life lessons learned traveling, part vii

by Holly on October 6, 2011

in reader's request,travel

One of the very best things I’ve ever done in my young Everythingtarian life is travel solo.

Now, as a 20-something American woman traveling alone through the tropical islands of Thailand, you may be thinking that I’m not the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree (ahem, dim) or the sharpest crayon in the box (ahem, flat), and here’s the thing, you’d be right. But despite the million and one worries you could waste your whole life imagining and rationalizing as reasons not to travel alone, I did it.

And I don’t regret not one single moment.

So when a lovely reader who I can’t remember the name of brought up the subject and asked me to write a reader’s request post all about traveling solo as a woman, how could I possibly resist?

I traversed three different Thai islands and survived to share my story!

I stayed in a hut 50 yards from the beach and managed not to get kidnapped, sexually harassed or stalked by a mysterious Thai suitor!

I burned myself silly into a red lobster within the first 30 minutes of laying at the beach and still managed to get a lovely bronzing anyways!

I made international friends, rock climbed, ate good food (fresh pineapple, guava + rose apple bowls everyday), hiked to the gorgeous outlook on Koh Phi Phi, snorkeled, learned Iranian from a new acquaintance on a boat ride, ate an awkwardly silent breakfast of two chocolate-filled doughnuts at a shady roadside cafe with the owner of the hostel I was staying at and enjoyed the independence of doing what I wanted, when I wanted and how I wanted.

In other words, I traveled solo as a woman and lived to tell my tale.

And so can you.

(1) Do your research. Buy books (I highly suggest Lonely Planet) and magazines, scour websites and figure out the activities you want to do, places you want to stay, landmarks you want to see and restaurants you want to eat at before you go. Cross-reference sources to ensure they are reputable, safe places and destinations, and plan, plan, plan!

(2) Write down the exact itinerary of where you plan to go and give it to family, friends and anyone else you deem relevant. When you book that flight to go explore the beaches of Phuket, traipse the Roman ruins in Italy or make the historic trek to Machu Picchu, don’t forget to also include information on the hostels/hotels you’re staying at, phone numbers, names of places you want to visit, personal contact information, EVERYTHING AND ANYTHING.

No detail should be spared… clothing you brought…the color of your backpack is…flight numbers…passport info…medication…the brand of acne cream you use. It all matters.

(3) Use common sense. Would you go out exploring the neighborhood you live in right now at 1:30am? Yeah, I didn’t think so. So don’t go thinking traveling through a foreign country is any different. Pick well-lit paths. Don’t engage with strangers. Carry your purse snugly under your arm. Travel in groups. Don’t get so belligerently drunk that you make out in the back of a cab with someone and don’t remember how you got home (<- oops, have I said too much?).

(4) Take advantage of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunities before you. But make them smart ones! Scope out reputable travel companies and take a day-long snorkeling, rock climbing and beach bumming tour with other travelers looking to do the same (I did! It was UH-MAY-ZING!). Tourist traps are traps for a reason – they are often the most exciting, interesting places to see. Go see them. Talk with your hotel concierges and hostel front desk people and ask them what they think are the best things to see and do. They’re most often right.

(5) Eat lots of food. Especially the kinds of foods you can’t get back in the U.S. ‘Nuff said.

(6) Make friends! I am continually astounded by the incredibly large number of people who choose to make traveling the world a high priority in their lives. I have friends from Israel, Slovenia, Australia, England, Scotland, Thailand, South Korea and Canada that I’ve all met traveling this crazy world. While you should definitely be cautious when meeting strangers, never turn down a beer with an adorable couple from England who are traveling the world for a year or a young member of the Israeli army backpacking through Southeast Asia.

You’ll miss out on meeting amazing people.

(7) Take ample time for self-reflection. The most beneficial thing about traveling solo is the ability to sit with your thoughts, sift through the multitude of things swirling around in your brain and really take time to decide what YOU want. Not your mom…not your dad…not your husband…not your friends…YOU! It was traveling along through the islands of Thailand where I truly learned to be content by myself and enjoy the company that is me, in all my crazy-haired, klutzy and monkey mind glory.

I finally realized that I, and I alone, was enough.

Have YOU ever traveled alone? Would you ever want to travel alone? Do YOU have any tips for solo travel? Never forget…sharing is caring!

part i

part ii

part iii

part iv

part v

part vi

{ 20 comments }

brandee October 6, 2011 at 11:12 pm

Great post! I’m actually on a layover in Seoul en route to Bali and I’m going by myself! I’m definitely a little nervous but so excited!

lo October 7, 2011 at 12:04 am

lets get married and travel all through eastern and western europe for a YEAR! ready? I am!

xoxo
LO

Linds October 7, 2011 at 12:26 am

These are excellent tips! It was really refreshing to read your post because you confirmed that girls CAN travel on their own as long as use common sense and plan, plan, plan. Girls shouldn’t be scared to travel alone! Also, how amazing is the pineapple on that side of the world? I had pineapple in Fiji and now nothing can live up to it!

Hillary October 7, 2011 at 7:07 am

1. Those pictures are stunning. I am swooning at the sight of those beaches.
2. You look like you are GLOWING in every single picture. You can tell that you were really living the moment there. It’s beautiful.
3. I am naturally very skittish when I travel, and I’m not sure that traveling alone (out of the country) would be the best situation for me. I actually fear that I would spend the entire time being scared/apprehensive/nervous instead of enjoying myself. I do LOVE to travel though—and would love to go to a whole slew of new places, as well as some that I’ve already been to before (hello, Jerusalem)!

Cassandra @ She Don't Eat No Meat October 7, 2011 at 7:48 am

LOVE. I’m sending this to everyone who makes fun of much solo DAY excursions from now on. You da bomb.

Lindsay @ Lindsay's List October 7, 2011 at 8:01 am

Made me a little teary eyed…honestly. Maybe because I miss that kind of freedom. It’s hard to reflect upon who I am, when WHO I AM is what other people need me to be. A mommy and a wife. I don’t regret any of my decisions and LOVE where I am in life right now, but I am a little envious of your freedom.

Mellissa October 7, 2011 at 8:24 am

I cannot stress enough to just go book a trip. Go to a new place! Go by yourself or go with friends just go see the world. I’m at 20 countries and have so many more places I want to see. My rules? No tours, minimal plans, and get good guide books- Lonely Planet and Rick Steves.

Mackenzie @ Whatever, Gatsby October 7, 2011 at 8:51 am

traveling alone is THE BOMB! mostly because that means i get to eat at the same thai restaurant 5 days in a row, but seriously. it is life changing. you’re making me get the travel itch again!

Emily October 7, 2011 at 8:52 am

‘I finally realized that I, and I alone, was enough.’ I read that line while listening to a sad song and now I wanna cry. So beautiful :) Now I’m checking the Ryanair website for cheap flights to ANYWHERE haha.

Katie @ Peace Love and Oats October 7, 2011 at 10:20 am

I don’t think I’m outgoing enough to travel alone! I’m not really a go up to people and start chatting kind of person. I have a feeling I’d be alone the whole time. Lol but alone in Thailand is sure better than nothing! Now I just have to find the money… haha

Elizabeth October 7, 2011 at 11:39 am

Thanks for writing this chica! I have a ticket to Australia burning a hole in my pocket – long story. Anyways I need to get out there and make use of it since I forked over the $$. While I’ve traveled alone, it’s such a good reminder to know others fly solo as well. :)

Megan (Braise the Roof) October 7, 2011 at 11:53 am

I’m reading a book right now that I think you would LOVE based on this post- I’ll tell you all about it! I have traveled by myself, but nowhere as cool as you. I went to London by myself when I was abroad and that was pretty awesome!

Kristie October 7, 2011 at 3:16 pm

THIS is an awesome post. Of all people, your traveling stories make me want to travel the most. Solo venturing is a pretty brave act but you make it sound totally do-able….and amazing! One of these days maybe I’ll grow an adventurous bone and get myself out there too ;)

Hayley @ Oat Couture October 7, 2011 at 3:45 pm

Just found your blog from your guest post over at The Athletes Plate! :) Fab post! I completely agree that traveling on your own is an amazing thing to do and so completely different to going away with people. I moved to Switzerland a few years back on a whim and completely on my own. I then went to Germany and on to Dubai (hated Dubai, but thats another story!) I was gone around 1 1/2 to 2 years in total and during those years I also visited many other countries (some on my own and some with friends) I wouldn’t change my experiences for the world! I do wish I had made it out to Thailand though! But there is still time yet! ;) My tip would just be to be as open as possible whilst still being safe! :)

Jessica @ Healthy Dairyland October 7, 2011 at 4:15 pm

I traveled alone when I went to London in 2008. I definitely threw all caution to the wind and behaved like a crazy woman. I had a blast, made friends,drank too much beer, and might have walked home alone after the bars closed…live and learn! Happy Friday!

Alissa (Not Just Apples) October 7, 2011 at 5:15 pm

Brilliant! I have just come back from a 3 month trip to Australia all by myself- and it was an amazing experience :) I totally agree with all your points… be brave and organised!

Emma October 7, 2011 at 7:03 pm

Now you KNOW I love hearing about your Thailand adventures! You were very smart about traveling alone– I do not think I could do it. I might just be too paranoid a person to pull that off.
But yes, common sense is something you have never have too much of.

Brittany October 7, 2011 at 10:27 pm

Those pictures are amazing!! I am super jealous you went to Thailand. You are awesome for traveling alone. I think it would actually be fun ! I’m too much of a baby so I’m not sure if I ever would

Kristen - Anywhere There's An Airport October 8, 2011 at 2:21 am

Traveling alone lead me to the love of my life! Had I been with a friend I might not taken the time to see the great man in front of me. Being alone, in any circumstance really does make you more aware. More aware of yourself, your surroundings, and the people that are put in your path. Cheers to a continued life of travel!

Lou October 9, 2011 at 5:16 pm

totally agree with everything, you have out so eloquently. travelling solo was the BEST, most valuable learning experience of my life…. learnt so much about MYSELF first and foremost. You challenge yourself so much, when there is no one but YOU to make the decisions (even if they end up being mistakes!) great series!

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