Solo travel: A guide for beginners

MANILA, Philippines – Despite what the movies say, you don’t have to wait for a life-altering moment before deciding to go on a solo trip.

2017 might just be the perfect time to do it: according to a survey by yoga travel company BookYogaRetreats, solo travel will be a key trend this year.

You don’t need to be a seasoned traveler (or even a heartbroken one) to go on a solitary journey, as the experiences of beginner solo travelers Narl Marquez and Joy Asto will show you. 

Below, they tell us why they choose to go the solo route from time to time and why they think others should, too.

First time jitters

FLYING SOLO. For their first solo trips, Narl (left) flew to South Korea in 2015 while Joy (right) flew to Penang, Malaysia in 2014. All photos courtesy of Narl Marquez and Joy Asto

FLYING SOLO. For their first solo trips, Narl (left) flew to South Korea in 2015 while Joy (right) flew to Penang, Malaysia in 2014.

All photos courtesy of Narl Marquez and Joy Asto

The first time will always be the most nerve-wracking, and traveling solo is no exception.

It was in 2014 when Joy, a travel writer and editor, went on her first solo trip, a weeklong birthday trip to Penang, Malaysia. Joy remembers being “very nervous… as I knew I couldn’t mess up and had to have presence of mind all the time.”

Narl went overseas for her first solo trip, too. In 2015, she went on a two-week journey to Seoul and other South Korean cities. “At first, I was anxious and hesitant. I was not really that confident that I will survive those trips solo,” she said.

After Korea, Narl went to Antique, then backpacked across Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Singapore last year. Meanwhile, Joy explored Singapore twice, most recently last year.

Their perspective on traveling solo has changed since. 

“[Solo travel] is not as difficult as I thought it was – all I needed was common sense and a good sense of what is safe or what is worth doing. I also learned that being on my own made me feel empowered and more capable than I thought I was,” Joy said.

The joy of flying solo

ONE WITH THE LOCALS. Narl (center) dons traditional garb while dancing by the Seven Falls in Lake Sebu

ONE WITH THE LOCALS.

Narl (center) dons traditional garb while dancing by the Seven Falls in Lake Sebu

Solo travel introduces opportunities that traveling with friends and family wouldn’t, such as having full control of everything and fully immersing yourself in the experience.

“You don’t have to follow any schedule. You do everything at your own pace. You don’t have to compromise,” Narl said.

Solo travel lets you enjoy your own company, too.

“Part of it, I think, is because I'm an introvert and I find it nice to have some quiet time to myself while taking in the sights, sounds, tastes, and experiences of the place,” Joy said.

TRADITIONAL. Joy, also a photographer, captures a vibrant scene in Penang with her trusty film camera

TRADITIONAL.

Joy, also a photographer, captures a vibrant scene in Penang with her trusty film camera

Most importantly, solo travel lets you discover certain things that you won’t learn anywhere else.

“Don't be afraid nor feel guilty of saying no. They won't hold it against you. There will be times that you might want to save face by accepting an invitation or buying something, but stop. Listen to what your body (or gut) tells you. You don't owe anyone anything,” Narl said.

“It might be a cliché thing to say but ‘finding yourself’ would be, at the most basic level, a good reason for people to try solo travel. They learn their limits, develop more sound decisions, and immerse in something they really, truly enjoy without having to think about what other people would think or say,” Joy said.

Make it happen: What do solo travelers need?

Many travelers would talk about solo trips that span weeks, even years, often going from one city, town, or country to another, and roughing it out in the outdoors.

EAT LOCAL. Joy captures a unique scene in one of Singaporeu2019s famous hawker centers

EAT LOCAL.

Joy captures a unique scene in one of Singaporeu2019s famous hawker centers

You might get intimidated at the implications of uprooting and financially supporting yourself on the road especially if you’re a would-be solo traveler, but you shouldn’t be!

The key is to go over every detail – from setting up a travel fund to coming up with an emergency plan.

Those who are worried about leaving work can take a leaf out of Narl’s book. Narl makes sure to plot her leaves early and let her boss and colleagues know that she will be away. She does “a lot” of overtime and tries to finish all her tasks before flying out.

UNWIND. Narl takes a relaxing dip in a giant kawali in Antique

UNWIND.

Narl takes a relaxing dip in a giant kawali in Antique

But what if you really can’t afford to take time off from work?

Leave on Friday night right after work and return either on Sunday night or in the wee hours of Monday morning! “It only takes planning, ‘easy-to-drag’ (and thrifty) friends, and research to have a fun weekend getaway. Yes, it’s hard, but you just have to set aside some time for yourself,” said Narl. 

Above all, never compromise your safety. Always watch out for yourself – traveling alone or not. Do thorough research to avoid getting scammed, always err on the side of caution, and be alert all the time. 

Let at least one person know where you’re going and stay connected with your loved ones at home.

During a trip from Malaysia to Singapore, Narl was momentarily held up at the Immigration because she was the only person in the bus traveling alone. At the time, she was worried as she didn’t have the means to contact anyone.

Now, Narl always lets her parents know where she’s traveling and who she's with. On solo trips, she sends them chat messages to let them know that she has safely arrived to her destination. 

OLD AND NEW. Singapore seamlessly mixes tradition with modernity. Here, Joy snaps a unique photo of the cityu2019s skyline

OLD AND NEW. Singapore seamlessly mixes tradition with modernity.

Here, Joy snaps a unique photo of the cityu2019s skyline

Travelers would usually opt to buy a local SIM for convenience. But if you’d rather avoid the hassle of switching numbers especially on shorter trips, consider subscribing to a chat promo that will let you use multiple chat apps: whether it’s with your family on Facebook Messenger or Whatsapp, your friends on Line or WeChat, or even your colleagues on Telegram or Viber!

This way, your friends and family are just a message away – whether it’s to keep them posted on your whereabouts, to alert them immediately in case of emergencies, to share with them your experiences as they happen, or even just to ask what they want for pasalubong

While solo travel is a good way to escape the daily grind and let yourself experience new things, you must always remain vigilant as you go to avoid any mishaps that could possibly ruin your trip. – Rappler.com

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