30s, people in your circle are busy. Friends and people whom you can travel with have different commitments, different time-off, different travel plans, different availability, and so on.
The chances of people that have the same time off, travel budget, and travel plans as yours are very very low. Not to mention dragging people to places I want to go to do what I want to do is not what I fancy. There are certain things that I want to do at the places that I wanted to go. I want to create my own adventures, build my own memories, and enjoy the moments of my me-time. And I will never get to do them if I keep on waiting for people to do them with me.
There are countries that I have outlined to travel to, cities I can explore and walk in by myself. To make those solo trips happen, I began with traveling alone to somewhere I am familiar with first. That is to make sure that I can handle the accommodations, manage the expenses, and plan the whole trip. Of course, my adventure lists contain places where I would prefer to travel with a partner or friends. Yet, there are still activities and journeys that I do best with myself.
First Solo Trip
As for my first solo trip, I wanted to spend the whole day biking through the city of Siem Reap province. I wanted to get up at 4AM in the morning to watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat temple. I wanted to go to the pub to make new friends, talk to new people, or simply sit there listening to music. And I know my friends, what I wanted to do are not in their field of interest.
Cannot deny the fact that I am always the weirdest one, but I know I would go through my plans better alone. I have learned so many things from this solo trip, and I am keen on doing more of it. Just cross-checked another wild thing on my list, a solo trip; totally hyped for the next ones. Well, I want to share what I have done and learned on my first solo trip; so let’s find out!
1Long Distance Biking Alone
Put some good music on, a 65 kilometers ride will be super enjoyable instead of quiet and tasteless. Biking from temple to temple, and seeing tall and big trees along the road is my type of fun. When going alone, I can cycle as long as I like, as far as I like, and rest whenever I want to. I enjoy sitting under the shade at some temples for about half an hour or so just to write my journal. The cool wind is also very relaxing and refreshing, exactly what I looked for in the trip.
The further I went, the more I realized that I was among the very few solo travelers on bicycles. A majority of tourists were with their friends, family, lovers, and people always looked at me when their tuk-tuk overtook me. Perhaps they wondered who was this weirdo doing cycling all by herself that far. Or perhaps I looked weird in general, I don’t know.
The beauty of this long-distance biking was that I got to enjoy the view and the nature on my way. I also enjoy talking to friends while biking if they were to join me. However, I need some silence and peace, and I got just what I wanted in that solo trip of mine. I got up at 7, and went where the road took me. Explained why I got lost and had to cycle 10 kilometers back thanks to google maps. I was lost, but the trees and the fresh air were great companies along the way. Quite different, but it was one great experience to remember. Definitely go further next time if I went back there alone again.
2Sleeping In Shared Dorm Room
Now that is the total brand new experience that I have never tried ever in my life. Didn’t think twice when I booked the hostel, shouldn’t have believed everything I saw in the photos. The moment I arrived and as I stayed for two nights, I felt like I was the only female there. I also asked for a room switch because I couldn’t share a room with a person with body odor. Sorry not sorry, but his odor filled the whole room I could have died if I spent the whole night in it. Need to be honest about this. So guys, make sure you smell nice if you choose to stay in a shared room.
The second shared room was a 4-bed kind of bunk bed which all my friends said looked like a coffin. My dorm mate was a friendly Chinese man from the U.S who has a daughter who is older than me. He has shared his travel experiences with me, and it was nice of him to talk to me. Apart from the fact that he snored pretty loudly, everything was fine. I’m sorry if you read this Lou, but I really couldn’t sleep well at night 😀
Sleeping in a bunk bed in a shared room was completely different, especially when none of the dorm mates was female. Lou said that when you sleep in a hostel, you get what you paid for and it is always below your expectations. Can’t agree more with that. It is not that I expected a prince charming-looking dorm mate, but I was hoping for people my age. However, it was not so bad at all.
Some friends of mine worried about the safety of being the only female sleeping in a shared room full of strangers. Totally understandable, and I was worried too at first. At least my dorm mate was nice and kind, and I did not expect so much as well which was quite good after all. Perhaps, I will pick the female-only kind of dorm next time to see the difference.
3Exploring Nightlife Alone
If we talk about fun, a group of friends will make nightlife extra exciting and exhilarating. When you are alone, walking around is not quite enjoyable especially when most people come in groups. I swear I have walked no less than 5 rounds just to find a decent place for dinner at Pub Street. I walked right into the pub for a shot of Jägerbomb before I went for dinner on the first night. Did not know why I did so, because I was walking for too long just to get food.
Second night, didn’t think much, just went straight for basic Asian food that I can easily order. After that, I simply walked without purpose just to see the souvenirs and things displayed there. Was thinking of getting some ice cream when I made a new friend as I was walking. The one good thing about solo traveling is that I can talk to male strangers without having my friends giving me the look. You know that look, the creepy smile and expressions of judgment that close friends give.
Meeting A New Friend
Another great part about making new friends who are also solo travelers like you is that it has no boundaries. Might not be so common in my culture, but it was absolutely normal for me to walk and talk with people. His name was Sean, and he also travels alone; a long way from Canada to Cambodia. New people teach you new things and new experiences, and they tell you fascinating stories of where they come from. I find it captivating to listen to people’s ways of life, get advice, and learn about lifestyles from different areas.
At the end of the day, the nightlife is fun whether I am alone or with friends. If you ask, I would say hanging out at night with friends is way better and more fun to do. Party all night is more fun with people whom you are comfortable with, isn’t it? At least I know I have my best friends to drag me back to bed if I get drunk.
You know you are already halfway to independence when you decided to travel alone. Another thing I have learned from this solo trip is problem-solving. Not big problems that I came across, but I was followed by a tuk-tuk driver which was somehow unpleasant.
Because I was a female traveling alone, the man insisted on asking me out while I was biking. I tried to escape by walking into the temple, and he also followed me halfway to the entrance. That wouldn’t have happened if I were with a group of friends.
So I spent about half an hour in that temple, sitting under the tree writing journals with the hope he would have gone. To make sure I felt extra safe, I asked a group of other 3 travelers to walk with. Explained to them what happened, and they were so nice to walk with me to the exit. To my relief, that guy saw them and he did not follow me anymore. That never happened before, kinda unexpected and it freaked me out at some point but it was not a big deal eventually.
5Meeting New People
The good thing about this solo travel is that I have met nice and good people, and I am so thankful for that. When I was lost, there was this nice woman who offered me to rest at her house because it was super hot. That was a very kind thing to do to someone she has never known before, really appreciate that. Lou, a nice dorm mate who shared positive thoughts on traveling since he was young till now that he is 62 years old. He showed me that no one is too old to travel, the kind of vibe I wanted to see.
As for Sean, nightlife exploration was less quiet because conversation with him was absolutely mesmerizing. He also inspired me to catch up with the sunrise as well, definitely the person I am going to remember.
This solo trip was the key that unlocked myself from my comfort zone, and all the negative thoughts I was showered with. I know that I could travel alone, and I did. Looks like I have done a lot of crazy things for a 22-year-old, and I am ready for more. If you want to travel alone, do it. You wouldn’t want to live to your 90s and sit there regret not doing things you wanted to do at a younger age. Remember that the only trip that you will regret is the one that you don’t take.
I traveled to discover myself, and I found what I was looking for. I hope you will too 🙂
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