10 January 2010

Why I'd Prefer Travelling SOLO

I was so attracted to an article featured in an in-flight magazine that I was compulsively driven to ripping the page off. But don’t blame me, because I did it for you. Hehe. This article tells just about every reason why I’d rather go on some of my trips ALONE sometimes.

My bags were packed, passport and plane tickets safely in a zipped compartment in my hand carry, and the taxi driver had arrived on the dot, I was ready to head for the airport, but I wasn’t prepared to leave. You see, for the first time in my life, I was heading out on my own to a land that’s completely foreign to me and where they speak a language I don’t. All I have for company is a guidebook, dog-eared because I had pored over it countless times to plan my trip, down to the most minute of details.

Up until then, I had always been a ‘herd’ traveller; I would only take a vacation if I could find someone to go with me. When I holidayed with friends, our motto was always ‘go to plan’ as opposed to ‘plan to go’. We’d pick a destination at random, arrive with no expectations and very little budget, and go all out to have the most enjoyable time we could afford. Even if it means walking five kilometres back to the hotel at three in the morning because we had run out of money.. We did it in high spirits and let our laughter ring out across the empty streets.

Travelling had always been a carefree, almost mindless even. Up until this trip, that is. This time, ‘go to plan’ was no longer an option. And for the first time too, I had butterflies in my stomach all the way to the airport. Usually I just felt flutters of excitement; this felt as if an angry mob of insects were invading my insides. I was antsy and it bugged me.

My vulnerability probably radiated out of every pore, because it seems like everyone was particularly friendly and helpful. The moment I alighted from the ERL, a smiling porter relieved me of my bags and ushered me to the lift. He accompanied me all the way to the check-in counter. Sleeping through most of the flight, I arrived bright and alert, but still nervous of what was to come. What if I lost my way? What if the hotel didn’t have my booking? Imagine the worst-case travel mishaps, multiply them by a hundred and you get a picture of what went through my head.

As I waited for the bust to the city centre, a lady of about 50, with wild blonde curls and a kind face, smiled at me. “Your first time here, dear?” she asked. “Yes!” I almost spat it out, so grateful that she spoke English. After asking which hotel I was putting up at, she patted me on the shoulder and assured me,”I’ll tell you which stop to get off at; you just enjoy the scenery along the ride now.”

I did, and in fact, enjoyed much more than that. Being on my own, I was alert to everything and saw a lot more than what my guidebook pointed out. Each day was a different adventure, and I met wonderful people who were more than happy to direct a lost visitor, recommend a good meal or advise me on what to look out for. Sure, there were some scary incidences but they’re part and parcel of the journey. By necessary; I learned so much more about the city from its people, by talking or simply watching them.

The best thing about travelling alone is that you follow your own pace. No waiting for you roommate to finish showering, no wasting time at a place your companions find fascinating but you don’t, no arguing about where to go or what to do next. You decide all the ‘where, when, what, how and why’ and at the end of the day, you bring home memories that only you have, good or bad. I’m raring to go on my next trip, to create more personal memories and if anyone asks where I’m off to, I’ll smile and tell them “I’m going solo.”

*End of article.

Well, this article/story tells just about all. I’d just like to add some though. While meeting people is quite one of the best things about travelling, making friends is not really my priority. As I am already friendly as I am now (ehem!), I don’t see why I should be more friendly than necessary to people when I’ve got a lot of things to catch up with in my pre-planned schedule.

Every now and then I’d meet people travelling on their own.

Somehow, we tend to be more open for a conversation with strangers when we are alone. That may not happen if we travel with a group of friends because we’d usually spend more time talking to them and hence be oblivious to other people.

While the biggest problem is probably when it comes to taking pictures, travelling solo teaches me to be more creative. I’d usually find something to put my camera on.. like this one here.. 

..then I'd set the timer to get this as a result..

By using this same little creativity, the result can be surprisingly awsome..

Otherwise, I’d have to resort to camwhoring. The pictures would be too up-close though. Sometimes I need the background view more than my gapping nostrils in my pictures.

But of course, you can always ask somebody to take a photo for you. There are always nice people around. This one was taken by a Chinese boy who, like me, was travelling on his own.. I asked him to take it in exchange of one that I took for him..

Well, for me, I can’t be too worried as long as I’ve got this.

My best travelling buddy. You may think it takes time to set-up but believe me, it can’t take more than a minute if you have mastered it. :-)

Well, there are times when I enjoy being in a company of others when I am travelling but then, I tend to miss out a lot of things. Travelling SOLO makes me more wary and alert of everything around me. As for now, it is still the best option. ;-)


aud said...

A year of solo travels so far has definitely opened my eyes; seeing things differently and experiencing the trip on my own terms and pace :)

JIPP said...

yupp. Exactly. that's the beauty of travelling solo. :-)

ULAI said...

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that 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

JIPP said...

Yupppp. I can't agree more with Samuel Langhorne Clemens (other name of Mark Twain). So, go travelling. :-)

Lizeewong said...

u must have a lot of stamina to be traveling AND taking your own pics! Where there's a will there's a way ba kan :D

JIPP said...

ya ya. true true. A good stamina is almost mandatory. Have to run regularly. :-)

kenwooi said...

i prefer to travel with a partner or two..
then i can have someone to take photos for me, and someone to talk and have fun with..
but traveling in a BIG group is not advisable, coz it'll take up a lot of time! haha.. =)


Mizzsharon said...

Good article =) Kudos.

Traveling solo does "open our eyes" more compared to if we were to travel in a group.

It just feels like a sense of achievement aye =).

JIPP said...

yaa kenwooi. that is the thing. Travelling in a big group can be time-consuming because we have to ask everybody only to decide over a small thing. But then, I'd prefer group for weekend getaways. hehe.

JIPP said...

thanks Mizzsharon. Yeah, you've got it just right about that sense of achievement. We hv no other ppl to depend on to but ourselves.Talkin about our degree of independence there. ;-)


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