A lot of people question my decision to travel on my own. They ask me if I get lonely or if I feel safe or they tell me how brave I am to do it. But honestly, traveling alone is the best decision I’ve ever made in my life.
The best part for me about traveling is being away from home. I know that most people might get homesick or lonely from being on your own on the other side of the world, but I think this is where I thrive. I love being in different environments and I wouldn’t even say that I feel out of my comfort zone anymore when I am in an unfamiliar place. I even feel more comfortable there than I do at home.
There is a certain freedom to being in a place where no one knows you and that is something that makes me feel so confident to explore the world around me as a solo traveler. I look forward to escaping from reality all year through all of the tough times and when I get away to travel, it does make me feel free. This year has had a lot of bad times and I feel like I started to associate “home” with negativity and anxiety.
Home is where the passport is and I think that wherever I’m happiest is my true home, regardless of where I was born or where I technically live. I love the feeling when I’ve stayed in a city for a few days and I become familiar with my surroundings and I start to feel at home. I would say that during my time in Thailand this year, I felt “at home” in all of the cities I stayed in once I had settled.
I actually felt very safe despite being on my own in another country. I think it’s so important to be aware of the safety risks of traveling alone and it can make you vulnerable, but I think that the correct preparation and a certain amount of common sense can prevent this. Things, like locking away your valuables in the hostel and keeping them secure when you walk around, are essential. I always made sure to have cash in my pocket, in my purse and a secret stash was loose in my bag so that if my purse got stolen I still had backup money.
I admit that I did walk alone at night more than I should have and there were a couple of times where I did not feel particularly safe. I always made sure to walk using well-lit routes and I kept using my phone to a minimum so that I was always aware of my surroundings. The only thing that made me feel unsafe was a couple of catcalls. I had a few occasions where Thai men would just say “sexy sexy” to me whether I was walking at night or in the day and I just ignored it and carried on walking.
When you walk around there are constantly people approaching you to offer you a tuk-tuk ride or ask “Where you go” repeatedly until you acknowledge them. I ignored them as much as I could because in the tourist areas a lot of these offers are actually scams where they will ridiculously overcharge you and they take advantage of tourists walking around on their own as an easy target.
Feeling lonely when traveling can happen, but I like my alone time and I never really found it too much. I talked to my mum and my best friend regularly whenever our timezones aligned and I loved sharing my travel experiences with them.
The main reason I never felt lonely is that I was staying in hostels. Staying in a 10-bed mixed dorm in multiple places and locations was certainly interesting and I met a lot of people, some of whom I have stayed in contact with! I am a very sociable person who a hostel is an ideal environment for me. It is especially helpful to have friends in your hostel, as a sociable person who likes to go out drinking but might not feel safe doing that on my own.
While I enjoy making my own plans, meeting people in hostels is a great chance to find out about experiences that you might not have considered. On my last day in Bangkok, I visited the Chatuchak market together with 4 of my hostel roommates and we had a really lovely day. On my first day in Phuket, the girls in my room were buying tickets to a Muay Thai boxing event and invited me to join them and it was really interesting! I went to the night market in Chiang Mai with the Spanish couple from my room and we ate some really nice dumplings. These travel experiences were so different and special, because of sharing them with different people and I feel like there is more of a chance for this when you travel alone.
When you’re on your own, you can do whatever the hell you want. What do I want to do today? What do I want to eat for dinner? I am the only person I need to consult to answer these questions. I love traveling with my friends, but I think this is where most of the tensions lie because of our differences in taste of food. I’m a pescetarian and the only time I find it difficult to find food for myself is when I’m with others, who decide to pick a chicken restaurant as the location for our meal.
I love that I am in control of everything in my life while I’m traveling. I feel like at home I am trapped in a routine that makes me unhappy and a lot of decisions that are made in my life are out of my control because I have to consider pleasing others. I have to go to work and have these commitments, but it is not where I would like to be. I want my reality to be travel and my main goal is to be able to travel full time and make a career out of travel.
I understand that this all sounds incredibly selfish, but sometimes self-care is the most important thing and you have to be selfish to make sure that you are okay. Even since I’ve come home, it has hit me how trapped I feel in my everyday life and having a taste of being free has made me want more.