Why You Should Travel Solo

worried monkey - you're doing whatConfusion, shock, pity, disbelief and worry are just a few of the reactions that I’ve witnessed in response to an announcement of one of my many solo travel adventures. Most commonly, I get “but won’t you be bored?” or “aren’t you scared?”. Though very valid concerns, I can never find an adequate explanation because I can’t imagine feeling that way – only after having done it a few times, of course. In all honesty, I think I’ve spoiled myself: travelling solo has been such a life-changing experience that I’m afraid that travelling with a companion or a group will pale by comparison.

 

Why do I love solo travel? Here’s 5 reasons:

1. Full control of your schedule

Undoubtedly a no-brainer. Not having to consult or compromise your itinerary with anyone, and most importantly, not having to apologize when a seemingly good idea turns sour. The ability to travel freely – quickly or slowly, with a rigid or loose schedule, to any destination of your choice without fuss, is truly liberating.

2. The invaluable ability it affords you to befriend perfect strangers

Thanks to my first solo trip way back when, I’ve had several years to perfect the art of making friends with locals, fellow travellers, or anyone willing to give me the time of day. So, my answer to those who ask me if I’ll get bored or be lonely will always be a resounding no. The ability to communicate with strangers, especially with those who don’t speak your native language, is an important skill that stays with you forever and helps you in ways unimaginable. Meeting people on the road expands your horizons to different cultures, lifestyles, and beliefs, and it also provides great company, to boot! The best part about befriending perfect strangers is that there is absolutely no obligation to spend time with them if you don’t want to – because after all, they are just strangers! It can be whatever you want it to be – some of my encounters have led to long-lasting friendships, and others have amounted to nothing more than a 5 minute conversation.

Santorini
Santorini

3. Being able to fully engulf yourself in a foreign culture

I hold this one at a particularly high value, yet I find it a bit difficult to explain. To me, being able to absorb and authentically immerse myself into local culture is the essence of travel. The seeing of sights is important, but if I can’t experience the crux of local life and truly understand what it’s like to live there, then I haven’t gained much. Don’t get me wrong – this can certainly be achieved in group or companion travel, but I find it so much easier to ditch my inhibitions and immerse myself in local customs when I’m on my own.

4. The life-changing confidence and empowerment that remains with you forever

Yet another item on my list that I hold at a particularly high value, mainly because it is an enriching quality that will change one’s everyday life. When you arrive in a foreign country alone, you are forced to step out of your comfort zone into the unknown and somehow find your way. No matter how much research you’ve done, or how many guide books you’ve consulted, it’s never like the book – and that’s a good thing! The ability to learn about customs and local etiquette through trial and error can develop into a unique confidence – a confidence that will endure anything, even the things that you once found impossible.

5. Being able to get lost, in both the figurative and literal sense.

I think it’s nearly impossible to travel to any destination for the first time and not get lost. When you’re alone and you are forced to find your way using only a map and a few locals who don’t speak a lick of English, it can be so satisfying to find your way! For those who are somewhat lost in life, remember that “taking a year off to find yourself” isn’t just a silly cliche – it actually has some merit to it. As described above, solo travel can help you discover things about yourself that you never thought existed!

 

 

Photo Credit: [monkey]

A Visionary Rebuilding Education in Cambodia

A Visionary Rebuilding Education in Cambodia

CSC teaching

Sambath was my tuk tuk driver. I met him as I was struggling to get off the rickety boat upon my arrival in Battambang, Cambodia. He started as my tour guide and eventually became my friend, as I became more and more intrigued about his life and home country. I later learned that he is a young man who is passionately striving to improve education in Cambodia, which is a story that I just couldn’t wait to share: Read more

How to Travel like a Local

How to Travel like a Local

Temple Worship, Hanoi

Bona fide travellers long to experience a destination like the locals. Taking a few tours and visiting main attractions just isn’t enough, and often leaves a huge void due to the absence of a true cultural experience. So how can one attain this “true cultural experience”? By volunteering! Working together with the locals grants a volunteer with the unique understanding of a culture – something that is very difficult to gain as a visitor looking in. Read more

Wandering through Southeast Asia

Wandering through Southeast Asia

thailand beach

I was in Southeast Asia, which just so happens to be the perfect place to wander.

After completing my volunteer placement in Hanoi, I decided to forfeit my plane ticket to Australia, leaving me with the realization that I had all the time in the world, with no restriction on where to go or how to do it. Being in that position was rare for most people, especially me, so I just took it and ran with it. Read more

My New Job

Viethealth

I must admit that it feels very odd to be working a full-time job in Vietnam, and even more so to be branching out of the profession that I am accustomed to. Prior to my departure, I was aware that I would be working with a public health organization and doing a lot of proposal/project writing, but I had no idea about the organization itself. On my first day, led by my trusty Volunteer Coordinator, I walked up to a company called Viethealth. I walked inside, removed my shoes as per Vietnamese custom, and was greeted by my Placement Coordinator. I still couldn’t get over the fact that I was barefoot in my place of work. I chuckled to myself as I envisioned the staff at my office from home walking around barefoot.

I was taken by the Office Coordinator to tour the facility. We headed down the stairs to the bottom floor where I saw a child trying to run across the floor to chase after a ball. She was unfortunately suffering from a physical disability that seemed to have dramatically reduced her mobility, leaving her with one leg dragging behind her body. Once I took my focus off of her, I noticed several other children with physical disabilities, each working with a therapist on specific mobility tasks to try and overcome their physical challenges. Although I had worked with similar patients in the past, it was a bit overwhelming to see so many children with debilitating conditions in once place. There was a bit of an uplifting moment when I noticed how spirited these children were. They all had smiles on there faces, and expressed plenty of affection towards their therapist as they tried to play. After speaking with the Coordinator, I realized that many of these children were born with birth defects because of parental exposure to Agent Orange, the herbicide used by the US military that eventually caused approximately 500,000 birth defects. Many children with disabilities in Vietnam simply fell through the cracks in the system, and have never received any care for their special needs.

It’s unfortunate that there are so many individuals with special needs in Vietnam who haven’t even been identified in the public education and healthcare sectors. Unlike North America, where there is a huge support system for any individual requiring special education or physical support, there is a serious lack of funding here which make special programs hard to find.

I was taken up to the office afterwards, where I could get better acquainted with the organization’s work. As my luck had it, I was given a project on my first day which allowed me to dive into the environmental and public health problems of Vietnam.

I’m sure this will be a new and exciting learning experience for me!