Published on May 16th, 2018 | by Daisy Dobson
Why you shouldn’t worry about being a solo traveller in South-East Asia
Read time: a bit over 3 minutes
Before I left for my trip of a lifetime, as a solo traveller in South-East Asia, I couldn’t stop my brain churning through questions like ‘What if I miss the last bus and become stranded in a Thai village with nowhere to sleep?’ or ‘What if I eat street food and contract a tropical disease?’.
I write this on the Last Day. The day that I never considered all those months ago, when taking on what felt like a really big deal. This is the final hoorah of 144 days travelling South-East Asia, mostly alone but also as a solo traveller on a small-group tour. Among many thoughts on this momentous day, the overriding one I want to shout from the rooftops and my current location of a Bangkok alley is: Nothing Bad Happened.
When you’re planning your adventure, solo or otherwise, excited Googling, happy explanations to jealous friends, and manic booking of tours or experiences is the norm. Depending on how overactive your imagination is (I’d say mine is akin to a Beyonce performance), the ‘what-ifs’ can get pretty wild. But, just like Bey’s show, they can be pretty fun to ruminate on.
It starts from the get-go; what if the airline loses my bag? What if I can’t find my first hostel? What if the taxi driver scams me straight away? Building to longer term, life-altering self-lies; What if I get all my money stolen, lose my bank card and have to live out the rest of my life on the backstreets of Phnom Penh? What if I get stranded on an Indonesian island with only coconuts to eat and hot backpackers to build my bivouac with? What if I lose all my worldly possessions and have to wear elephant pants and Birkenstocks for the ENTIRE TRIP? What if I lose my phone and don’t get to update my Instagram for, like, ever. What if I get bitten in the face by a rabid dog? What if my passport is stolen and I miss all my flights? What if my bus breaks down miles from anywhere and I have to walk hours to reach a place that remotely resembles a bed? What if I get malaria and DIE?
All of the above could happen, some more likely than others. But I am currently rejoicing in that none of them did. Over the course of my travels, little by little I discovered I could navigate my way around a foreign city (with the help of offline Google maps and directions from friendly locals). I managed to let go of my nerves and order food off a menu, even if I had no idea what it actually was, which gave me the opportunity to try delicious local dishes I would never have chosen normally. And I managed not to miss any of my flights, buses, or trains – a huge tick.
Aside from my confidence growing in my abilities to not only survive but have the trip of a lifetime, breaking up the 144 days in my own company with a Geckos tour was an awesome confidence booster. Don’t get me wrong, the freedom of travelling alone was amazing, but it was great to make some new friends to share all the mind-blowing travel moments with for a few weeks. Plus, hanging out with a leader meant I got access to some pretty unique local experiences and knowledge that I couldn’t have found on my own – and it was nice to leave the logistics to someone else for a little while.
All in all, Nothing Bad Happened. I will return home with a full bill of health, my bank card, camera and phone, and no stories of woe. I will, of course, spend much time reflecting on the endless joy, victorious journeys and beautiful relationships forged along the way as any traveller will. For now, I’ll take some time to give a big middle finger to that tiny voice in the back of my head that started shouting all those months ago. I did it and Nothing Bad Happened.
Are you a solo traveller who wants to join a small-group tour? Check out our range of awesome Asia trips.
Hero image by Patrick O’Neill.