No, this is neither a reference nor a review of the same named Star Wars Movie, no matter how much I love Star Wars. Yes, this is a piece I am writing about travelling alone – SOLO.
The idea to do a solo trip birthed after speaking to some of the young adults in my church. It seems daunting at the start and very unlike of me. Well, I am an extrovert. I enjoy the company of friends and the endless chatter. Therefore a solo trip will be rather out of character. But hey, there is a first time for everything. With that in mind, I began planning what a good beginner (preferably idiot-proof) solo trip would be. Then the brainwave came…
Solo Biking in Eastern Rift Valley of Taiwan
If you are interested to know about my first bike touring experience, that is going to be another article (you can see here). If you are looking for a detailed write on my bike trip and the places I went, this is also another article (you can see here). Nope, this is going to be about what you experience when you travel alone and what is so fruitful about it.
Solo Travel means you are your own boss
For me, the number ONE thing about solo travel is that you are your own BOSS. I mean it in every way. You decide where and what you want to eat, where you want to go, when you want to stop, etc. When travelling with a group of friends, we have to reach some kind of a consensus – a compromise which sometimes don’t work out the way you like it. I am a rather flexible person and so I can go with anything or anywhere. But on this solo trip, I truly enjoyed the freedom to decide on my own what I wanted. You pursue the interests you have, you search every corner of your curiosity and you discover your own treasures. It allows the space for your pace.
In this trip, I simply enjoyed watching the scenery around me. I enjoyed sitting at the beach for almost an hour and doing nothing but hearing the waves and watching the white caps. The ability to pause and admire beauty around you isn’t always possible when travelling with even the best of buddies. The reality is that we are different and therefore our definitions and pursuits are different.
Solo travel means you interact with the locals
The number TWO thing about solo travel is that you actually meet the people of the country that you visit. It is not just simple conversation about where is the best foodie place to go or the nearest place to get a good deal. It is conversations about life. It is about learning about life from another person. It is gaining perspective about how someone from a different country looks at the same time and space that we occupy on this planet.
My first foray into a conversation was on the first day of my trip onboard a 3 hour train ride from Kaohsiung to Taitung. Madam Huang broke the ice first to ask me where I was going. Our initial conversations centred around the usual touristy thing. But as we spoke further, the topics started changing. We spoke about family, about our different living conditions, about life – the simplicity of being joyful and thankful. Our conversation ended with a parting gift of cherry tomatoes which she had just gotten from her friend’s farm.
Along the way, I met different groups of people that would add perspective to my life, conversations that reflect to me that life was merely more than just a fight for existence. Travelling through the rural areas of Eastern Taiwan gave me the opportunity to experience a simple life. You actually do have fun with people while staying in a hostel (or in Taiwan, a Min-shu). I met friends from different countries and realise that we all share something uniquely similar in our human spirit – a quest for purpose and meaning, a betterment of ourselves, a calling.
Solo Travel enables reflection and mediation
The number THREE thing about solo travel is the space and time to reflect, rather than to jump from one thing to the next thing. Surprisingly on this first solo trip, my screen time on my iPhone dropped. I had thought I would spend more time on my phone trying to stay connected to the people at home. Instead, I spent more time being connected to the things around me, rather than being distracted by a rectangular thing that is so capable of connecting me to so much more.
Being alone means that you don’t really have anyone else to talk to. You hear your thoughts clearer, you feel your emotions deeper, you sense your impulses more vividly. Taking time to pull away from the distractions gave me the time to do a rain check on my life and directions.
So, does it mean solo trip is for you?
NO. I think you need to be mentally prepared for a few things. You must first be prepared to confront yourself and your fears.
Tip 1 before solo travel – Be mentally prepared
Before you think of me as a brave soul, I went on this trip with certain trepidations. I wondered how lonely I would be and if I would succumb to that loneliness. While being an extrovert, I am generally good with friends. But strangers, that takes some courage! To overcome that fear, the solution was simple.
Talk to the people around you.
Share about your life.
Don’t hide behind your fears.
Learn about the world beyond yours.
Explore by taking some risk.
And then go WOW! Be ready to listen, learn and love.
Tip 2 before solo travel – Don’t overthink
Don’t over think everything. Go with the flow – if the trip gives you lemons, make lemonade! Don’t cry over the lack of orange juice! While you should do some planning, try not to plan out every single detail. Let there be some mystery, intrigue, suspense. Since you are alone, surprise yourself. Do something out of the norm! You will be greatly rewarded.
On this trip, I planned to do a multi-day bike touring. While I am an avid cyclist, I have never done a multi-day trip. Other than planning where I would be staying and booking them in advance, I left everything else to discovery!
On the second day while travelling from Yuli to Hualien, I chanced about a tea and coffee plantation. It was only possible because it was such a painful climb that I had to simply stop. Taking a break there, I had the chance to sample fresh tea and coffee, straight out from the source. Furthermore, I got to witness the blooming of the coffee trees! Was that part of the plan? Nah, but what a great experience. Weather don’t always go your way but don’t chill or sweat over it. Just live with it and move on!
Tip 3 for solo travel – Relax and take a break from your phone
If you are going to do a solo trip and spend all your time on your phone, save the money and get a better phone. Chill from your phone (except when using Google Maps to find your way) and get connected with real people, real lives and nature all around you. Don’t get flustered about things. Relax, try again. Enjoy and savour the moment. Enjoy the silence. Capture the beauty in the interactions of people and nature. Dwell deep in the moment as it flies by. Watch and observe without prejudice. There isn’t a rush or a hurry. No agendas to meet, no deadlines to reach. It is time to let go, free the heart and get some soul rest. It’s time for me to get acquainted with me. It is time to discover faith – what holds us now, hope – what holds us for the future and love – what holds us together through it all.
And that you have it – SOLO. These are just some of my own observations and reflections from this trip. Will I go SOLO again? Yes and definitely. It has been a refreshing of the soul, a renewal of the mind and a rejuvenation of the spirit.
Do you have any thoughts about solo travel or questions to ask? Drop your comments below!