Why travel solo?
I did not start 2016 with the ambition to be a travel solo, but due to a course of events it happened to be the perfect time and situation to hit the road alone. After a turbulent period I could use some time-off and recharge my batteries. I had no apartment or other financial commitments, I was in-between jobs and my other ongoing projects needed less time attributed to them. As I already booked a trip with my friends to Mongolia & Singapore it felt less frightening to continue my journey solo instead of starting off all by myself. For quite some time I have been talking about seeing more of the world so I had literally no excuses not to do it!
The rise of solo travel
Female solo travelling is a trend! According to TripAdvisor, 17% of millennial travelers will try their first ever solo trip in 2016. I googled ‘solo female travel’, it gives 33.300.000 results. If so many people are searching for it, I was not going to be the only solo female traveller in South-East Asia. And I was really surprised to encounter so so many amazing people doing the very same thing. It’s so interesting to hear their stories, culture, background and future travel plans.
The beauty of traveling solo is that I finally had some me-time and it has taught me some things about myself. It has made me more independent, confident and resilient. Since you can only rely on yourself, it makes you a better traveller (as you will know what time the train/bus runs, where to take a taxi,…).
It is easier to plan your trip because you just bear in mind your individual preferences. It is actually liberating to customize your trip accordingly without taking into account somebody else’s travel expectations, budget,…. When you travel in a group, the itinerary has to satisfy the majority of the people. Travelling alone means this trip is about you, you can put yourself first and do what you want to do, 24/7!
It is so easy to talk to complete strangers, meet unforgettable people and make new friends. I really enjoyed the spontaneity and flexibility to adapt my trip, to daydream, to wander and encounter funny things that I could share with my friends.
Most of the articles go about safety, but most important is just using your common sense and it will turn out to be simple, safe & easy. The biggest disadvantages to me was paying a supplement for being alone or not being able to share costs with other people. This was for instance the case when there is no convenient public transport and you need to pay for that cab by yourself or if you’re just want a good bed in a nice hotel instead of sleeping in a dorm. In some situations, like if you’re sick, lost, hangry or in an awkward situation, it is nice to have some support on your side. Finally you want to share your travel experiences with someone else. Sure, you’ll share them on SoMe and with other travelers you meet along the way but it’s not entirely the same.
Where to go?
After my trip with my friends to Mongolia & Singapore I wanted to continue in the region but too many interesting spots to visit! I hesitated to go Malaysia but in the end I chose Indonesia & Thailand. Indonesia for the bulk of my time for several reasons: the best season to visit the country (best between May and September), it’s a popular (and in most parts safe) destination for female solo travel, it’s still relatively cheap and has the perfect mix between culture, beach and adventure. A short and sweet trip to Thailand was a initially just a financial choice as it was the cheapest way to get back to Brussels! But I was so stoked to add Chiang Mai & Bangkok to my adventure, especially since I had a great ‘closing’ party in Bangkok with my expat friends who live in Mongolia 🙂
What do you need to take?
I had a varied travel plan from horse riding, hiking & camping, culture, beach and luxury resort, so it wasn’t super easy to pack my bags. But I did some research on what (not) to bring, did some re-packaging (add, delete and add again) and of course I left some space for local shopping (oh god I love love love the Saturday weekend market in Bangkok). In the end I still packed too much because I have to admit, hey… I do like to have some choice in what to wear :-).