HEY you guys! I am currently blogging from Tulum, Mexico!!
As predicted, I have major jet-lag after coming back from Thailand and have been waking up in the wee hours of the morning, and so while my friends are snoozing away, I wanted to write about some lessons/tips/growing experiences that I learned over the past few weeks of traveling on my own in Thailand. I’ve done other solo trips in the past, but Thailand was by far my longest and most eventful, and I wanted to document my thoughts while they are still fresh.
Also, this is by no means to say what will works for everyone – solo traveling is a very unique experience and these are just my personal thoughts on it 🙂
- Grow thick skin to creeps – As a female, walking down the street alone led to a LOT of cat calls, stares, people grabbing you, stopping you…at first I was pretty annoyed by this, but then I learned to grow thick skin and just ignore them – the few times I interacted with them in order to not be rude was SO not worth it.
- Taking favors – On the other hand, there are some advantages to being a women traveling alone. One evening I got lost in a village and knocked on someone’s door, and a women walked with me for 20 minutes out of her way so that I wouldn’t be alone in the dark. Another time, a receptionist upgraded my room for free because he liked my smile…you bet I took it! I think women have to deal with a lot of pain and awkward situations on a daily basis, so why not get some help here and there when we can.
- Safety / stick to your limits – Almost every decision made on my trip was the calculation of how much I wanted to do an activity versus its safety. I’m a pretty big safety nerd, and so knowing my limits was definitely key to making good decisions. For instance, before the trip, I promised myself I would NOT personally drive a motorbike even though everyone in Thailand rides them and it looked super fun. A trip to the hospital was not worth it. But I did, however, hop on the back of several people’s motorbikes if I trusted them. It’s all about knowing your limits and sticking to them.
- Speak simple English – With English as my first language, I sometimes forget how difficult it is for people who speak English as as second language. I quickly learned that “Hello, um, would you mind taking a quick photo for me and my friend please?” was WAY more confusing than just “photo?” and pointing to my camera. Talk slowly, simply, and with your hands (a trick I learned was especially effective with children!).
- No one cares about how you look – I basically stopped wearing makeup by the second day of my trip because I quickly learned that backpackers really don’t care about how you look, how you smell, etc…especially in hostels. Getting comfortable with a layer of sweat, dirt, sunscreen, and DEET on me at all times and stop caring about how I looked eventually became so incredibly freeing.
- Stay on top of calories – When I first got to Thailand, something about the intense heat made me not want to eat very much. One day, I skipped breakfast and lunch, started drinking, ate a small dinner, and then got food poisoning…you bet my body was NOT happy that all it had were a few beers in its system to fight the sickness. Since then I decided that I was going to eat 3 meals a day plus one snack no matter how I was feeling. Traveling can be unpredictable and sometimes you don’t know when your next meal will be, so stay on top of calories!
- Decide on your social media preference – I love taking pictures and documenting things, but before this trip, I was a bit overwhelmed with how much social media there was out there…and so I decided that I wanted to focus on taking quality pictures for this blog and not post Instagram stories and Snapchats. Limiting my social media REALLY made such a difference with feeling more present and less overwhelmed. Everyone has their own social media preference, and it’s all about sticking to your own despite the pressure to constantly be updating things sometimes.
- Don’t be scared to talk to people – One of the hardest parts of my trip was entering a hostel, seeing people already in groups and knowing that I was alone. Sometimes, I literally had to psych myself up with pep talks before inserting myself and start making friends. What I found was that there is SO much camaraderie among backpackers and everyone is so willing to meet, whether they are solo or in groups. I’ve never regretted initiating a single conversation with anyone on my trip, and you just have to dive right in – I knew I would regret NOT talking to someone over talking to them and getting “rejected,” which honestly never happened at all!
- It’s okay to not make a personal connection – On that note, not every person I met was a super duper personal connection. Sometimes I would spend an entire day with a group of people and then realize I actually didn’t love hanging out with them…I had to learn that this was OKAY and to not obsess over the “lost time.” I couldn’t change the past, but I could decide my future, and it’s okay to separate yourself from people you don’t want to be with.
- Pursue the good connections – Moreover, when I did meet people I liked and felt myself with, pursue the friendship. Just like in real life, it’s rare to meet these people, so treasure the connection!
- I’m REALLY happy being single – This was a very personal realization I had on this trip…but at one point I thought how happy I was to be having this adventure at a point in my life when I don’t have to worry about anyone else but myself. I could truly do whatever and meet whoever I wanted to, and I realized that I feel the most myself when I am single. Originally I was excited to start dating again after my exam…but to be honest, I think I’m do me for a bit; I’m so happy this trip gave me that confidence 🙂
- Everything happens for a reason – On my very first solo trip, a California road trip in college, I got an eye infection and had to cancel my plans for the evening. I was sitting at my hostel feeling sorry for myself, when I met a nice German guy who I ended up grabbing dinner and drinks with. When things didn’t go to plan, they were always guideposts towards something better, and everything always works out the way its suppose to.
- But crap happens – On the other hand, sometimes crappy things just happen for no reason. Like getting food poisoning my last night in Chiang Mai. You just have to deal with it and don’t let it bring you down.
- Say yes to everything – This is actually me and Michelle’s motto when we travel together, but it couldn’t be more true when travelling alone.
- Be true to yourself – The whole point of solo travelling is doing whatever YOU want. I spent a lot of time asking friends for recommendations and researching online…but in the end, it was my trip and other people’s definition of happiness may not be the same as mine. For me, being in nature took priority, and so I adjusted my itinerary to spend most of my time in small villages, national parks, and islands. This is no one else’s trip but your own!
- Leave room for spontaneity – If something comes up and you want to do it, then change your plan! I’m a major planner and don’t love changing my plans, so it was a big growing experience when I decided to skip my last leg of the trip to stay in Koh Tao a few extra days. In the end, it really made me happy to stay, and taught me to go with the flow and not plan too much.
- Lastly, my Thailand trip made me so much more confident, mature, patient, have a stronger sense of self, adventurous, outgoing, positive, and overall grateful. I feel like my life is filled with a newfound positive energy and I truly feel like a new person inside and out. For that, I am SO grateful for this amazing trip ❤