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.”
“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.
I opted to stay in a hotel which I believed would provide me with the utmost safety and comfort.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.
Take awkward selfies all by my selfie.
Ok, I still do that!
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 😜.