I just came back from my first solo trip to Vietnam and Thailand and it was certainly an interesting experience for me. My family were worried that I would get scammed and yes, people tried to scam me and yes, I had money stolen from my backpack but what far outweighs these experiences is the number of kind people I met on my travels. I hold the belief that if you are kind to others, most people respond back with kindness. Out of the 29 days I was only on my own for 1.5 days. I met many other solo travellers and made connections even when I stayed only 1 or 2 days in one location.
- Cycling in Hoi An in Vietnam on a balmy evening with sounds from the insects at night and my travel companion next to me.
-Taking a midnight swim at Tonsai beach in Thailand with fluorescent green plankton glowing in the warm sea and above the stars shone brightly against the dark rocks. Simply stunning!
- Going to the Balloon festival in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I had lots of fun as well as chilled with lovely people. I also unexpectedly got to meet a blogger who I really admire. He set me a few challenges on the day which included running through a marching band and asking someone where there is a time machine so that I could travel back in time. According to the two locals I asked, they think it was July or August, I think perhaps things got lost in translation there!
- Meeting wonderful people and connecting. Being even more aware of how beautiful nature is – all those sunsets/sunrise, mountains, skies, birds and insects singing day and night. I am simply in awe.
The painful but memorable experiences:
-Opening the door to my room and a snake above hit me on the head.
- Taking a sleeper bus to Sapa, Vietnam, with a smelly person on my left; knocking knees with the person on my right, and the man above treading on my hair. I tried all modes of transport and that was by far the most torturous.
- Being hit in the face by a boomerang at the balloon festival in Chiang Mai by the vendor, it was funny and memorable.
During my travels I met a young traveller who dropped out of his final year of study even though he was doing really well, to embark on a life of adventure. He told me how he regularly meets fellow travellers, often many people travel to break away from old habits, some do and some don’t. The ones that don’t get caught up in simply living in new countries and engaging in different activities. The ones that do come to their own self-realisation at their own pace.
My own thoughts is it depends on what the person is seeking. Fulfilment isn’t always about spiritual awakening for everyone and it depends on what you want to get out of life. I think part of the reason why Elizabeth Gilbert’s ‘Eat Pray Love’ book was so popular is that it links travelling with self-realisation. This understanding helps to bring peace and freedom.
There seems to be a lot of literature on self-improvement and personal development, and being a career coach, it is something I should advocate all the time! However, I think there is a lot to be said about simply being who you are and reminding to celebrate your own uniqueness; as well as occasionally raising the bar, by setting yourself new challenges. Setting challenges is a form of learning, and there is great fulfilment when we feel a sense of achievement, and great learning when we’ve tried. For me, life with purpose and joy is what matters!