“Never be afraid to try something new, because life gets boring when you stay within the limits of what you already know”
Many years ago I had a complete lack of knowledge about travelling. Truthfully, I didn’t even know I wanted to travel at all! It never crossed my mind that solo travelling could generate addiction as strong as the most powerful drug, one that would fill me up with knowledge and experiences to last a lifetime, which would not destroy me but build me with strength I didn’t I possessed and ultimately, make me.
Back to those years, I would have never imagined that my longest relationship would be with my faithful backpack. As I look back now on those days, I realized that I have learned an awful lot of stuff and I feel I own to other fellow travellers the right to throw some light into the insights of the solo traveller in Asia, maybe with the hope to make someone’s journey just a little bit easier and remember that while the challenges still remain, knowledge is power!
By all means, the below tips must be read very objectively and with a hint of sense of humour as they are based on my own personal experiences and as you guess, there aren’t two experiences that are identical or lived in the same way, therefore my points are mostly valid for myself first of all, and hopefully, good for you, too. If anything, I hope you find these lines entertaining, I will definitely try to provide you with some valid points and hopefully, get you to smile, too!
ONE- You will cross land borders and believe me, 70% of your adventures, frustrations or desire to hurt someone will be during those borders crossings! Many and I mean, MANY times they will try to scam you. If you have a feeling that they are doing it, chances are that you are right! Do speak loud and clear to the person in front of you and tell them how it is (but don’t shout, you don’t want to end up arrested!). The truth is that if they want to scam you they will do it anyway but at least, they know that you know and most important of all, it feels bloody good to say it, if only for the sake of it!
TWO- Before you leave for you trip, research like crazy and not the night before your flight!! You will be glad to feel some sense of familiarity on situations that will occur to you on the other side of the world, like land borders scams! You will be shocked to find out that in some places they have never seen a PC let alone Google and no, your Lonely Planet will not talk to you when you are in need of some urgent answers. Be adventurous, no stupid.
THREE- In several Asian countries the locals they don’t get the concept of queues, they just DON’T. You will find that your westerner education goes totally to waste on those circumstances. They will push you (specially in certain land borders) as there is no tomorrow! Believe me, forget to be the lady or gentleman you may be at home, there you are a gorilla and the streets are dominated by the law of the jungle, therefore make yourself a favour and imitate the locals. If they push you (and they will occasionally, I guarantee you) push harder!! Don’t be afraid, Cambodians for instance found me most entertaining when I started pushing them in the same way as they were pushing ME with my backpack like a crazy woman and eventually, I reached to the counter, ha!
FOUR- You may wish to remain alone during your travels (I have done it and that is all right, too) but do not let your fears get on the way of the pleasures of sex with a stranger. You should be able to let yourself go, of course taking always the right precautions and not putting yourself at risk, EVER. Said that, sleeping with a fellow backpacker or a charming local will provide you with fantastic (and hopefully passionate) memories that will last you a lifetime and if you are going for it, then do it if there isn’t a tomorrow! Nothing matters but the moment, you will find that letting yourself go is very refreshing and chances are that the charming local or attractive backpacker will never become too familiar as neither you nor the other person will remain too long on the same place. Sometimes comes handy to know and some others, deeply upsetting.
FIVE- Never ignore the power of a smile as it can improve your travelling enormously. Smiling is contagious, makes you more approachable, trustworthy and attractive to the world. Go present yourself to the world with your best face and many times people will react towards you in the same way; there is no price for the smile of a person. Light up your own days and the days of others and be grateful for the sights you see, think how incredibly blessed to be on that side of the world, what else can you do if not smile for those precious moments?
SIX- Don’t let your shyness spoilt a moment of truth; approach people, say hello, smile, ask questions, do not remain hidden in a little corner of familiarity, go out there with a good attitude, gratitude and sympathy and talk to the world, the world will talk back to you. There is good people everywhere; sometimes you will find them easily, some other times you will feel that there aren’t there but, remember that your own attitude makes the journey and a simple hello goes a long way, so don’t let your shyness to stop you making friends, discovering amazing people and providing you with intense moments of discoveries.
SEVEN- Eat like a local, travel like a local. Leave the luxuries at home and go out there to experience reality. If you are carrying a backpack with you, chances are that you have a daily budget like most of us, backpackers. It is a perfect combination; not only you will save money but you will also live and experience the struggles of travelling like a local and get your senses tested with the smells and delicious food from the street stalls that offer you affordable and more often than not, super delicious meals.
Also, from time to time, you may prefer a bus with AC and you should not stopped yourself of giving you that pleasure occasionally, however do not make an habit of being comfortable. Experiencing the realities of a local will provide you with a much more genuine experience and not to mention, the chance to interact with them.
EIGHT- Trust people, there’s no other way; where there is adventure, there is fear and to a certain extent, is normal to travel without trusting people fully. At the end of the day, you are alone in an unknown country and no one will take any responsibilities for you. That feeling can be overwhelming at times and understandably, you will feel that the only way to protect yourself is by not trusting others, but if you do that all the time and build a barrier around you, you’ll risk loosing the sense of the journey.
Of course always remain vigilant of what surrounds you but believe me, there is always good people in the world, doesn’t matter where you go. Said that, not everyone can be trusted and myself, I experienced that with a fellow traveller but hey, from all experiences you learn and if you fall for a lie like I did, that is absolutely all right and not the end of the world, just another lesson learnt that will surely come handy in the future.
NINE- Do what you are most scare of doing. Believe me, those will be the things that you will talk about it for years to come. I took a helicopter ride, walked on pending bridges in Nepal, flew in a tiny plane so close to the Himalayan mountains that to this day, I still don’t understand how we didn’t crashed, landed on what is known as the most dangerous airport in the world, slept with beautiful men, swam with bioluminesce at night with a stranger in the Sri Lankan sea, summited mountains, taught English to local people in the middle of the streets in Laos, joined a family in Sri Lanka that took me to a secret temple to attend a beautiful intimate religious celebration, saw savage elephants at night in the middle of the road, spoke with monks, joined the street children in Cambodia for games, made lifetime friends, crossed endless land borders, chose local transportation in places where I was the only foreigner, had a water fight with local children from a village in the Laos mountains and many other wonderful experiences that I would have never had if I would have let my fear stopping me to go out and discover the world alone.
Believe me, my most extraordinary experiences happened when I decided not to led fear stopping me.