Traveling solo is something that is becoming increasingly popular. I’ve been visiting both London and Milan by myself earlier, and although I do enjoy traveling with others, I’d have to say I find it both special and enjoyable to travel alone. Not having to take into account what someone else might want or not want to do, as well as just being able to eat whenever and whatever you’re feeling like – that’s a luxury to me. You also get to challenge yourself, and even get to know yourself a bit more. That being said, I’d never traveled solo outside of Europe, or for a longer period of time than a long weekend. Until now, that is.
In November 2018 I was the lucky winner of a round trip-ticket to any destination with Turkish Airlines. After a lot of thinking I chose Thailand, as both Thomas and I wanted to visit, you could do heaps of different things there, and get some much needed sun. As there was only one ticket, we’d share the cost of the other ticket, and with the cheap prices in Thailand decision was made (after all we were already going to Chile, which was a rather large expense). With the decision made, tickets were booked and we started planning.
Then Thomas was offered a new job. With his trial period lasting until the end of the year. In other words, he was given an ultimatum – get a new job, or come with me to Thailand. The choice was obvious – after all, Thailand will still be there later on. Luckily we still had not booked his ticket, but mine was, and I’d taken two weeks off from work. (“Damn it!” I thought, followed by “I should have picked some really expensive tickets to New Zealand or Australia, gone all in!”) Two weeks in Oslo, while everyone else was at work, seemed even less tempting that proceeding with my plan, and going solo – and after loads of thinking I’d decided. I would do the trip.
Two weeks. In Thailand. Alone.
On this trip left a lot of decision-making open, just because I wanted to be able to make decisions on a whim. I did however of course do some planning, both before and during my trip:
- I always stayed in my own room. On both of my earlier solo trips, to London and Milan, I slept in dorms, and that was okay. However, this trip was by far longer, and there was a lot warmer. I wanted to be able to withdraw back to my room if I wanted a timeout to myself (and to the aircon), and not having to deal with lines to the bathroom if I woke up at 3.30am and had to pee.
- I made sure to get in contact with others who also traveled alone in Thailand, or who lived where I was going. This I did through the groups Girls Love Travel and The Female Solo Traveler on Facebook, and I also spoke with Lene from Blogg Bedre. This way, I felt like I had some more secure contacts whom I could arrange to meet up with, and that felt particularly more safe before I departed. At least then I knew I would talk to someone during my trip.
- I made sure I ordered flight tickets that made me arrive new places during daytime. This way I avoided having to maneuver around with all my luggage in the darkness.
Thoughts before departure
I’d been looking forward to explore Thailand for a long time, and I still did, even though I now knew it would be a different kind of trip than I’d first imagined it would be. I’d pictured long, lazy days at the beach with Thomas, or a romantic date underneath the lanterns filling the night sky in Chiang Mai. Now however, I was facing an adventure on my own, and maybe in the company of new friends.
Before departure, my biggest worry was that I would meet someone with bad intentions. A taxi driver turning out not to be nice, or someone trying to steal my camera. That I would end up in a situation where I did not feel safe – especially as I knew no one on this part of the globe. I know most people are really nice and friendly, but after all, it only takes one bad apple to destroy a lot.
The fact that something outside of my control could happen, while so far away from everything and everyone I knew, that’s something I definitely thought about. I was also interested to see what it would be to visit really busy places not in the company of a man nearly two meters tall who could lead the way. I definitely imagined I’d push myself out of my comfort zone, and I only hoped I’d be “though enough” if I had to.
Traveling solo this far away from home, for “such a long” period of time also made me worry if I’d feel lonely. I was excited to see if I would get out the door, do stuff, feel free, or if the absence of people I knew would make me a bit apathetic. No plans scheduled, no one waiting for me anywhere. I was excited to see how I would feel just being in my own company, and to challenge myself a lot.
I also wanted to challenge myself to meet new people, and at the same time make time for just being alone. It felt important to balance the excitement of meeting new people without ending up just doing things with others. I wanted to really feel what it was like to travel solo, and in order to do so, I had to actually be alone.
(I also have to mention that I, to be honest, did indeed think a lot about what to do in regards to this trip, if I should continue as planned, go for a shorter trip, limit how many stops to make or if I should simply “check in on a resort with a pile of books”. At the end of the day, I decided to stick to the original plan and dates).
From my travel journal: Gardermoen airport – just before departure
All day at work I felt both really excited and really nervous. Most of the nerves probably came as a result of not knowing what to expect, and because I was gonna spend all this time away from Thomas, but then again – I’m always a bit stressed before departure.
The closer I got to departure time, the more actual sick I felt. I felt queasy, and I started to worry I would actually puke. I decided it would do me no good to stay any longer at work, and left. As soon as I was placed in my seat on the train to the airport I felt relaxed again. At the airport I could finally tell my pulse was back to normal.
Thoughts on the road
This is going so much better than anticipated!
After feeling a bit uneasy just upon arriving in Thailand (I’d psyched myself up before departure, and the time on the plane went well, but as I stood at the airport, just little old me and my suitcase in my hand, and “all of Thailand” in front of me, I felt a bit small), this trip has really grown on me.
So far I’ve been really good at both taking the time to feel what it’s like being alone, and at meeting new, exciting people. I have, however, never felt lonely, not even while dining on a restaurant alone – and that’s something I’ve always worried a bit about with regards to solo traveling.
As a matter of fact, I’ve almost (in a very friendly way, though) had to reject several girls who wanted to “team up” with me during my trip. Super lovely girls, by all means, but I noticed their travel plans were a bit different to mine. While they asked if we should share a room, or do all the daytrips together, I’ve felt that this was something I had to do on my own.
My focus has been to get them to know that I’m not saying no to hang out with them, but I don’t want to depend on anyone else on this trip. I wanna do my own things, and if my schedule happens to match up with someone else’s, then great. And if not, then I’ll just do it on my own!
Who is this girl? I’ve thought several times during this trip. Me, the world champion of worrying, who prefer walking over to the restaurant and order there, then wait around for 20 minutes rather than calling if I can’t order online. All of a sudden I’m doing everything myself, making phone calls, haggle over the prices for a cab ride… Traveling solo really makes me stronger, I’ve realized. I’m “forced” to deal with things on a daily basis that I think is a bit scary – and then I realize that I actually manage it all by myself.
Traveling solo as a girl has, luckily enough, not turned out to cause me any extra stress in Thailand. Actually I did not have any bad experiences on my trip, and it was no stress to travel on my own. As a matter of fact, I’ve noticed taxis can be cheaper if you’re on your own – as you can only jump on the back of a motorcycle taxi (sorry, mum!) It should be said that there is official motorcycle taxis here, so it’s not just sketchy men trying to make some cash.
The biggest challenge has been the lack of communication that might occur when people don’t speak English (and I don’t know any Thai). But, with use of charades, Google translate and maps most things have sorted itself out.
One experience stands out as an eye opener, though, with regards to why traveling with someone can be an advantage. Upon arrival in Bangkok I jumped on the train towards the city, expecting chaos, with sellers and people want to steal my things. Luckily, that last part did not meet me at all.
However, what met me was challenges with the GPS-signals. Neither maps.me or Google maps could show me where I was, or where I was supposed to go. What I would not have given to have someone with me who could just hang out with my bags while I tried to figure out where to go. It’s incredible how many stairs I had to walk up and down, back and forth, before I found the route for my hotel – all soaked in sweat from the exhaustion of struggling with a suitcase in the heat of Bangkok’s streets.
The route for my hotel was, of course, a dark passage squeezed in between the canal, where boats roared past and the streets – and an old, toothless man. “SO scary!” I thought, debating if I should hit those stairs one more time, just in case I’d missed something the first 15 times I tried, but then the toothless man gave me a huge smile and waved me through. Exhausted, but all in one piece, I eventually did find my hotel. Luckily, most things tends to turn out fine in the end.
Ready for your first solo travel?
I would definitely recommend solo traveling for anyone who’s interested in trying. At least once! Of course you don’t have to travel super far, or for a long period of time.
Start out with challenging yourself to do something you find a bit intimidating. Eating out alone? Go alone to the cinema? Catch the bus to the city next to your own, and just walk around in the afternoon before going back home? Or take it to the next level – go away for an entire day, or a weekend at a new place.
My first solo trip was a long weekend to London, a city I’d visited several times myself, and where I already knew the language. This experience really thrilled me, and made me want to do it again. When I travel solo I can feel myself getting tougher. My self esteem grows, both because I actually do manage to fix things myself, and also from being “forced” to figuring things out myself. It’s also really nice to have some time just to myself. In a busy day there’s not often I have the time to sit down all by myself, with no distractions, and just feel what it’s like to just be me.
Thailand is a land I’ve seen, read and heard a lot about, but that I had yet to visit. Especially the big city, Bangkok, I was anxious about hitting up alone – with so many people, and so many places to get lost. As it turned out, all my worries was a waste.
Because I am indeed a worrier. I worry about if I will enjoy myself, and if I will meet anyone, and will these people like me, but also about if I will have enough time without other people. You get the idea, there’s loads of thoughts and worries before a trip like this. Some of those you simply cannot avoid (I mean, you can’t really know if people will like you or not), but there’s also a lot of elements in a trip you can plan before traveling.
People in Thailand are calm, smiling and friendly. If they don’t know English at least they’re good at charades. They want to sell you something you don’t really want? Say no in a polite yet determined way with a smile, and most of them smiles back and wish you a good day.
During my two weeks in Thailand I went from thinking jumping into a cab alone was super scary, to ask a cab driver to pull over and let me out when he all of a sudden refused to use his meter. I jumped onto the back of motorcycle taxis, went in tuktuks alone, and I ordered and went on several day excursions alone. But, and this is a very important one: I never felt lonely or uncertain.
When you travel alone you attract other solo travelers it seems (or groups, as a matter of fact, like the group of friends from Kuala Lumpur who “adopted” me on a day trip). And as I quickly discovered, there are loads of people traveling solo in Thailand. People walked up to me at the temples, at restaurants, at the hostel I stayed at, while I was haggling in the taxi line or they reached out through groups on Facebook.
You actually don’t have to be super outgoing to get in touch with people if you travel alone. The most important part is that you get out of your hotel room, and meet those who approach you with a smile and a positive attitude. Most people are quite friendly, as it turns out.
If you’re feeling like it, and have the opportunity, I really think you should try to travel solo. Just remember to bring your common sense, do your research and pay attention.
Remember, traveling solo makes you your own travel guide. Be prepared! And enjoy your travels!
More about traveling solo
Are you debating if you should take the plunge and do your first solo travel? Here you can read my entry from my first solo travel, to London. And if you’re keen, here’s entries from my second trip solo, to Milan.
Do you want to read more detailed about traveling solo, such as what to pack, or get a good idea of what’s clever to do (or avoid doing)? If you do, and you know Norwegian (sorry!), I recommend this amazing e-book about traveling alone which Renate from Renates reiser and Mette fra Reiselykke published.
Do you have any questions about solo travel? Please leave me a comment! 🙂