What Traveling Solo Has Taught Me

Experiencing the unknown

Vyna Nguyen
Feb 16, 2020 · 7 min read
Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash

September 2019, I bought a one-way ticket to Thailand. At the time, I didn’t have anything planned out, and I wasn’t too sure when I’d return back to the states. I just trusted the process and took the plunge.

Writing this, I am sitting in the sunroom of my rented accommodation and looking out the window at the busy street of Jalak Indah in Bali. I find it hard to believe that I am here.

Apart from a few mosquito bites, I am in pretty great shape! This is reassuring because I was quite anxious about traveling alone prior to my departure.

My mind was consumed with thoughts as such:

Oh my, I am going to feel so lonely!

What am I going to do without my dog? (I do miss him terribly)

If I get lost, I won’t have anyone to rely on.

I’m going to have a hard time adjusting.

What if I get stranded?!

What if I get harassed?!

What if someone steals my passport?!

What if, what if, what if?

Now that I am a few months into this journey, I have a newfound confidence in myself and I realized that there really isn’t anything to be afraid of. Of course, one should always be cautious wherever they go, but for the most part, you’re going to be a-okay. Spoken from a young, woman of color.

Other than knowing that I am capable of traveling alone, I’ve also come around to new ideas about the world, and about myself.

Making friends isn’t hard

I’ve always thought that friends were hard to find. The idea of approaching people seemed daunting to me, let alone putting myself out there.

However, traveling has forced me to break out of this mold. I knew I didn’t want to just travel and not share any moments with someone.

I had to believe that making friends was easy, and with this belief, I’ve been able to make friends from all walks of life. The great thing about traveling is, you meet other travelers.

And what do all travelers have in common? In my opinion, a hunger for adventure, endless curiosity, an open mind, a growth mentality, and a free spirit.

Other travelers are traveling for the same reason, so striking up a conversation with one typically isn’t hard to do. There’s a high chance that they would be pleased to get to know you.

As long as you express genuine interest, offer your time generously, and are present while you’re around people, you’ll be surprised by how easy it is to make friends. Always remember to have fun as well. People are attracted to fun!

You really don’t need a lot of stuff

When I was packing, I was worried I wouldn’t have enough clothes or necessities to get me by for the months ahead. One week into my travels, I realized that I overpacked!

And by overpacking, I mean, I have seven outfits, four gym outfits and two pairs of pajamas with me. As for necessities, I didn’t need to bring many of them as the stores out here provide most things I need.

Doesn’t sound like too much stuff, eh? Before coming to Bali, I donated a few of my clothes just for the sake of lightening my luggage!

No one gives a shit if you’ve worn the same shirt three times in a week. I’ve never understood how people can travel with just a backpack, but now I get it.

Living out of a suitcase had me questioning all my past purchases. I really didn’t need to buy all those clothes or all those things… Most things I’ve purchased have been for the sake of instant gratification.

I plan on taking this minimalistic attitude home with me. I think I’ll be able to save so much more money!

Depending on myself and only myself

At home, there were always my parents or a friend that I could depend on for something. I tend to be forgetful, so coming out here alone became worrisome to my loved ones.

Who will be there to remind me to grab my phone or wallet while I’m out here? Only me. Safe to say, I haven’t forgotten anything! And I don’t plan on forgetting anything.

There’s something about being alone that forces you to become more cautious of everything. I mean, this is your life after all, right? And my awareness of my surroundings has heightened too.

Embracing a new culture

Getting accustomed to a new culture got me to appreciate what is outside of my comfort zone. I think we get so used to where we are, that when we’re in a country that does things differently, we have no choice but to lean into discomfort and grow.

I’ve found that I love how things are run on a day-to-day basis in Southeast Asia. Life out here is just so much more lax. At the same time, I still appreciate how structured America is.

Getting in touch with myself

After being alone for some time, you really start to hear your inner voice. And by inner voice, I mean you get a sense of who you really are.

When you’re constantly around your circle of friends or anyone that you see regularly, their beliefs become your own. Their thoughts, opinions, and interests may also become your own.

Traveling alone enables you to think of things like, “Wow, I really like this type of music and I don’t give a damn what anyone else thinks about it.” Let me tell you, it’s liberating.

Building a relationship with myself

Being alone also gives me space and freedom to build a relationship with myself. I get to wake up every day and plan my day according to how I want it to go.

Of course, it’s selfish, but for now, I get to put myself first and it’s great. Back at home, there’s always someone in the picture and it can be really distracting to my self-development.

Spending so much time with myself has given me a better understanding of what my purpose is, what serves me and what doesn’t, and what I need in order to be content.

In addition, I’ve been able to be more compassionate with myself. I’ve been able to laugh at myself when I make a mistake, rather than beat myself up for it.

I am learning that whether I am here alone or at home, the love I have for myself will always be my driving force for everything. So I must work on thriving it.

Trusting myself

This also correlates to depending on myself, but I think it is worth mentioning. While traveling alone, I have to trust myself to make decisions.

There is no second opinion. When my gut says, “Yes, go for it,” I go for it. When it says, “be careful,” I take a step back.

Learning how to trust myself became a part of this experience.

Being grateful for opportunities

To be able to travel the way I do is an opportunity and a blessing within itself. But overall, I’ve been given opportunities to grow and challenge myself.

While traveling through Southeast Asia, you tend to run into a lot of what they call, “digital nomads.” If you are unfamiliar with what a digital nomad is, it’s a person who is location independent and is able to work wherever there is WiFi.

Digital nomads live a very unique lifestyle, and they have a lot to teach if you’re willing to learn. By putting myself out there, I’ve been able to attract my mentor as well as learn from some really successful nomads.

I compared my life out here to my life at home and realized I wouldn’t have these opportunities if I didn’t come out here. I am a small fish in a big pond and I’m grateful I get to learn from people who have the lifestyle that I desire!

In the end, there’s not much to be afraid of

I’m not too sure what there is to be afraid of solo-traveling. I think as long as you are cautious, keep track of your finances, and are respectful anywhere you go, nine times out of 10, you will be fine.

So many people claim that they aren’t able to travel alone. I think this is a limiting belief. Most people are capable of traveling alone.

The experiences you get and the lessons you learn from traveling by yourself are rewarding. Our loved ones will always express their concerns, but if you truly want to travel alone, you just have to do it.

Look past the negative comments, biased news, and especially look past your limiting beliefs. Before you know it, you’ll be on a beach somewhere, sipping on a coconut, and realizing how simple it all really is.

This story is published in Writers on the Run. If you’re interested in submitting your travel stories please visit our submission guidelines.

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