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Tell us about your first trip alone overseas? What emotions you felt, scared, happy, excited, was it a mixture of everything? How old were you? Where did you go?
When I was 19, my first solo trip was backpacking around Cambodia. Why Cambodia you ask? I didn’t want to fit into the mould, I wanted to be bold and different by steering away from Thailand.
While I did my research, heavily basing my information off online guides and travel websites, I had no idea what to expect. At the point of my trip, I was experiencing a mix bag of emotions. I was predominantly heartbroken – my relationship had just ended prior to my departure. But I also felt a sense of newfound freedom, excited for a new adventure in a foreign country, although feeling absolutely petrified.
My journey started off in Phnom Penh and I made my way along the coast to Kampot, Kep, Koh Rong and Sihanoukville. I was meant to travel for longer, however, in Sihanoukville, I was robbed of my camera, credit cards, wallet and money. I was stuck in a new country with no money. There is a silver lining to this story, though. I had met an Israeli girl while on Koh Rong. We decided to travel and stay in Sihanoukville together. When I came home, balling my eyes out, she managed to confront me and keep me sane throughout it all. The next day I managed to transfer some money to her so she could withdraw it and pass it to me so I could make my way back home.
This trip didn’t go smoothly. So many bumps along the way and it was definitely a learning curve. Regardless, it taught me to trust strangers and throw me out of the naïve mentality that travel isn’t all sunshine and rainbows and sh*t does happen. All you can do is learn from it and prevent it from happening again.
How have your experiences travelling alone been compared to travelling with someone? Do you have a preference on alone or travelling with someone?
For me, travelling with someone is almost an art. As my travel style is easy-going, very budget conscious and independent, it can be a little difficult to find someone on the same wavelength. I’ve had some amazing experiences travelling with friends and significant others but also have had quite a few disagreements. Keeping that balance between what both of you want to do and accomplish is extremely important to making things work. If you’re able to find a travel partner with the same style, interests and vision as you, it’s absolutely magical. I have a few friends who would make ideal travel partners but with commitments (work, study etc), it’s not always feasible to travel with them.
Personally, I prefer travelling alone. I don’t feel obligated for any one else and I can decide how my day unfolds. It feels more liberating making your own decisions and being independent. You don’t have to wait around for the other to sort their plans out. To top it off, travelling solo does force me to meet and interact with more people than I would if I travelled with someone else.
What are your thoughts on traveling alone as a women and the issue of safety?
Unfortunately, we still live in a world where travelling as a woman means always staying on guard. Of course, there are several places where we can travel carefree and go about our day without thinking twice. Some places on the other hand, require more vigilance. While I don’t stop myself from travelling alone, safety is always on the back of my mind. I’ve been sexually harassed multiple times and almost sexually assaulted (twice) while travelling.
There are simple steps we can take as women to help take control of our situation and our safety. Avoid arriving to destinations after dark, being conscious of our surroundings and presenting ourselves a certain way are all measures we can take to reduce any potential risks.
Majority of the time, people are friendly, warm and welcoming, making travelling alone a breeze and enjoyable. However, there are a few bad eggs so there’s no harm in remaining observant.
"This trip didn’t go smoothly. So many bumps along the way and it was definitely a learning curve. Regardless, it taught me to trust strangers and throw me out of the naïve mentality that travel isn’t all sunshine and rainbows and sh*t does happen. All you can do is learn from it and prevent it from happening again."
Tell us a story about your best travel experience (with or without someone else)
Despite the stereotype that solo travel is lonely, this experience is to show that it’s quite the opposite.
I started off my South East Asian travels in Yangon, Myanmar mid-2015, alone. My first hostel didn’t have a great common room so meeting new people was a little challenging. I managed to meet two girls (a Scottish and Catalan) who happened to be staying in the same room as me. We didn’t quite know what we were doing so we had the flexibility to change our plans. All three of us got along really well and ended up travelling together to Bagan.
Over the next fortnight, we would meet other solo travellers who joined our little “group” and slowly it expanded to about 10. There was never a dull moment. Since we were all solo travellers, there was a common understanding that we would either go off and do our own thing and reunite at the end of the day or do things as a group. There was no expectation that everyone had to do the exact same things since we have different interests.
It’s almost been two years since we last travelled together and we still keep in touch. Some of us have also travelled and visited each other. Speaking of which, I’m heading to Barcelona later this month to visit Jana (the Catalan girl)!
What are your top 3 favourite countries you have traveled too?
This is a really tough question! I think it’ll have to be: Laos, Austria and South West Australia.
What are your least favourite experience or country traveled too?
I hated Sihanoukville, Cambodia. While I had a wonderful time travelling around Cambodia, this beach town felt a bad taste in my mouth. I was robbed of my personal belongings: camera, wallet, phone, credit cards and cash. I tried reporting the matter to the tourist police but they were extremely unhelpful and made a mockery of my situation. To top it off, a stranger there almost sexually assaulted me. I don’t think I’d ever want to return.
"If you’re worried about loneliness, just remember, you’re never truly be alone. You’ll probably end up meeting some of the best people and having a blast."
Let’s play a game, give us the first word or sentence that pops into your head around these words. (Think experiences on the road).
FUN – Camping on a deserted beach
TRAVEL – Keeps me sane
FOOD – Street food, all the way
MEN – Great drinking buddies and solid banter
EXERCISE – Do hiking, diving and adventure sports count?
INDIA – Massive culture shock.
AMERICA – Pacific North West looks like heaven on earth
PACKING – Annoying
JOB – Work to travel
ALCOHOL – Social lubricant
DANGER – Gili Trawangan (had a very unpleasant experience at the hostel)
TAXIS – Overpriced
BED BUGS – Something I hope to never experience
LOVE – Love life = non-existent | Love wandering the mountains and beaches.
FAMILY - Supportive
NEW FRIENDS – New adventures
OLD FRIENDS – To visit
SWITZERLAND – Cheese fondue and Toblerone mountain!
What has traveling alone taught you?
It’s taught me to be strong, independent but also trust (some) strangers. At home, friends and family you can dependent on if something goes wrong. If something happens on the road, you need to be able to pick yourself up and carry on or trust a random to help you out. Travelling solo has also taught me to do things passionately, to push boundaries, challenge stereotypes and not be afraid. It’s given me the courage to do things alone and continuously experience, like hiking by myself!
Lastly what advice would you give to someone who is looking to travel alone but is too scared?
Travelling alone is a massive leap from travelling with other people BUT it’s not as scary as what it’s made out to be. There are common backpacker routes in various regions so you’ll probably meet several people along the way. If you’re worried about loneliness, just remember, you’re never truly be alone. You’ll probably end up meeting some of the best people and having a blast. Do your research and travel with an open mind.
I’ve written a small guide to Solo Travel with tips and advice.
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