Hi there, if you’re reading this then that means you follow my friend Casie’s wonderful blog! A little background info on Casie’s and I’s friendship: we actually became friends abroad, the first time I met her was in Italy of all places. We had both signed up to take a trip with EF Ultimate Break, formerly EF College Break, and for nearly two weeks we were lucky enough to have an awesome group to explore Germany, Italy, and Switzerland with. We lucked out with a great group and were forever bonded by our experiences; from getting lost in Venice, running around the beautiful biergartens late at night in Germany, to experiencing pure bliss atop the Swiss Alps, we shared amazing moments that I’ll cherish forever. So, when Casie asked me to write an article on her blog, my immediate answer was OF COURSE! I love reading her blog and since my first trip abroad with EF over a year ago, I’ve been fortunate enough to take a few solo trips that I planned on my own.
Due to my history, Casie thought I might be able to provide an interesting solo travelers perspective for her blog. So here I am, and I ask that you bear with me, I don’t pretend to be a magnificent writer or to even know how to properly write a blog post, but I do like sharing and I’m going to tell you a little bit about my solo travels thus far and why I decided to backpack Thailand alone for a month.
Now, the idea seems scary at first glance: backpacking in a foreign country for a whole month, alone. A country with a completely different language, culture, and economic/political situation than what I was accustomed to or had ever experienced. Yet somehow, it honestly didn’t scare me at all. That sounds insane and though a year ago, prior to my EF trip, I would’ve been totally terrified to travel solo, let alone do it for an entire month, so much had changed and shaped me over the course of a year and it had allowed me to become fearless in this pursuit. Similar to most people, I used to be terrified at the thought of traveling alone, the thought seemed foreign to me; though I set off on my EF trip alone, I did so with the knowledge that I would always have a group to explore and spend time with. That trip was my first time outside of North America and though it was definitely a push outside of my comfort zone, it still felt safe and concrete; after all, I wouldn’t have to worry about planning anything and I wouldn’t be on my own. My trip with EF was amazing, I absolutely loved my experience and have zero regrets about it, but it also made me realize that traveling in a tour group isn’t really for me. In fact, I’m eternally grateful for that trip because it allowed me to discover how much of an independent traveler I truly was; I loved the idea of moving at my own pace, planning my own activities, exploring on my own, and budgeting a cheaper trip as well. From that point on I’d been bitten by the travel bug hard, and everything progressed pretty naturally afterward.
Samesun Backpackers in Vancouver, Canada was the first hostel I ever stayed at, and stays in my top 5
After going through a bit of post-trip depression, I finally began to plan another trip, this time to Spain and England with one of my best friends. Before setting off on that trip, however, I actually ended up booking a trip to Vancouver, Canada solo on a last minute whim. My experience in Canada was my first true solo trip and completely changed my outlook on how to travel; it was a leap of faith that I took on myself and it actually paid of. My time there was short-lived but it was also extraordinary; Vancouver itself is such a beautiful and lively city, but its also where I had my first experience at a hostel, and there I was able to meet people from all over the world and form instant connections. It really allowed me to recognize how spectacular traveling solo can be and washed away a lot of the initial fears I had about it. Subsequent trips included one to London and Madrid with one of my best friends, as well as returning to Vancouver, Canada in April to reunite with the friends I’d met on my initial trip as well make new ones. Though these experiences didn’t completely prepare me for a whole month on my own, they certainly gave me a solid foundation for solo travel and made me eager and excited about continuing to travel on my own.
My plans for the summer of 2018 soon came into question, and though I had been debating on a couple different places, the one that stuck was Thailand. A fellow traveler I’d met in Vancouver had told me she was heading there later in the year for a few weeks and pointed out how cheap it was. As with all my trips, I was on a budget and after a late night of researching online, I quickly discovered what a popular, safe, and cheap place Thailand was for solo travelers. After that, I was completely sold and booked my flight: I’d be backpacking Thailand solo for a month and then head to Vietnam for another 3 weeks before ending my trip.
While I’d never traveled for such an extended period of time, I was confident in my ability to do so and really just excited to go and start exploring. Of course, with such a big decision also came people who questioned it. I was hounded with the usual questions: Why would you travel alone? That can’t be safe, can it? Won’t you get bored on your own? A month is a long time to travel alone for! How are you going to communicate with locals? Aren’t hostels dangerous? etc, etc. The questions and remarks were endless, most times it was people who meant well or who were just shocked at the idea that anybody would even do that. That’s the thing though, people have so many preconceived notions about developing countries, traveling alone, and backpacking, but they lack a real understanding about what it’s actually like.
These perceptions are SO misleading, I traveled solo, but to be entirely honest I wasn’t actually alone most of the time! I would say 85 percent of the time I was joined by fellow solo travelers and the other 15 percent that I spent alone was mainly when I felt that I wanted time for myself, socializing so much can take a toll after all. The great thing about traveling in Thailand was the large community of solo travelers from all over the world, it’s incredibly easy to meet fellow backpackers while staying in hostels and though hostels themselves tend to get a bad reputation they’re actually so much fun! Staying at a hostel is a form of communal living and you get the brilliant opportunity of meeting like-minded travelers and participating in fun hostel outings and tons of other fun activities. Of course, you have to be smart about your stuff and lock up your valuables but that’s always a given while traveling so it’s really not all that different at hostels. Through staying in hostels I ended up meeting hundreds of awesome people, many of which I also got to travel with and I also got to do a ton of fun stuff including kayaking, tubing, taking cooking classes, etc.
Posing in front of the Wat Rong Khun in Chiang Rai, Thailand.
Though many would argue with me that a month of travel is too long for one place, after doing just that in Thailand, I found that it still wasn’t quite enough time to fully explore the country, and I would definitely go back to revisit the places I fell in love with as well as to see some of the spots I missed out on. My experience traveling alone was safe, thrilling, and definitely the best choice I could have made for myself. Occasionally while traveling you’ll meet some friends traveling together, or a few couples, but the majority of backpackers in Thailand and South East Asia seemed to be solo travelers. Both are valid options and have their own pros and cons, however traveling solo at least once in your life is an experience unlike any-other that I would highly recommend to everyone. I’ve genuinely learned more about myself than I think I would have had I been accompanied by someone, and that knowledge is invaluable to me. Traveling solo essentially means pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, whereas traveling with a friend or a significant other it can become easy to get complacent or too comfortable. In contrast, traveling solo quite literally propels you to experience uncertain and varying encounters, it means forcing yourself into the common room of a hostel and introducing yourself to strangers, it means being flexible and joining someone you just met for dinner or perhaps even your next destination. And I don’t want this to sound like I’m knocking traveling with your lover or best friend or whatever by any means, BUT if you ever get the chance to travel on your own, I dare you to do it, because it’s challenging, confusing, extraordinary, and oh so completely worth every second. I wish I could put it into the most beautiful words, but I’m afraid anything I say could not truly express the beauty and wonder of doing it yourself, and every solo traveler knows what I’m talking about when I say that when you travel solo you become inexplicably connected to fellow backpackers that you considered strangers mere hours prior and you discover infinitely more about yourself and who you really are.
It’s a scary thing to make the decision to travel alone, I’ll be the first to admit it, but like most things in life once you do it you realize it’s not so scary after all, and you’re glad that you made the leap. Too often we let our fear of the unknown limit us when in reality it should drive us to pursue and explore, most of us know that some of the things most worth doing are also some of the scariest decisions and steps we will ever take. So I’m sorry if I’ve suddenly gotten too preachy, but had certain things not happened in my life to wake me up to these opportunities, it’s quite possible I would’ve never set out on these journeys alone. Through solo traveling I’ve learned how absolutely pivotal it is to pursue your own joy and happiness; whether that’s traveling, finishing school, becoming an artist, creating a family, or any of the other endless options we’re given, its YOUR life and you should make sure its one you’re content living. It doesn’t always need to mean dropping everything and all of the responsibilities you have in your life to go pursue this dream or goal, it just means making sure you’re taking steps, making progress and always working towards it while simultaneously enjoying what is here in the present. For me, that meant pursuing my bliss by traveling solo and exploring more of the world, but for now, it means finishing my last year at university, what does it mean for you?
That’s all from me for now, thanks for reading. If you want a more detailed account of my itinerary as I backpacked through Thailand you can follow my blog below where I have a post coming up, you can also check out some of my travel videos/pictures on my Instagram and YouTube page that I’ll also link below.