Solo travel was an alien topic to me not so long ago.  Previously, I would go on vacation with my family or friends and I would coordinate to get the same week off for a trip.  But what can you do when a week of vacation rapidly is thrown in your face?  At this point, in 2013, I would say I was interested in travel, but I could not classify myself as an avid traveler.  I was curious, but not travel-obsessed like my current self.  However, I wanted to go somewhere new, I wanted to leave the country, and I couldn’t find anyone to drop everything on short notice.  I poked around the Internet searching for flights and got a tingly feeling when I found a good deal to Tokyo.  Even from the comfort of my couch, I was terrified of the prospect of traveling to Asia all by myself, but slightly giddy at the same time.  I needed to casually run my plan by someone to assess the kind of flack I may catch when going public with my intentions.

I told my sister I might go to Japan by myself.  She responded with, “ok cool.”  Well if she doesn’t think this is a big deal, then maybe it isn’t.  But I needed a second opinion.

“Dad, I have vacation coming up.  I think I might go to Japan.”

“With who?”

“By myself.”

“Wow, really?  That’s brave.”

“Um, thanks.  I’m not sure if it’s a good idea.”

“You should do it.”

And with that I had all the support I felt I needed to go on a booking spree to plan every moment of my upcoming vacation.

Looking back on this trip, I can’t help but laugh at the fact that my travel “style” then is no where near a reflection of my solo travel style now.

Then

I opted to stay in a hotel which I believed would provide me with the utmost safety and comfort.

A photo of my hotel in Tokyo

But it was super weird with non-functional windows!

 

Hotel towel that says "oh no"

I also thought the hotel towel was trying to give me a sign regarding solo travel.  This wouldn’t have happened in a hostel (because they don’t always provide towels 😂)

Now

Hello hostels! For the amount I paid for five nights in a hotel in Tokyo, I could have spent 17 nights in a hostel in Tokyo, or 86 nights in a hostel in say, Vietnam.

Then

I heavily researched all the possible activities I could do during my time based in Tokyo.  I then proceeded to book a series of overpriced tours off of Viator, but only the ones that would pick me up from my hotel lobby.

Me with Mt. Fuji in the distance, solo travel

Why not book a tour that drives you to Station 5, aka not anywhere near the top of Mt. Fuji

 

Me and another girl in our sushi making class

“Cali, you are Top Chef. Other girl, please pack your knives and go.”

Now

Just call me spontaneous!  I will visit a destination because I know there are places I want to see and explore, but I will not schedule my entire vacation in advance.  While I am open to budget tours, I often wait and negotiate prices on arrival.  Additionally, I take great pleasure in exploring new places on my own. Or with people from my hostel.

Then

I literally spoke to no one! Even when ordering food, there was often a language barrier so there was a lot of motioning and pointing and minimal speaking.

Origami

A little side activity on the bus on a tour so I could keep to myself. Impressive, I know.

Now

I am not very chatty by nature, but I do enjoy the prospect of meeting new people and making friends and travel buddies.  Hostels are a great place to make this happen.  People are typically in hostels with a similar mindset as you.  Budget travelers, sometimes solo, and looking to explore!

Then

Considering I didn’t speak to anybody, I surely didn’t have anyone to eat with!  While I had no issue with this during the day, come dinner time, I felt uncomfortable trying out restaurants by myself.  I consumed my fair share of convenience store sushi and hotel pizza in my room.  I am cringing as I write this because I wasted some serious food opportunities!

Lunch time for a solo traveler

A meal for the lonely

 

The sushi conveyer belt

I think we can all agree that a sushi conveyer belt cannot be missed in Japan, whether you are alone or not

Now

Local food is one of the highlights of my travels. Everyone who knows me knows I do not miss meals and I suffer from hanger (hunger induced anger, it’s real, ask my dad).  Whether I have someone to eat with or not, I am happy to experience local cuisine in a restaurant by myself, especially if I will only be in that location for a short period of time.  In fact, sometimes I squeeze in extra meals so I am able to try all of the local delicacies before moving on.

Then

Take awkward selfies all by my selfie.

Awkward selfie

“Can she BE any more awkward?” -Chandler

 

Selfie in a botanical garden

Selfie in a Japanese Garden with an entry fee…worth every yen(ny)

 

Selfie while holding up an awkward tank top

The clothing in Tokyo alone makes the trip worthwhile

 

selfie near mt. fuji

Wow, look at that background/porch/parking lot

Now

Ok, I still do that!

Selfie on the skybridge in Langkawi Malaysia

The most flattering angle to take a selfie

 

Selfie at the Petronas Towers

The least flattering angle to take a selfie

 

Llama selfie

Trying not to get spit on

 

Camel selfie in the desert

Hump day!

 

Me and an elephant

I wear sunglasses so my eyes won’t look like his

I am so grateful that I took this first step three and a half years ago and opened my eyes to solo travel. It has opened up a whole world to me in the most literal sense.  I know it can be scary and uncomfortable at times, but I would hate to miss opportunities simply by waiting around for someone to travel with me.  While I still have not mastered the art of solo travel (I don’t even think this is possible), I have become less uptight, more flexible, and eager to just go with the flow and find adventures along the way.  Stay tuned for a post in three and a half years mocking my current philosophy on travel 😜.