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A Few Lessons I Learned Traveling Solo

by Melissa Mock

It takes a little courage to travel alone for the first time, but it’s likely to be a rewarding trip. I recently solo traveled across Asia, visiting Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia Malaysia and Nepal. Some of my most memorable and impactful experiences came from branching out on my own and going local. I’d love to share a few lessons I learned along the way.

Be Open
When you’re venturing out by yourself, people are more likely to invite you into special spaces like their homes, private events or hang out spots. On my solo journeys I’ve been welcomed into a boat maker’s home in Myanmar, a prayer ceremony in a temple in Nepal, and a special dance ceremony in the countryside of Vietnam. It’s often easier to invite one foreigner than a group of strangers. If you show you’re open and interested and keep your plans flexible, you’re more likely to find yourself in these special moments.

Be Present
After some time away from your friends it’s natural to want to share your special moments with through Snapchat or Instagram. We naturally want to share experiences with others, but living in the moment will make far better memories than half experiencing them through the lens of your camera, focused on what you can post. Try to set aside your phone and disconnect so you can really see what’s happening around you. Obviously still take pictures because you’ll want a reminder of those memories later, but limit your use so you capture what really matters.

Embrace Discomfort
Let’s be real, traveling to other countries can be really uncomfortable. You find yourself disoriented, experiencing culture shock, and miming to communicate. I remember distinctly feeling really uncomfortable in a local fisherman’s home, sharing tea with him and his wife, who both didn’t speak a lot of English. I didn’t find the awkwardness particularly enjoyable; I’m pretty introverted so I become shy in those moments. However, I was also conscious of how rare an opportunity it was to break bread and share tea with two people so different from myself. We laughed, shared pictures, and I got to try rowing their family’s boat on the canal (spoiler, I was not good at it). The uncomfortable moments are the ones that help you grow, so embrace them.
  


Plan, but Don’t Plan
I’ve traveled with no plans and traveled with too many plans. Having no plans in another country was limiting. I remember visiting Malaysia alone right out of college. I wandered around Chinatown, afraid to go too far because I didn’t do any planning and was clueless about the city. I also remember being overly scheduled in China and feeling burnt out. There were only so many sites I wanted to see in a day. In my longer stint traveling solo, I found the balance of planning one day of activities and then taking the next day off to do whatever I felt in the moment. I rotated between adventure and rest and it was perfect. Don’t be afraid to plan and then don’t plan.

In the end, I hope you all take a trip solo, extroverts and introverts alike! You’ll have a chance to be more in tune with yourself and your surroundings and hopefully have opportunities you wouldn’t have had in a group.

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About The Writer

Melissa currently lives in Brooklyn and works for a travel tech company. She's lived in China, Cambodia and Thailand and spent 2 months exploring Southeast Asia solo. She loves photography, working with data, and, of course, traveling.

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