Travelling South East Asia has been an eye opener to say the least. The region is full of different people, different ways of doing things, and different travel lessons in each country.
Reflecting on my solo travelling experience through Southeast Asia, I’ve come to conclusion that it’s THE place to be if you’re looking to push out of your comfort zone and grow yourself. The adventures you’ll find yourself in will leave an ever lasting impression on you.
I want to make this post short and sweet which gets to the crux of what my motivations behind solo travelling is and what it’s like coming back from it.
The decision to long term solo travel
The initial decision to travel alone from the outset was difficult, but it’s a personal one that you’ll have to really think hard about. You’ll be sacrificing your life at home, time spent with family, and most likely even leaving your job. These aren’t light decisions so expect to spend a lot of time weighing them.
On the other hand, travelling breathes a whole new life into you and can entirely morph your character. You’ll perhaps learn new skills such as bargaining, fishing or diving and your view on the world will increasingly change as you go through each country. If you’re lucky to have the opportunity to go off on a long term trip, give some serious thought and consideration.
Being that it’s been on my bucket list for almost a decade and with many other life obligations in the way, I figured that now is the time to do it. After all, I wasn’t getting any younger.
With just a few clicks on the internet I booked a one-way ticket, bought travel insurance, and next thing I was on a plane headed to Bangkok, Thailand.
I decided to temporarily leave behind a stable job, career, and a comfortable life surrounded by my friends and family. At that moment my mind raced with thoughts of, what if everyone thinks I’m crazy for going off like this? (spoiler alert: They did!) what if I got hurt? abducted? or millions of other worst case scenarios?
Coming back home from travel and thinking about it, I sort of chuckle at those initial thoughts because they were fears that I paid too much attention to. The memorable adventures I got myself into outstripped any of the fears and it was well worth taking the risk.
The other side of the world is relatively safe as long as you take all the normal precautions as you would at home. Be respectful, mindful, and remember that you are a guest in the country. You’ll find that people are already exposed to tourists of all kinds and you won’t be the first foreigner that anyone has ever experienced. Backpackers before you and I who have long gone off the beaten path made sure of it. This is great thing since many locals grow a liking to travellers and sometimes go out of their way to show what their culture and country is all about.
My time in Southeast Asia felt safe and was full of normal human to human interactions, albeit a little bit stumbly when I was in a country where English isn’t widely known. This leads me to another point: We are all humans.
No different than we are ourselves at home with guests, people on the other side are with loving hearts and welcoming to travellers, but of course you’ll find some locals who are a little annoyed by over tourism. These folks are far and few and have only been a recent thing with the sheer numbers in tourism worldwide. People luckily are generally awesome.
What solo travelling is really like
You’re never really alone
When you think of solo travel you probably think of wandering the streets of Thailand with your backpack, taking lifestyle photography, and after a day of exploring retire back into your hotel or rented space all alone with no one to talk to. Let me quickly put that to rest in your mind because that only happens maybe 20% or less of the time.
The funny thing is, when you’re travelling solo you’re never really alone. You become a social all-star who finds the need to be connected with other human beings. A lot of the time when you first arrive in a new country you’ll likely be alone for the first few days, but quickly after that the universe snaps it’s fingers and you’ll happen to make new friends. Whether it be in your hostel, a dating app, or tours – you find somebody new. This has happened to me in every country I visited!
What happens if you’re a really shy person?
I’m not an extreme extrovert nor am I an extreme introvert, but instead I fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. I can be shy and it takes a while for me warm up to people, but other times I can walk up to a stranger to start a conversation. It depends on my mood and surroundings.
Even the way that I am, I found it relatively easy to make great friends along the way. In fact, coming out of this trip made me a more confident person who is able to accept any social awkwardness or anxiety at it’s face value and just roll with it! If you’re extremely shy, I would be willing to bet that you’ll also have no trouble making friends. If all else fails, wait for an extrovert to approach you first.
What it feels like being home after your trip
This blog post has been in draft form for a couple months now since I wanted life to feel settled again before I write about it and to make an accurate description of my feelings.
On my first week back I had a renewed love and appreciation for my city, my home, and the lifestyle I have lived for years in a developed country. Even though it was freezing and it snowed for a week before my arrival (I live in Canada), it felt good to be home. To breathe fresh clean air and see my family and friends.
Fast forward to a couple of months ahead and I’m gainfully employed in a field that I thought I had lost the passion for, but have found love for it again. Doing something I enjoy makes me happier and gives me a good reason to hop out of bed and take on the day.
You know the saying, “once you’ve caught the travel bug it’s really hard to get rid of”? That holds 100% true. I find myself structuring everything around my life to be able to make another long term trip again, and with the experience already under my belt, the next trip will be even better.
Finances, equipment, preparation, etc. are all being lined up for that moment when I do it all over again.
Travel is for life.