This year has brought me a series of bipolar life episodes that sent me to cloud nine then sent me right back down to confusion. And in the midst of it all, I found the perfect cure for a reset: solo travel.
Of all that has happened in 2014, it was my solitary travel to Hanoi that really made my year. It was such a wonderful experience that I wish for friends and those who stumble across this blog to try traveling solo even just once in their lives.
You learn to love your own company.
Too often, we’re surrounded with family and friends and we love the happy chaos it brings. But when you’re alone, you learn to see just how wonderful your own company is.
It’s difficult at first. You feel stupid and awkward wandering or eating alone. You even feel scared; and that’s a good thing. Fear makes you more aware of your surroundings; keeps you on your toes and restrains you from doing anything remotely stupid.
Independence is empowering.
As you slowly start getting used to your own company, you begin feeling confident. You even smile at a fellow tourist as you walk along or at a family seated beside you at a cafe.
You even start feeling smart! I am such a dunce with reading maps and directions that I manage to get myself lost around Marikina when I jog. But when I was alone in Hanoi, I’ve learned to map the places I want to visit using the offline map and GPS on my smartphone.
You loosen up and meet new people.
Traveling as a group gives you that ‘protective shield’ that closes you to the people around you. But when you’re alone, you learn to open yourself a little to the people around you. And you will learn the wonders of a smile or a simple good morning to the person in front of you on the breakfast buffet queue can do for you.
The people I chatted with during breakfast, gave me a ride back to the airport; went out with a couple for dinner, shopping and drinks! And those two buddies I met on the city tour, they went shopping with me for a backpack and helped me get a good deal for it.
Less things to worry.
Traveling solo simplifies your itinerary: You go where and do what you want when you want to do it. You stop worrying whether your companion wants to go to a particular place or if another is too tired to take another step. You just go.
Appreciate your friends and family more.
And since you’re traveling solo, you think of your friends or siblings when you see something funny and you don’t have anyone to laugh with. Or you ate a local dish and you thought they will love it too.
You also found a place where you can take your friends and loved ones and be their personal tour guide.
So for the coming year, conquer your fear of traveling solo. Start with having coffee for your me time and just do people-watching. Don’t hide behind a book. Take photos if you like. Then level up to going around the metro on your own. Try Intramuros. And when you feel you’re ready, go somewhere where you’ve never been before. Arm yourself with info on the place you’re visiting and a lot of good sense.
Travel by yourself. For yourself. One day, you’ll be thankful you did.