There were days that made sense, and then there were those days that were a complete haze. I felt stuck in a mundane routine. Wake up, work, eat, sleep, and repeat. Being stuck does no good for nobody and I wanted out.
So, on a whim, I woke up one morning and booked my flight to Southeast Asia. For a girl that didn’t stay home alone at night – this was a considerable stretch.
Mind you; I was a 27-year-old woman that wasn’t allowed to travel solo because growing up in a strict South Asian household meant you don’t bend or break the family imposed rules (especially if you’re a woman). So, what did I do? I lied. I was scared and anxious, but I couldn’t see any other course of action to travel alone.
In preparation for my first solo travel adventure, I bought a door alarm, a whistle, multiple locks, a go-girl cup, travel sheets, and a flashlight. I packed all of these items into a travel backpack along with a few clothes and then jumped on a plane.
The Realm of Anxiety
I have battled anxiety my entire life, without even recognizing it for a long time. For the first time in my life, I was alone—no friends or family as my safety net. In my mind, there were a million things that could go wrong. I had thought of the worst of the worst and even read a dozen articles about people that went missing in Southeast Asia. For me, preparation for solo travel meant doing and being in the know. The knowing scared the life out of me, but also led me to be extra cautious.
What does Extra Cautious mean?
I registered with the Canadian embassy as a traveler, I had emergency contacts for each of the countries that I was in, and I made sure to stay at well-reviewed hotels/hostels with a room to myself. I emailed my travel documents to Ragun and my cousin so that someone could know my whereabouts at any given moment. Also, I made sure to connect with someone back home regularly to let him/her know I was safe.
The Kindness of Humans
While on my flight to Thailand, I met a woman that had been traveling solo for six months, and not only did she reassure me that I was going to be okay; she gave me her contact in case I needed any help. Alas, the kindness of humans.
I made a very last-minute decision not to buy a SIM card at the airport, but I needed a taxi to drop me off in old Phuket. Yes, I was skeptical of my cab driver, and whole-heartily wondered at what point in our 45-minute drive would he go off route into the jungle. I feared the worst. Was this it for me? No, I’m still here – HI!
He not only dropped me off safely at my hotel but also bought me coconut water and mango slices. I proceeded to pretend to drink the coconut water with a straw – in case this was a trick. It was not a trick – he turned out to be a kind guy that charged me meter price and didn’t care for a tip (I still tipped).
While Island hopping in Phi-Phi, I met some great people and recognized that there were tons of women traveling solo. Everyone I met was open in offering tips and advice for my days ahead. I was astounded by the kindness and support of all the people around me.
I was putting to shame all the insecurities I had developed of myself. I was, in fact, sociable while entirely out of my comfort zone. The anxiety was slowly mellowing out.
I went snorkeling in clear blue waters, I went bike riding in the rain, I contently consumed local delicacies, and I made real connections with people from all over the world.
Not only was I starting to understand myself a little better, but I was also embracing myself, with open arms. Finally, I was taking my independence into my own hands and I became the first out of my family and friends breaking barriers by traveling solo. I was proving myself wrong, and it felt so good. This trip was all about me.
From this experience, I learned that I could do all the things that I told myself I wasn’t able to, and I made new friends, all on my own. Your girl won this one and let me tell yah – you can do it too!
If you’re afraid of traveling solo, especially if you grew up in a Southasian household with strict parenting – I get it. I lived with parents that would not so much as let me stay out past midnight on any given day. Cut yourself some slack and have faith in yourself. Where there is a will, there is certainly a way.
Feel free to reach out to me or leave a comment below if you want more tips/advice on solo travel. For more on solo travel, be sure to read 10 Reasons Why All Women Should Try Solo Travel.