Mistakes I Made Travelling Alone
More and more Singaporean women are travelling alone and it seems the concept of solo travel is on the rise.
It was never my plan to travel alone but when I booked my precious annual leave for a trip to Thailand 10 years ago and a friend dropped out last minute, I had a choice. Wait until another friend or family member was available, or go on the trip alone. I decided my tan couldn’t wait and embarked on the solo adventure of a lifetime.
Having travelled to more than 25 countries across the world, most of them alone, I’ve made a number of mistakes along the way. Some of them could have cost me my life.
I didn’t plan ahead
When you travel solo, your planning needs to be on point. If things go wrong, there is no one to immediately raise an alarm or save you.
I arrived in Nepal and decided to trek to Everest Base Camp. I did minimal research on the risks and assumed I would be fit enough as I ran marathons in my free time. Four days into the hike, I started experiencing altitude sickness. I felt nauseous, drowsy and had a bad headache. Some French travellers found me collapsed on a rock and called for help. Altitude sickness can kill, and I had a lucky escape.
Now, I always do a quick Google search before arriving in a new country. I look for the nearest shops, ATMs and hospitals. I also look up the potential risks and try my best to take the necessary precautions. For example, you can take oxygen tablets to prevent altitude sickness when you trek to Everest Base Camp.
Look ma, no bags!
Besides improving my planning skills, travelling solo also honed my packing skills. It took me 5 years and lots of excess baggage fees before I realised that toiletries can be bought and you really don’t need 3 just-in-case outfits.
Quite often, you can wash and reuse your clothes. Your skin can have the healthy glow of a vacation instead of 4 different types of bronzers and highlighters. Aim to get everything under 15kg and invest in travel-sized items such as mini microfibre towels and travel-sized toiletry bottles.
I prioritised money over safety
When you travel alone, you don’t have friends or family to protect you or help you look less vulnerable. I remember booking an extremely cheap flight to West Malaysia that arrived after midnight. I congratulated myself on my cost-saving skills until I realised I was in a foreign city alone, in the middle of the night.
I had to make my way to my accommodation, alone. An airport bus dropped me off at the bus terminal. My heart beat so fast during that 5-minute walk to the hostel, every time I saw a human figure, I prayed it wouldn’t be a man hoping to take advantage of a young girl, alone. Quite frankly, if it was, there was nothing I could have done about it as it was dark and no one was around. Hard lesson learnt. Even if something costs a bit more, if it’s safer, it’s worth it.
I was too trusting, too soon
When I first started travelling alone, I was eager to make new friends. It enriches the travel experience and you get to learn about all sorts of different cultures. Unfortunately, I gave my trust to people too soon. I met a seemingly lovely guy at a hostel in Thailand and that evening, I needed to use a laptop. He offered his laptop, and I hooked my phone to his laptop to send a few emails with pictures to friends and family.
A week later, I received an odd email from him. Apparently, my iPhone had accidentally transferred all my pictures to his iCloud and he was in possession of ‘compromising photos’. He said it would take him a long time to delete the photos so he wanted some form of payment. I told him the world was ready to see the compromising photos of me in my Bridget Jones underwear and that I was going to report him to the police. Never trust someone too soon, always give yourself a bit of time to get to know them first.
I didn’t trust my instincts
Speaking of unsavoury characters, if your gut feels uneasy about something, listen to it. It will save you a lot of trouble in the long run. When you travel alone, you have YOURSELF to listen to, so please tell everyone else to pipe down. If something seems a bit off or weird, don’t rush into it.
There have been a few times when I’ve felt uneasy about someone and dismissed it because I felt I was being judgemental. Ten out of 10 times, the person turned out to be a bit of a nutjob and I wished I’d avoided them in the first place.
I was afraid to be alone
The biggest mistake I made during my travels previously was being afraid to be in the comfort of my own space. I ended up spending time with people I didn’t really want to because I was scared of being alone. Then I realised you need to make YOU your home. Nowadays, I spend time with people on the road that add value and bring positivity into my life.
If they don’t, I hang out with myself, laugh at my own jokes, and love and nourish myself like I would my best friend. I write positive power notes to myself and tell myself I am awesome. Above all, I keep myself company and I don’t need anyone to fill that void. In this crazy, busy world we live in, I’ve learnt you need to be your own best cheerleader and to love the person you are.
Avoid The Mistakes I Made While Travelling Alone
Now, when I introduce myself to new people, I stick my hand out and confidently say “Hi, I’m Aisha Preece and I’m travelling solo.”
Cover image by Daniel Mingook Kim/Unsplash