Back in October 2015, I was sat behind a desk wondering if this was it, was this what I was going to be doing for the rest of my life. Yes, I worked for a great company and yes, I was earning a pretty nice pay check. But something didn’t feel right, I was restless and in my mind I knew that this wasn't my calling. I was 26 years old, I’d never really travelled other than a few holidays here and there, and I was so BORED. The thrill of working in London had worn off, and I realised it was time to make a change. I would finally go and travel around the world, something I’d put off for way too long. It’s so easy to say to yourself ‘I will go, but it just isn’t a good time right now’. What does that even mean?! When will it be a good time? Sometimes you just have to take a leap and do something that scares you, and that is exactly what I did – I went to my boss and I quit my job. I had a bit of savings and over the next few months I knew I could scrape some more together. Financially, I was all set.
But that lead me to my next dilemma – who was I going to go with? Nearly all of my friends had serious careers or boyfriends, and I knew I wanted to leave soon. I’d already quit my job by this point, so I decided that there was only one option – I would go it alone! It seemed daunting at first but also extremely exciting, and I wasn’t a naïve 21 year old anymore. I had some life experience and confidence - there was absolutely no reason why I couldn’t do this!
The next decision was where to go that would be safe for a female solo traveler. I did my research and came to the conclusion that SE Asia would be a good choice. It was well-traveled, cheap and on the most part, crimes against tourists were low. Due to my limited funds, I was going to be a budget traveler and it was backpacking all the way. Hostels, street food and cheap beer were going to be my best friends for the next three months. Other than the first week’s accommodation, the rest of the trip was to be totally spontaneous, with only a general route in mind. Over the next few months, I saved all my pennies, had all my jabs and bought all the essentials ( mosquito net, boots, raincoat etc). I would be leaving for Bangkok on May 5th 2016, and I was beyond excited!
Ready for the biggest adventure of my life!
I can honestly say the next three months that followed were the best of my entire life. I traveled to 5 countries (Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam and Malaysia), all of which had amazing culture, food and people. I did things outside of my comfort zone, made friends for life from all over the world and as cliché as it sounds, I grew as a person. It’s extremely difficult to express just how amazing and inspiring my adventure was, but the fact that I am yet to return to the UK speaks a thousand words. I now live in South Korea, where I teach English to elementary school students, and in September I will be back on the road to finish exploring SE Asia.
So that leaves one unanswered question - what was it like to travel solo? Was it as a scary as it sounds? The short answer is no and here are five excellent reasons why YOU should be brave, quit your job and follow in my footsteps!
Do all the things YOU want to do
Have you ever been on holiday with a friend who wants to get up at the crack of dawn and see every single tourist attraction there is? If you travel alone, every single moment of every single day is yours. If you want to "waste" the day snoozing by the pool, there's no one stopping you. You get to make all the decisions, and you don't have to worry about disappointing anyone.
It's easier to make new friends
If you travel with someone else, it's so easy to become reliant on them and you are much less likely to chat to new people. By traveling alone, you are more likely to make an effort to chat to others and being alone often makes you more approachable. It's amazing how many people you meet when traveling solo, both locals and other travellers. It was usually only a few hours after arriving in a place that I found myself with a new group of friends, some of whom I traveled with for a few days and several of whom I traveled with for over a month!
My new friends I met in Laos, who I traveled with for over a month!
Planning will be a breeze
Have you ever tried to plan a weekend away with your friends? From experience, it usually involves the dreaded group chat, a couple of arguments and at least seven date and location options. In short, it’s a logistical nightmare. Well imagine trying to plan a three month trip across 5 countries with these people, especially at short notice! Travel solo and all of these potential problems disappear. You might actually find you enjoy the process of planning a trip - isn't that a strange concept!
You'll feel like a superhero
Solo travel will literally make you feel like you can do ANYTHING. It is the most empowering thing I have done in my entire life, and I am so proud of myself for being brave and taking the plunge. It may seem scary at first, but I promise you that after the first few weeks, you'll feel like you could take on the world single-handedly. You'll try things that you never in a million years thought you'd ever do. For example, I rode a motorbike in Vietnam, by myself, without dying! Pluck up enough courage to get on that plane alone, and everything else will seem a breeze. You'll be jumping out of planes, canyoning down waterfalls and doing all those things you used to be too afraid to try.
Me and my new ride in Vietnam!
Alone time is refreshing
I know a few people who literally shudder at the idea of being alone. If you always find yourself around people, you may be shocked at how enjoyable your own company can be. Whilst I did meet a lot of wonderful people, some of my most memorable days were spent by myself. It's so refreshing to just have your own thoughts for company and not have to make conversation for once. And it's also really good practice for when you have no choice but to be by yourself. I now live alone in a country where the first language isn't English, after years of having flatmates or living with my family. I'm not sure I would have been able to cope had it not been for my solo travel. Just remember, being alone doesn't mean you are lonely!