Affordable plane tickets have democratized travel and made it accessible to anyone, regardless of budget, which probably explains why people are suddenly booking flights to popular travel destinations around the Philippines and the world. Now, entire families can go to Cebu to attend a wedding, and barkadas can fly to Hong Kong for a weekend of shopping. Yes, travel has become a new way for people to bond, but there are also benefits to solo traveling.
Two years ago, I decided to go to Hong Kong alone. It was honestly a whim (a popular airline posted a “piso fare” trip and I decided to book using the credit card that arrived that week), but I decided to go alone to escape from people and try it out. I wanted to feel like I’m in a country where absolutely no one knew me, but alas, Hong Kong is not a country and I have a few friends there. I also wanted to go backpacking but I ended up bringing a trolley bag. Still, Hong Kong is a good choice for a virgin solo traveler because the people there speak English.
After my trip, I realized that solo travel can be just as fun as traveling with friends or family. It can be sad because there are times when you just want to share a moment with someone, but social media can be your best friend in times like these. Here are 5 things I learned while traveling solo:
5. You can go whenever you want.
Traveling with a group is fun, but it can also be a hassle because you’ll have to work with everyone’s schedule. Kids have to go on weekends or during vacation, while working adults have to file leaves. And if a group of friends work in the same company, good luck getting leaves on the same dates. We also live in a culture where if one isn’t available, no one goes, which can be frustrating. When you’re traveling alone, you only have to worry about your time.
Because you’re alone in a strange land and you have no one to talk to, you notice more things and learn more. My solo Hong Kong trip was my second time there, so I skipped the tourist attractions. Because I skipped Disneyland and Ocean Park, I got to see the real Hong Kong: shiny and gleaming on the outside and gritty on the inside. These are things you won’t see when you’re with a group, especially if you’re with first-time visitors who want to see the attractions. Solo travel is your best bet if you want to see culture and how the locals spend their days.
3. You can do whatever you want
Like what I mentioned, traveling solo means you can do whatever you want. In the mood for art? Or how about food? There’s nothing wrong with tourist attractions, but if you want to skip that and have a separate itinerary, there’s no one stopping you. In fact, you can even skip the itinerary. On my trip, there was one day where I just walked around IKEA and had dinner with friends.
2. You meet more people
If you’re traveling with a group, chances are, you’re only going to talk to them. But if you travel alone, you’re more open to interaction from locals and other travelers. In Hong Kong, I stayed at a hostel recommended by Agoda as the best, so I got to meet people from other countries and saw the world from different perspectives. Some of them are used to backpacking or traveling alone that I was inspired to do it more often! I didn’t meet any locals because I stayed at a commercial area, but I learned so much from my fleeting friends.
1. You learn more about yourself
I learned a lot about Hong Kong in the one week I was there, but what I learned the most was about myself. I learned how resourceful I can be. I learned how fast I can deal with challenges. And when you’re in a country where language can be a barrier and cars drive on the opposite lane, you learn to adjust. Because you’re alone, you spend most of your time talking to yourself. That means you have time to reflect on your life and face your problems. I came back to Manila stronger, refreshed, and ready to start life again.
Have you tried solo travel? What did you learn?