I’ve read multiple blogs about how traveling alone can be a dangerous thing for women, but not just because of the scares that we’re all aware of, but because of the independent woman that it will change her into. And they were right, traveling alone has changed me forever.
Two and a half months have now passed since I left California for my adventures in Southeast Asia and I’ve traveled alone multiple times, enjoying every minute of each adventure. There is something so empowering about having full responsibility of whatever happens and only worrying about yourself that just seems to fuel my energy.
My first solo trip was actually my second weekend in Thailand. I was with a group of about 20 international students at Koh Phangan for the Full Moon party. On Sunday they all went to another island while I stayed for one more night before heading back to Bangkok to return to class. The moment that I put on my backpack, said goodbye to my friends and drove away on a scooter was a feeling that I will never forget. It was like a weight was lifted off of my shoulders and a permanent smile was placed on my face.
Even though I didn’t have a place to stay that night, I decided that I would drive around the island for a bit, get some food and then see which side of the island that I ended up on and figure it out from there. If I was with other people I probably would have wanted to put my bag down and check into a hostel first, but by being by myself, I was carefree. I had everything with me and just wanted to see where the journey would take me.
After a wonderful day of exploring it was time to head back home. The next day I took a ferry to the mainland, then a bus to the train station, then an overnight sleeper train to Bangkok, then a bus from the Bangkok bus terminal to Thammasat University -Ta Prachan campus, then a shuttle from the Ta Prachan campus to the Rangsit campus and finally a motorcycle taxi from the front of campus to my apartment building. It may seem like a busy 24 hours of travel, but I honestly loved every second of the commute and it taught me so much about myself.
Since then I’ve traveled on my own from Northern Thailand to Bangkok, spent multiple-day adventures wandering around the city of Bangkok by myself, and even went on my first solo trip out of the country to Cambodia last weekend!
Even though I say that I would be “traveling alone,” I honestly never feel that I am alone or lonely out here. If there is something that traveling has taught me, it is that even when you’re technically on your own, you’re never really alone. From being connected to friends and family in distant countries via WhatsApp messaging and social media, to meeting fellow travelers and locals, to constantly being reminded by signs from the Universe that my friends and family are with me in spirit, I have never felt alone during my time here in Southeast Asia.
I won’t lie to you and say that it’s hard for me to meet new people, because it’s actually something that I have always enjoyed doing – even back home in San Diego – but I have definitely gone out of my comfort zone while being out here. There have been times when I didn’t want to look like a fool and randomly start talking to a stranger, but it was in those moments that I would force myself to say something because I knew that I would regret it if I didn’t.
Something that I’ve realized is that backpackers are probably some of the friendliest people you will ever meet! It seems as if everyone is just open to having a good time and meeting new people, especially other solo travelers because they’re in the same situation you are. We all just want to have an amazing experience abroad and meet cool people along the way. We all have great stories to share, places that we recommend as a “must see” in a certain part of town and tips and tricks to traveling smarter. Meeting people is so easy as long as you go out of your comfort zone and, most importantly, disconnect from your phone.
Before leaving for Thailand I made the decision that I didn’t want to have data on my phone so that I would only be able to use it when I had wifi. Honestly, six months of wifi-only was probably one of the best decisions that I made because it has fully forced me to disconnect from my phone when I’m out and about and embrace the world in front of my eyes. By not having data on my cell phone, I pretty much keep my device in my purse or backpack and only use it to take pictures. This means that while in transport, I’m not glued to my phone and I actually talk to the other people that are around me.
Weird concept for our generation right? But I have met some of the most wonderful people on the ferry, bus or train and I know that those conversations wouldn’t have happened if I was texting the entire time.
So yes, I absolutely love not having my phone work 24/7, but I am also very grateful for the applications that I can use when I do have wifi. WhatsApp, Group Me, and Skype are some of the applications that I use to keep in contact with friends and family from distant countries. Seeing the messages from loved ones when I have service reminds me that I’m not alone on this journey. Even though I’m not physically surrounded by their presence, I know that they are with me in spirit. In this way, technology definitely has its perks.
Not only do I feel their love when I see their messages, but the Universe has a funny way of reminding me that I’m not alone even when I don’t have wifi. Whether it’s a song that comes on the radio while I’m at a restaurant in Bangkok that reminds me of my friends or a live band at a bar in Northern Thailand that plays some of the songs that my dad plays on his guitar, I am reminded that I have friends and family who love me. There have been times when I started to feel sad or gloomy out here because culture shock is a real thing and it will get to you at some point, but it was in these moments that the little signs would show up to remind me that I shouldn’t feel down and blue.
Every person is different and handles life in their own unique way, but I do feel that everyone needs to spend time with themselves in order to become in touch with who they are deep down in their core. Traveling alone may not be for everyone, but I do believe that everyone should try it at least once in their life. Whether it be a day adventure around your hometown exploring new sights or going the extra mile and exploring a new country on your own, you’ll learn so much about yourself. It’s like a medicine that will cure all of your fears.
It has left me feeling empowered and ready to take on any obstacle that is thrown my way. It has given me self-belief that I didn’t know I could feel. It has revealed a level of happiness that I didn’t even know existed. It has shown me that I can take charge of my life and that I am an independent individual. I do not feel that I am alone, but I absolutely love exploring this world on my own.
Tiffany Geer is earning a bachelor’s degree in communication at San Diego State University. She is blogging from Thailand for the 2016 spring semester.