A few months ago, I traveled to Thailand just like I always dreamed I would. Alone. With just my passport and two backpacks—a 35 liter pack on my back, and a small, daily pack in front. For 30 days. Yup, I roamed around for a month.
There I was on my first day of my backpacking trip, a small Filipina girl with her life on her back, trying to figure out the train system to my hostel in Bangkok. I was tired. I was sleepless. Needless to say, I fell asleep on the train and missed my stop. It was the rush hour (think Manila rush hour in the AM), and I had a hell of time making my way back to the correct stop. About 10 trains passed me by. I couldn’t squeeze myself in the packed trains unlike the others cos I had two backpacks clinging on to me. And I was never good with battling my way through rush hours, anyway. Not even in Manila. The guard at the station was laughing at me. He had been observing. I laughed along with him.
That month was full of stories just like that. Little moments of inconveniences, but funny experiences nonetheless. And I reveled in them. What is it about traveling that just opens you up?
The breathtaking Pai canyon
But there were big moments, too. A lot of them. Moments of such pure bliss I can’t believe they are actually happening. I met so many people, saw so many beautiful places, and had unforgettable adventures I could never have experienced should I have never gone on that trip. And I almost didn’t. Because like many of you, I was scared. No—I was terrified.
But I’m glad I didn’t let the fear win, because traveling on my own taught me so many valuable things not only about the road; it taught me important things about life and myself, too. It’s true what they say about solo travel. It’s much more a journey within than it is a journey outwards.
And I wouldn’t have grown so much if I had traveled with someone. It just isn’t the same. Why? Below are the 5 most important things I backpacking solo has taught me:
Before I fell asleep on the train. Lol
5. Freedom is on the other side of fear.
“How much of your life are you willing to sacrifice for safety?” A traveler I met years back told me this, and the thought has never left my head. How much of your life are you willing to sacrifice for safety?
So many of us don’t do anything out of fear. We never move cities, quit jobs, start a project, or travel. We can’t always find the courage to chase our dreams. But you know what? Freedom is on the other side of fear. If you could just muster that little ounce of courage to get you to start, you’ll realize that there was no reason to fear at all.
Sure, there are risks involved. And I thought about all those risks before I left. So much so that I almost didn’t go. I was scared as F. What if I get lost? Fall sick? Get into an accident? And I’m alone and there would no one to depend on? But you know what, these things, all those bad things your mind is feeding you, they can happen anytime, anywhere. Should you put your life forever on hold just to prevent those to happen to you? But what if you don’t get lost, don’t fall sick, don’t get into an accident? And what if there are people to depend on everywhere because, as you’ll learn, people are generally kind? What about then? Just imagine all those things you might be giving up if you let your fear win.
Keep in mind this relevant saying: “A ship in harbor is safe—but that is not what ships are built for.“
Yes, he hugged me later. Watch our video through the link below!
4. You really don’t need much.
I wasn’t always a light packer—I used to travel with a 15 kilo luggage for four-day trips. But constant traveling has taught me you don’t really need much. You can pack light. During my month-long backpacking trip in Thailand, I was only carrying a 35-liter backpack. It was twice smaller than what other backpackers carried. My room mates would say: “Your pack is so small!” But I had everything I needed.
I know this might sound odd to you, but the longer you travel, the less you actually need. You’ll be doing laundry anyway. So why need to pack a bunch of clothes? Just pack clothes good for one week then do laundry weekly (or as much as needed). That’s how I did it.
Backpacking is all about learning to live with less. Why carry unnecessary baggage when you can leave space for new things, instead? ;)
On a 12-hour overnight bus from Chiang Mai to Bangkok
3. There is happiness to be found in solitude.
I don’t know about you, but I like my alone time. As much as I love being around people, especially my friends, I need time spent alone, too. It helps keep me grounded. But if you are one of those people who can’t stand being alone, then all the more do I suggest that you try traveling solo. Alone doesn’t mean lonely. Alone means you are comfortable enough with yourself that you don’t need the presence of another person to feel safe or happy.
There is so much to learn in being alone, when you’re traveling. There is no one to make decisions with, split things with, discuss things with. This is a huge responsibility, and that is how you grow. If you are someone who is used to depending on other people’s advice and opinion, imagine having to do all of these by yourself, for a change. There is so much freedom in that.
In life, you won’t always have someone to depend on. Learning how to be with only yourself is an important life skill everyone should ultimately learn. And when you do, I swear, you’ll see there is happiness in solitude, too.
Launching a lantern at Yi Peng Festival with new friends
2. You are never truly alone.
The ironic thing about traveling alone is, you’re never really alone. You will meet friends everywhere. And I mean everywhere. At the hostel, at cafes, on the buses, train stations, at bars. If you are at a backpacking hub like Thailand (as most South East Asian countries), there will be travelers everywhere. And you will make friends.
In my one month in Thailand, I can count the days I was actually alone. Most days I was traveling with someone, a large group of friends, even. This kind of experience adds to the charm of solo traveling even more—getting to make friends from people from different corners of the world? You’ll learn so much about their culture and will shatter so many stereotypes we’ve absorbed from society. In this sense, saying “you are never alone” reaches an entire new level. No matter where you are from, the human experience is the same. We all just want to explore, we all just want to belong. And in that sense, we are all in this together. You are never truly alone.
1. There is really, truly, nothing you can’t do.
Fear might overcome you in the beginning, but once you’re on that plane, chances are all your worries will melt away until you can only feel the excitement. And once you’re out there, doing it, you’ll realize that you have more courage in you than you thought. That you can be friendlier, tougher, wiser, kinder.
Traveling solo is a big deal, and you should be proud if you’re doing it. Imagine being so far away from home and having no safety nets. But what is life if we are only living it so carefully? What about all the adventures waiting out there? All the incredible places?
Once you take the leap, and I hope you do, the feeling of freedom you will feel will make you realize: There is really, truly, nothing you can’t do. All you have to do is start.
Planning to go on your own solo backpacking trip and need some advice? Connect with me. Let’s chat or follow my adventures over at @thestillnessinmoving on Instagram or at Facebook at www.facebook.com/thestillnessinmoving <3