Tag Archives: round-the-world

FAQ: Solo Travel in Asia

Traveling solo can be daunting: no one to turn to and no one to rely on but yourself.  Especially for women, even the thought of traveling alone in a foreign country can be nerve-racking.  Questions might float in and out of a woman’s brain before a solo abroad trip: Will I be a target traveling alone?  Will I get kidnapped?  Should I carry a knife?  All these questions are valid concerns, but it should be noted that traveling alone in Asia can be very safe as long as you do it right.  The following are some frequently asked questions I get asked about solo travel in Asia:

You traveled alone? Weren’t you scared?

At first, yes, I was scared.  Maybe the feeling should be classified as nervous excitement more than scared.  I went on my first solo travel when I was 20 years old and backpacked around Asia for 10 months.  One of the first places I landed was in Kathmandu.  My heart was pounding as I stepped off the plane and the heat hit my in the face.  I grabbed my bag and walked outside to find a pack of touts trying to drive me to the tourist area of Thamel.  I didn’t know what to do, but I swallowed my nervousness and hired a taxi driver.  My nervousness about being in Kathmandu quickly dissipated and I quickly grew to love the city.

Should I carry a knife?

I’ve been asked multiple times whether or not I carry any sort of protective device like a knife.  I do carry a pocket knife in my backpack, but this is never for self-protective measures.  I don’t recommend carrying anything like mace or a knife.  Traveling alone is safe, just as safe as walking around your own home town (most likely).  Would you carry a knife with you when you walk around a new place in your country?  Probably not.  Also, in an emergency situation, ask yourself if you are really going to whip out a knife and defend yourself.  The best protective measure is not any sort of weapon, it’s being self aware and assertive.

Did anything bad ever happen to you?

Of course there are the random “incidents” that happen to everyone after they’ve traveled extensively.  If you do get mugged (or worse) try to remember that this incident is most likely not representative of the whole country.  The person who did that to you is an isolated being and should not make you think: “I hate (insert country name here) because everyone is a thief!”

This is very important to remember and I learned it on one of my first days traveling in Malaysia.  I (stupidly) shared a taxi with a random man I didn’t know.  The man and the taxi driver, who were in on the scam together, took me to an isolated ATM in Johor Bahru, forced me to take out $120 or else they would leave me in a slum and then deposited me back at the bus station.  After this whole incident, I was so angry at these men and at myself for being so stupid.  I left Malaysia, almost in tears, and went back to Singapore thinking: “I hate this country! How could they do this to me?”  After some consideration, I came to the conclusion that these people should absolutely NOT be representative of Malaysia as a whole, and the whole thing was my own fault for acting so impulsively.

Everyone seems to have a horror story in regards to their solo travels?

Of course they do!  Those are their battle wounds, their travel scars, the really juicy stories to be told over beers and street food.  People like

"Oh s***...."

to talk about their horror stories because, let’s face it, they’re interesting and harrowing tales of life on the road.  Although all seasoned travelers have a horror story to tell, try to remember that those stories are a TINY portion of their travels.  If someone got food poisoning for two days in their year-long trip to India, don’t think: “Ew! I’m never going to India!”  Those two days were a small percentage of their time traveling, during which the majority of the time they weren’t sick.  Take travel horror stories with a grain of salt, internalize their lesson and go to the place anyway with no fear.

Doesn’t it get lonely with so much alone time?

Yes.  Depending on how long your travels are, it can get very lonely, especially in more removed and isolated locations.  Enter: the book.  Traveling solo is a great opportunity to get to know yourself better and explore your own interests.  Read! Write! Draw! You have all the time in the world to do these activities at a leisurely pace when you’re traveling solo, so enjoy it!  Books are definitely the solo traveler’s best friend.  It might be best to stock up on a few at a time, depending if you’ll be traveling outside cities and urban areas.

But when you’re traveling solo, you don’t need to have your nose buried in a book all the time.  Being a solo traveler means you’re opening

Random strangers will soon morph into friends for the solo traveler.

yourself to meeting loads of new people.  A solo traveler is much less intimidating to approach than a group or a couple.  Being unattached equates to meeting more random people, both locals and travelers alike.  Eventually, these strangers will turn into friends whom you may even end up traveling with a bit.  So, yes, it can get lonely, but there are various ways to make connections while traveling solo.

Do you have any advice about traveling solo?  Add you comments below!

Independent Travel vs. Study Abroad

Going abroad as a young adult is an integral part in becoming a more well-rounded, open-minded global citizen.  The first time leaving home for an extended period of time can be uncomfortable and nerve-racking at first, but with time, the first abroad experience will be something remembered forever.  Seasoned travelers can all recollect with great detail that first trip: stepping off the plane, getting lost, trying new foods and meeting other world wanderers.

Every young adult that has the means absolutely should go abroad.  Whether the funds come from parents, relatives or saved money, every penny spent on a trip is well worth it.  But, when the proposed trip looms as the very first time away from home, deciding how, where and with whom to travel can be difficult.

For university students there are two main choices for the first-time-abroad experience: study-abroad and independent travel.  Each option has its pros and cons, but in the end, a trip is a trip, and both choices offer the opportunity to begin explorations of the world.  The costs, benefits and draw-backs of study abroad and independent travel should be weighed carefully before making a decision.

So, what exactly is study abroad?  Study abroad is an opportunity to travel, live and study in another country through one’s university or college.  Students get to spend a term or more at another university, most likely studying the local language and taking other general courses.  The great thing about study abroad is that participants gain academic credit for their time living in a foreign country.  The trip kills multiple birds with one stone: knock out some academic credits, live in a foreign locale, travel around the region and mingle with other people of a similar age.

Study abroad can be a great way for a college student to begin their world travels because the programs and locales are safe and itineraries are often fully planned.  These sorts of programs can act as a channel to begin further independent travels.  The major drawback to study abroad programs is the price.  At many major U.S. universities, fees for study abroad are exorbitant to the point that many students go in debt (sometimes even further) to travel abroad.  It is true that this money also goes towards paying for academic credits, but spending $20,000 for a term in Spain may not be the right fit for every young person who has the travel bug.

This brings us to the next option: independent travel.  Independent travel is exactly what it sounds like: traveling around by yourself on a trip that you planned by yourself.  Independent travelers don’t go abroad through a company or program… they just go.  The benefit of independent traveling is absolute freedom to go wherever you wish, whenever you wish.  Feel like going to Ho Chi Minh City today? Done.  Feel like going to Cambodia tomorrow? Sure!

Three months of independent travel can also cost drastically less than three months of study abroad (depending where you go and your travel standards).  Independent travelers are usually very budget oriented, staying at cheap hostels, eating street food and taking overnight buses.  If you were to dedicate one term’s worth of study abroad funds to independent travel, the money could be stretched much further, leading to a longer trip.

Although independent travel equates to freedom and is very cheap, it’s not for everyone.  The drawback of independent travel is that you must be very comfortable being alone, fending for yourself and doing your own planning.  When something goes wrong for an independent traveler, there is no study abroad coordinator to make it better.  No one plans your insurance plan or your plane tickets.  This can be an extra hurdle, but it also can make the trip more fun and more personalized.  Independent travel is, of course, different in every country.  For students and young adults not ready to jump head-first into independent travel in, say, India or Africa, somewhere like Australia or Western Europe might be a good choice.

Both study abroad programs and independent travel are good choices for young adults who are vying to experience what the world has to offer.  Although study abroad costs more, the fees also pay for academic credits.  Students who participate will enjoy first time travel with the comfort of knowing that there are people associated with the program there to help in emergencies (parents will probably appreciate this too).  Independent travel can be dirt cheap, but is probably not the best choice for young adults who aren’t too sure about planning a trip alone and being alone for extended periods of time.  Each choice as pros and cons, but both are great options in taking that first step to become a global citizen and a global mind.

Study Abroad:

Pros: Planned out through university, get to be with other students, free-time to travel around region, lots of opportunities to make friends, knock some academic credits out of the way.

Cons: Can be crazy expensive, some people study abroad with friends from home and don’t branch out, can be too planned for some people.

Independent Travel:

Pros: Can be dirt cheap, can spread money out for longer (meaning longer travel), complete freedom to do whatever, meet more people not associated with the university setting, builds independence and self-reliance.

Cons: Might not be right for those nervous about traveling abroad/alone for the first time, no one to fall back on in emergency situations, requires careful planning pre-trip.