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
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
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!