Elephant sanctuary in Phuket, Thailand
Hometown: Auburn, Alabama
My first solo trip happened - by accident.
I moved to China a year and a half ago to take a job at an international school. One of my goals for my time here was to solo travel for the first time. Although I’ve moved several places by myself to accept jobs and volunteer, I wouldn’t consider that traveling alone because I usually have a built-in network waiting on me- colleagues or otherwise. At the end of January, I arranged a tour of the Golden Triangle in India (another lifelong travel goal). Again, I wouldn’t consider this solo travel as I was part of a group. All in all, it was an incredible group and an amazing trip, but that’s not my story.
Around the time I left for my Chinese New Year vacation, the Coronavirus outbreak hit my region. As I watched the updates from India, it seemed like all the airports, businesses, schools in China...all were shutting down one by one. Unsure of whether I should fly back into China I decided to head to Thailand to wait and see what would happen, but at least be closer to China for when I could return. This was my first actual solo trip.
I spent 10 days in a hostel dorm room in the Thai heat, something I thought I was 10 years too old to do. I worried that the overall vibe of a hostel would be too lively to encourage much work, but I found the opposite was true. My neighborhood was pretty quiet; there were plenty of shops and cafes to wander through, but not the raucous bars and clubs you hear about. The pace of the city encourages you to relax and move more slowly. As busy as I was with work, I found time to just bum around and enjoy the food, the street art, the local cafes, and shops. On the weekends, I arranged a driver to take me exploring some of the more thrilling parts of the city, including exotic animal encounters.
I found the experience restorative. I enjoyed Thailand and the people, and I felt empowered making decisions and navigating the unfamiliarity on my own. I also felt a renewed affection for my city in China which I am currently back in.
I think my unexpected solo trip came at a good time. I was nervous that I would get bored or be overcome with the self-consciousness of being alone, but I really wasn’t. The vast majority of travelers are friendly and open, willing to share their experiences with strangers. Also, people travel for all manner of reasons, and no one judged me for having dinner or a drink by myself. Most importantly, I had plenty of space to enjoy a new country on my terms. I’m not sure when my next solo trip will be, but now I can move forward with the confidence that I can.
Travel advice: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” – Mark Twain
Comments will be approved before showing up.