Saturday, 16 July 2016

Why solo travel was the best and worst thing I've ever done

This is probably one of hundreds of blog posts on the internet about solo travel, but everyone has different experiences and I want to put mine out there.


 When I embarked on my adventure to Thailand last year, I had no idea that my life was about to be changed. (dun dun dunn)

But seriously. I was about to spend 3 weeks in a foreign country that I'd never been to, without any of my friends or family. I hadn't even been on a plane before, so this was a huge deal. Everyone at home thought I was crazy, they seemed scared. Why? You're not going? Its like they had put themselves in my shoes and the idea of what I was doing terrified them, but I wasn't scared. I was optimistic, I was excited. I couldn't wait to get out there and explore, the idea of getting lost in a beautiful country made me excited. I'd heard so much about Thai culture and how kind and friendly they are, and I'd researched solo travel extensively, I was smart about it, earlier that year I discovered World of Wanderlust. I was so inspired by Brooke, and it made me even more determined.

When I landed in my stop over, Hong Kong. I had a huge freak out, as I said before, I'd never been on a plane, so I'd never been to an aiport. I didn't know where to go, what to do, or who to ask. This is embarrassing for me to tell but it was either me being silly, or it wasn't very well sign posted. I was so confused that instead of going to where I needed to be for my next flight, I went through immigration, without realising (hahaha it just makes me laugh now, what a loser). I just saw loads of people headed that way so I followed. When I realised, which was after I'd been given an arrival form, I tried to explain I wasn't sure where I was supposed to go, but the man ended up getting impatient and just pointed me towards the other side, that's when it all started.. I cried, and panicked, and I couldn't breathe, I was terrified and I had no idea what I was doing. The thing that made the situation worse was everyone that walked past, saw that I was in distress and completely ignored me, they just stared. The whole thing was a disaster and I just wanted to go home. Eventually a lady stopped and helped me find out where I needed to be, I got to the departure lounge and still had 2 hours until my flight, so I sat down, completely exhausted, fed up and hungry.

When I finally got to Chiang Mai, I got a taxi to my B&B, checked into my room and cried like a baby. I messaged my friends and family to let them know I'd arrived and told them about the situation, which was a mistake, because then they worry, and that's not fair on them. After I'd calmed down I went out to find vegan food and I didn't know where to look, so I just went to sleep and hoped the rest of the trip would make up for a terrible start.

And it did! The first morning, the owner of the B&B gave me a packet of vegan cookies, and she knew that I was running late, so she gave me a lift to the ENP office, when I offered her money she refused. I knew then it was all going to be ok. My week of volunteering at ENP was incredible, I met some awesome people, I spent time with elephants, played with cats, dogs & watched water buffalo swarm the river. I went tubing down the river, I ate huge plates of delicious real, vegan Thai food. I stayed up at night with my new friends having real conversation because the wi-fi never worked, I encouraged people to try more vegan foods and cut down on animal products, I met the wonderful Lek who owns Elephant Nature Park, I fell in love with a dog named Memphis and this was just the first week.  It was phenomonal. I was living a dream. Then I went on a Contiki tour of the west islands, met even more amazing people, saw some beautiful things some people only dream of seeing. I realised how lucky I was. It was my first ever trip, and it opened my mind up so much that I have become more confident, I am self reliant, independent, and it even led me to get a job with Contiki. Some really great things happened, all because I chose to travel on my own. I can't imagine how different it would've been if I'd gone with a friend and did what they wanted to do. Instead of embark on my own adventures, face my fears, and push myself  to get myself out there.

There's a couple of things that haven't been so great, however. I feel a constant desire to be on the road, to be travelling. I am painfully unhappy when I'm at home, it doesn't even feel like a home. I feel like I need to get away from here, and I feel like every day I am here is a day wasted not doing something amazing. I returned from working for Contiki for 3 months and for the first 24 hours, if that, everyone seemed excited that I was back, people wanted to catch up and hang out, but that wore off so quickly and everyone went back to their usual day to day lives, and I realised how much its not for me. I am not cut out for a 9-5 job. I'm not cut out to be stuck in one place my whole life

I feel that people from my small town in England don't really understand, I've never met another person from here that is interested in living out of a backpack, or not washing their hair for days on end, because who cares if you have shitty hair when you're spending the day exploring a beautiful city? or sharing a room with 7 strangers from different parts of the world, with great stories to tell. To me, these things sound amazing, I love the idea of living out of a backpack, falling asleep in one country and waking up in another on a sleeper train. I can't imagine myself being "normal" I just want to go, and keep on going. In some ways I guess its great to think like that, but it can have bad effects on mental health, you know the feeling you get when you come back from a holiday and immediately want to go on another one, imagine feeling like that all the time, constantly. That's how I feel. I know that I'm being completely irrational, I know I don't have to go to an exotic country to fulfil my need to explore, I can just go somewhere closer to home, or even in my own country. Before I'd been to Thailand, the only place I'd been was France, when I was a baby! I grew up around kids that were lucky enough to be able to go on family holidays every summer, and I always wondered what it would be like. I feel like I am ready to take on the world now, one country at a time. I'm excited to go travelling again starting next week and see where it takes me.

I've met so many wonderful people in the past year, I've met people who have also just started solo travel, and people who are experienced solo travellers, and they've all inspired me in one way or another. I've been given some great tips and advice and I've gained friends from different corners of the globe, I feel so lucky to have that. Solo travel brings you so much greatness, but it changes you, you will outgrow people, and you may even find that you find it easier to make friends with strangers in a dorm, than with people from your hometown, that's just me anyway.

I know that there's people who will relate to this, and I know there's people that this may give that extra push to begin their solo travel adventures. Either way, I hope that it has been useful.

Thanks for reading!
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