Last year, I had the opportunity to check off an item on my bucket list:
Travel solo to a country for the first time where you don’t know anyone or the language.
I was thrilled that it sort of just happened, as I would have never gotten around to it out of pure laziness.
It turned out to be one of the most empowering experiences I have ever had, filled with self-discovery, and giving me a new zest for life. You know how the saying, “Enjoy the journey, as much as the destination” goes?
Well, in my case the journey began way before the trip itself and was hardly about the destination at all.
From getting excited, to feeling nervous and asking almost anyone to join me, in faint desperation, I finally summed up the courage and took the plunge or should I say the plane?
Other than the usual DO’s and DON’Ts out there, here are a few things to keep in mind for FIRST-TIMERS travelling solo to have a more meaningful time with… yourself!
PICKING THE RIGHT DESTINATION
It is important to pick a destination that has similar characteristics to where you have lived most of your life.
With only 5 days in hand I picked Ho Chi Minh City (I grew up in Mumbai, India) vs. Halong Bay in Vietnam.
Pick a place where you won’t regret not having visited all the tourist spots. This trip should be an internal one, and not so much about ticking off things to see and do.
WALK A LOT
You will be surprised as to what comes your way by simply walking around the neighbourhood. The sense of discovery and exploration can be quite exciting and make for great stories.
A mini-backpack works perfectly during these walks to carry basics like water and a fruit.
PLAN ONE MEAL
Have one fixed place for a meal, which is not experimental during the day. This will bring about a sense of belonging and security as to what to expect, in your otherwise uncertain day.
Eat this one meal well, you can then try something new for the other meals and afford to go hungry if you don’t fancy it.
SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE
Share some bits on social media (not everything!).
During the times I felt a bit lonely, or had a strong yearning to share a special moment with someone, I shared it on online. This helps from feeling disconnected and have friends suggest things to do from their recent visit there.
Careful not to over share and miss being in the moment!
Talk to locals, learn a few words and use them with other locals. As clichéd as it sounds; this will bring smiles and add a real social element to your day.
You can teach them how to say something in your language as well.
Wear something new or something you would never wear otherwise. You will feel like a new person and experience the city in a different way.
Make sure you are not uncomfortable.
A few DONTs
Don’t have an agenda for every single day.
Instead keep track of the choices you make along the way, what you eat, where you go and who you interact with. This can prove to be a deep insight into understanding yourself; independent of the people you surround yourself with normally.
The first or last days of a trip are great for these unplanned days.
Avoid staying in a very luxurious hotel. This will force you to not stay indoors for too long and encourage you to explore more.
Keep central for safety.
LATCH ON TO GROUPS
Stay away from big groups and tours guides for activities and sightseeing.
The point of your first solo-travel should be to spend time with yourself and enjoy your own company. Lots of people will only prove to be a distraction and possibly annoyances.
They are also huge deterrents for unique, chance encounters waiting to happen.
Be careful not to lose track of time.
When travelling alone for the first time you will be taken over by an exhilarating sense of freedom to do everything your way and go wherever you want, making it is easy to let the day go by without realising it.
Keep in touch with your family.
Born into a business family in Mumbai, India – Radhi’s path within the creative field has been an unconventional one. Having explored various roles working with start-ups, SMEs and a leading art gallery over the span of 10 years, her skillset include design marketing, project management and customer / client servicing. She is currently building websites and handling social media activities for various initiatives.