A few months ago i made the decision to embark on my first ever solo travel experience. Growing up my travel experience is quite extensive and covers a moderate piece of ground, yet all of this time i had my travel buddies, whether they be my family, friends or strangers i was always in the company of others whilst on these adventures. Yet in September 2013 this all changed and i embarked on the scary journey of solo travel. The concept to me was unfamiliar, it just made no sense to me and i could not grasp the point of traveling alone, yet i was also essentially ever so curious, what did i have to lose? Besides myself.
First came the pre-journey jitters where i was downloading “travel checklists” online to ensure i would forget nothing, this in itself made me feel like a newborn traveler. Essentially relying on others becomes too easy and knowing if you forgot something the chances were your travel companions would have it. These nerves crept up on me for days on end and there was something enticingly exciting about the prospect of jet setting on my own. Finally came the day to leave my home, i took a sneaky bedroom selfie, then locked the house to then drive my way to the airport.
I packed relatively light as my adventure was only for a week. Everything from this point went by smoothly. I checked in, got a few magazines for my 9 hour flight. I had essential snack items and water handy. Boarding my Cathay Pacific plane i was towering over most of the people with a consistent smile on my face, it wasn’t only the fact that i was traveling, it was that i was alone and this in itself was a new experience for me.
What i loved was figuring things out for myself, i arrived in Hong Kong and figured out which bus to take to my hotel, map in hand i tried to navigate myself through the bustling suburbs. I was awe struck at the density of Hong Kong and during my bus journey my eyes were glued to the windows like a schoolboy on an excursion.
Everything about my solo travel experience felt like a challenge and i kind of liked it. I had nobody to turn to and rely on if i was feeling lazy, there was nobody there to act as my co-pilot as i was making my way through Hong Kong, instead i tried my best to work things out on my own. My success rate wasn’t fantastic as i got lost a few times and basically overworked myself until my battery became flat by day four, yet i guess this is what happens when you try a new format of travel, you’re just really not good at it.
Now there were many highlights on my Hong Kong trip yet one thing i can make clear was that what i found, out there in the world there are many solo travelers. I remember visiting the Peak in Hong Kong and finding multiple tourists all on their lonesome taking horrible photos of their giant heads and a few skyscrapers behind them, this was where i ultimately witnessed my first solo travel connection. Other solo travelers would just “get” you, as you struggle to get a decent shot- you notice they approach you and offer to take that banging shot of you. Whilst this is happening you are engaging in friendly conversation with them, even if only for a few seconds- such experiences make you suddenly realize there are many people on your boat and they too, it appears- are loving it!
Not only this i met many friendly locals, one girl in particular noticed i was struggling with my map and offered to assist me on where to go and what to do. Thirty minutes later my map was full of her scribbled suggestions on where to go and what to do- AND her telephone number (but that is another story). I then had a local young gentleman approach me in a shopping centre asking me questions about where i am from. Yet what amazed me was this guy i had never met had went out of his way to make me feel welcome, answer any questions or queries and he too gave me my number if i needed a guide. All of this happened in the span of a few hours, suddenly i no longer felt lonely and that feeling rubbed off after a while.
During my stay i had many relaxing encounters where i could gather my thoughts after a long day of exploration, i’d navigate through my photos, go on the internet and watch some local television. It was so peaceful to know that i had no commitments to anyone or anything and that essentially it was up to me to do what i wanted to do and when i wanted to do it. This abundance of freedom truly made my travel experience in Hong Kong feel unlimited, absolutely nothing or no one was in my way. I guess this is the liberating thing about traveling solo, it is entirely YOUR holiday and solely YOUR experience. Forgive me selfishness but am i not wrong in understanding the sole reason for a holiday is for YOUR well being?
Now don’t get me wrong, i have travelled in the past with my girlfriends and with a bunch of best friends and they were great experiences yet one thing is certain. People are people, we are going to annoy each other, we are going to disagree, She’ll want to go shopping while i want to head to the beach, they’ll want to gamble while i want a quite one in the hotel. One thing i realized when traveling with others is often you will adjust your experience and cater to others so that they too are being satisfied. In this epic tug of war you come to realize that essentially there are no winners.
If you are thinking about traveling alone, do not fear. Believe me i was fearful and shy of the concept but i decided to volunteer the position and it was a fantastic experience. Boundless, Limitless and fulfilling travel experiences where you get the benefits of doing what you want to do, when you want to do it and by no means are you TRULY alone. The possibilities to meet new people abroad are endless.
I will never forget my last night in Hong Kong, i caught the night ferry overlooking the amazing cityscape only to stop over at a Shisha joint by the water, smoking alone and contemplating my last 6 days in Hong Kong my mind had never felt so clear and sharp, there were no conflicts, nor any worries, i was in complete control. During this time a local woman suddenly approaches and asks to take a photo with me and calls me “handsome”, i offer her a puff of my shisha and she called it “cool“. Memories are made in our travel experiences and we all have them, yet all the modes of travel offer something different and if you thought solo travel had nothing to offer, you are sorely mistaken.
I remember again in Macau under one of its famous tourist attractions two cute girls offered to take my photo and were constantly giggling and we talked for many minutes. I remember after being overworked and wearing myself out in frustration from so much walking and being lost to finding a gorgeous mosque tucked away at Mid Levels, it was an amazing feeling to go there alone and just unwind in prayer and remembrance only to come back feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. I remember making my way to Lamma island and feeling like some explorer discovering a new found land and finding myself alone in an isolated beach. I remember my epic timing in seeing the night lights for Autumn Festival whilst also being given a Moon Cake by my hotel workers to let me join in the festivities.
All of this proved something to me, it was almost like some sort of social experiment. The fear behind solo travel is irrational. There is nothing to be scared or embarrassed about. Such methodology of travel is one that is absolutely healthy for you and i recommend everyone try at least one trip alone. It was like therapy for the mind, body and soul. The holiday that you have is entirely defined by you and is interrupted by nobody, the itinerary is in your hands and what you do or do not do is entirely up to you and is not open for debate, if that in itself doesn’t sound like the perfect holiday then i don’t know what is :).