Sunday, 26 February 2017

THE TRUTH ABOUT SOLO TRAVEL | TAKING THE LEAP



I started writing this post well over a month ago and had so many good intentions to get it up after my first couple of weeks of travelling.
I've been away now for almost 7 weeks now and here I am, still sat here, hovering over the keyboard desperately trying to finish what I have to say.

I guess if you're reading this right now though, then I managed to hit Publish.
Here goes...

I have always been a fiercely independent person. 
In the words of Destiny's Child, 'All the women who are independent, throw your hands up at me' 🙋
Being by myself and with myself has never really bothered me; I enjoy my own company.

So when I decided that I needed to get out of my small town bubble and go on an extended trip travelling the world, in particular South East Asia, the thought of going it alone really didn't faze me.
Everyone kept asking me how I felt about travelling alone and wouldn't I be scared about braving the big wide world all by myself?!
But to be honest, I didn't really think about it. The thought of being 'alone' in a foreign country hadn't properly crossed my mind.
I almost kept forgetting about that ONE tiny, slightly crucial detail! 😂
All I could think about was the incredible adventure that lay before me and the endless possibilities for meeting new people and seeing awe inspiring new places.
Not to mention, the freedom.
The 9-5 corporate grind and mundane routine was slowly starting to kill my spirit. I needed to get out.


PROJECT 'GET A LIFE' 

I began squirrelling my money away back in March last year and eventually made the dream a reality several months later when I booked my one way flight to Bangkok.
Shit was about to get REAL.

After reading endless travel blogs and watching countless youtube videos on solo travel, I decided it would be better to dive straight in and book a hostel for my first few nights in Bangkok.
I can talk to anyone and find it easy to make friends so being thrown into a hostel with a bunch of strangers didn't seem so scary to me.

Now in the months leading up to my departure from London Gatwick I was fresh faced, preparing for every eventuality and planning every little detail ready to take on the world!
Except for you know, the essentials... like visas and travel insuarance. 😒
(Another story for another time)
But after knowing what I know now, after only 3 weeks of backpacking, (well now it's 7 considering it's taken me an age to finish this post!)
 I honestly don't think you can mentally prepare yourself for what it's going to feel like travelling solo...

My first couple of days in Bangkok were fine, I had managed to successfully get myself half way across the world and into my first hostel.
Not that I'm not a capable adult or anything! 😂 But this was my first long term travelling trip, alone.
Everything about this was alien to me.

After getting some much needed sleep and consuming as much free breakfast as I could stuff down my face, I checked out the map to see what was around me and set out a plan to explore the city.
I ended up spending my first proper day wandering around the massive MBK shopping mall as it was the closest thing to me and well, air con.
Sweet sweet, glorious air con. If you know Bangkok, then you know!
But after my second night in the very nice but very quiet, Bed One Block Hostel, I could feel this small niggling voice at the back of mind beginning to emerge.

'You are alone and you have no one'

I hadn't had a proper conversation with someone, who wasn't a thai employee, for over 48 hours and I was trying really hard not to let it bother me.
I mean, I was in Thailand for god's sake at the beginning of my epic world adventure! There would be plenty of other opportunities to meet people, I just had to look for them.
So I got on to Hostelworld and started heavily searching for sociable hostels in Bangkok.
That's when I found Back Home Backpackers.
Quite possibly one of the best places to have come in to my life on this trip so far.


On my second proper day I packed up and set about trekking across Bangkok to my next hostel and actually ended up meeting some lovely Argentinian girls whilst waiting for my taxi.
It instantly put me at ease and felt so great to finally have some conversation with some fellow travellers.

When I eventually made it 'Back Home', I immediately fell in love with hostel's laid back atmosphere and hippy/boho interior.
Everyone was hanging around in the main entrance common area, chilling out and escaping the Bangkok midday heat.

Later that evening, after foolishly wandering around the city with no suncream on and a severe lack of hydration, I traipsed back up to my dorm feeling miserable.
But it wasn't long before I got chatting to a girl who said I should come downstairs and join in the party with everyone.
So after downing a giant bottle of water, I squeezed onto one of the benches outside with all the other backpackers and subsequently had a night I will never forget.
Chatting, laughing, playing drinking games and ending up on the infamous Khaosan Road to finish off the night.
 
However the second I got back into that bed and lay down, an emotional wreckage hit me like a tonne of bricks.
This time the voice was screaming at me,

'YOU ARE ALONE AND YOU HAVE NO ONE!'

 I started to message my boyfriend saying how I didn't think I could do this and that it was all too much, I wanted to go home.
But something stopped me from hitting send and instead I cried myself to sleep.

When you're thrown into a potentially alienating and high stress situation, that's when your fight or flight kicks in. (Or sometimes freeze!)
You force yourself to make difficult decisions because you have to, to survive.
The pressure of doing something that you really don't want to do can't be ignored because a) you're out of your comfort zone b) sometimes you just can't procrastinate about the real life shit and c) there is nobody else around who can ultimately make these decisions for you.
YOU need to take control of your own life.


RETROSPECT

When I think back to that night now and even in that next morning, I knew that it was just a build up of all the anxieties and emotions that I hadn't really allowed myself to feel before coming on this trip.
(Plus a lack of food, water and sleep can turn anyone into an emotional wreck!)

Before I left I pushed all of those worries deep deep down because a part of me felt that it wasn't ok to get upset over leaving home to go on a world adventure.
You're going off to travel round the WORLD! Why the hell do you need to get upset over leaving behind your home, family, friends, everything safe and comfortable that you've ever known?!

Right there, that's why.

Travelling solo is taking a leap, throwing yourself out there into anything other than what you know and understand is scary.
You also don't have another friend or companion to rely on for conversation and safety when things get a little tough.
It's just Me, Myself and I.
But taking yourself on a solo trip can also be the most liberating and truly fulfilling experience of your existence. If you let it.
I know now that its ok to cry about these things whilst travelling, to let all those emotions in and every doubt you've ever had about making this life change.
Because sometimes you need to put yourself through some hell to discover just how strong you really are.
To realise that you can take on anything that life throws at you and learn some things about yourself that will ultimately mould you into a better person and allow you to experience something truly phenomenal.

GODDAMMIT you put yourself on a plane to go half way across the world for several months, to a country that is not your homeland, All. By. Yourself.
YOU GOT THIS!! 💪



IN ALL SERIOUSNESS

There will be days when you don't know where you're going, whether you have enough money, where you're going to sleep that night or how you're going to get from A to B.
But damn is it a learning curve and whether you are a confident person or not you will force yourself to talk to other travellers and make friends because as a human being you crave company and social interaction.
Just remember that every one of those travellers are in the same boat as you, a foreigner, in unfamiliar territory and you will all naturally want to stick together and open up to each other.
Being alone in a foreign land will force you to do things you never thought you could do before and you will surprise yourself and you will thrive.

So what is the 'truth' about solo travel?
It is scary, it is nerve wracking and it's full of unanswered questions that only you can find the answers to once you are in that situation.
But it is also one of the most rewarding and freeing experiences that you could ever give to yourself.
Get out of your comfort zone. Get a life lesson. Get a tan. Get a new family of friends for life from all corners of the globe. Get to know another culture. Get an experience you will never forget or regret.
And most importantly of all, Get on that plane.

You could stand safely, a few meters away from that mile high precipice for the rest of your life, never truly knowing if there was something so much greater or worse in the distance.
Or you could run, take the leap and more than likely fly higher than you ever thought imaginable.

Worst case scenario, you hit the ground.
 But every single time you push yourself back up, you are stronger, better for the fall and rising high above anyone that ever doubted your journey.

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. 
So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain

💋

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