8 Things I’ve Learnt From 4 Months Of Solo Travel
It’s now been 4 months ago that I left home on a one-way ticket to Bangkok. In that time, I’ve seen an uncountable number of temples, eaten all manner of food stuffs, and consumed the same in drink form; I’ve scaled waterfalls, I’ve jumped off cliffs, I’ve swam in rivers, lakes, quarry’s and fairy pools, ridden on the back of a motorbike through millions of butterflies, relaxed on white sand beaches and used every type of transport known to man to travel through 4 South East Asian countries, and I’ve only just begun! So in honour of my 1/3 year travelling anniversary I’ve had a look back at what I’ve learnt so far from 4 months of solo travel!
- I am a lot more adventurous out here than at home.
For some reason, being away from the UK seems to kick my brain into ‘adrenaline junkie’ mode. From bungee jumping off bridges and cage diving with Great Whites in South Africa, being ‘adventurous’ is not a new thing for me outside of the UK, so coming to Asia I seem to want to try everything and anything; from trekking up the side of mountains to canyoning (i.e. chucking yourself off cliffs and waterfalls) to diving down to 30m, you can bet I’ve got my name down for it!
- I need my little comforts
I really hate to admit it. I don’t know whether it’s my age (I know, nearly 25!), but I would rather spend that little bit extra on a clean, cosy hostel rather than pay $2 for a hard mat being passed off as a mattress in some dingy place surrounded by 18 year olds just wanting to get drunk every night.
- I’ve learnt how to eat the majority of my food with chopsticks.
It’s pretty rare to find a knife in many authentic Asian restaurants, therefore forcing you to pick up the chopsticks and use them for both shovelling and cutting purposes. At home, I used to get hand cramps if I used them… But I’ve now realised it’s because there is a special technique. It has also meant I have now forgotten how to use a knife and fork. It feels really foreign to use both hands when eating… hm.
- I can pretty much sleep anywhere.
From an upright seat on a slow boat to the bed on a Laos sleeper bus (a bed slightly larger than a single, shared between two) it really doesn’t matter where, but I seem to manage at least to find a few hours kip when in transit. Unless the driver of the bus you are on insists on blasting tunes in an indescribable language loud enough so that not even my iPod can drown it out… or constantly honking the horn at every other vehicle that passes. Thanks, Vietnam. Thanks.
- And pee anywhere…(TMI?)
From squat toilets to questionable holes in the ground, SEA is the magical land of ‘guess what toilet you’ve just paid to use, and if there is any toilet paper, actual running water to flush or wash your hands, and god forbid if there is soap’ game. But hey, when you gotta go, you gotta go. And when you do stumble upon that once in a million ‘western toilet’ with all of the above AND it’s spotlessly clean, then I sure as hell make sure I stay there for a while (thank you giant waterfall in Laos and the amazing toilet that was more interesting than said waterfall!).
- I can live out of a 40l backpack and still find it hard to find something to wear!
Mum will back me up on this, as back home I have two very full wardrobes of clothes which I either don’t even wear anymore or am just keeping for those ‘just in case’ moments. Don’t get me wrong, I get bored of wearing the same things, and every now and then I will lose an item of clothing so will have to purchase something to replace it, but that’s only very rarely and I still begrudge doing so…
- There is always something you can find in common with the people you meet
When you’re travelling you come across a wide range of people, from those just out of school taking gap years to older folks taking a career break, or even those that are holidaying for 2 weeks, if you are travelling solo there is always something you will have in common. You are all in the same situation, same mind set. And even if you don’t get along, the great thing about travel is you can just, well, leave!
- It’s hard for me to leave the places I really love
From spending nearly 2 weeks in Chiang Mai to nearly wanting to stay forever in Koh Tao (yet again!) it seems that when I find a place/city I really enjoy being, from the atmosphere to the people to the food, it takes me a while to pick up the courage to move on again. This is one of the down falls of not having a set itinerary, but then again, spending a lot of time in one place can help me recover and relax a bit more. So, it’s not such a bad thing.
I know what you’re thinking, these aren’t very insightful points, what happened to the ‘I found myself when I was in the middle of nowhere drinking rice wine with a Vietnamese Shaman…’ but that’s because: 1) that would be pretty damn annoying and horribly cliqued and 2) because I still feel that I still haven’t learnt all I can. It still terrifies me to travel somewhere new on my own and have to put myself out there once again to meet new people in the hopes that the ones I meet I don’t want to stab in the eye with a fork. I still rely on Western comforts, and the thought of becoming sick again is always in the back on mind. There’s also the whole missing my family and friends back home. But then, I meet new awesome people, eat amazing food, see amazing sights, and all those worries melt away. And the wonders of the internet means I can see the faces of the people I miss with the click of a button and a blurry Skype session.
I have pushed myself mentally and physically over the past 4 months and it’s definitely something that I will always remember.
Amy is the founder of thewanderlustadventures.com. Currently residing in Reading, UK with a love of adventure travel, writing and photography - she pretty much writes about whatever the hell she wants!