Wat Xaiyaphoum by the Mekong river.
This blog is about some difficulties which I often experience as a solo traveler on many trips. The first difficulty is how to let my parents know that I am going to travel again. They never understand why I love to travel so much. Sometimes they say nothing, but most of the time we end up with discussions and even arguments. They (same as many old Vietnamese, who experienced hard times during and after the wars) only want to save money, or they are scared of potential dangers like air crashes or accidents. In my opinion, the possibility of being killed or injured by a motorbike on any street in Hanoi is always higher than bomb blasts or plane accidents anywhere. One day I called them from the airport and said “I’m flying to Indonesia”. A bomb blast had occurred in Jakarta just a week before my departure date and if I had told them in advance, they would not have let me go.
The second challenge and also the most difficult thing is how to catch up with plane/train/boat schedules. If I miss any of these vehicles, it would be a big problem as my plan may change, resulting
in other costs. I don't sleep well when I travel because of getting used to a new place and sometimes feeling stressful about timetables (for example, early flights). So far, after more than 70 trips, everything has been alright and there was only one incident and it was my fault. I overstayed one day in Bagan (Myanmar) and had to pay a fine of US$10 to Air Mandalay in order to be on another flight to Yangon. It’s funny that during holidays I sometimes forget what the date is today. Now I write down my itinerary on a note and then strikethrough my passing days.
Finding hotels and food is another issue. I used to walk around new towns for hours to find hotels or restaurants. Losing my way is a normal thing. To avoid food poisoning, I often choose hot and safe food. The negative side is that I miss the chance to enjoy local food, but this is just fine for me as I can’t eat spicy ones. I’ve never been sick because of food, but I caught cold twice with serious stomachaches. Fortunately, I didn’t need to go to hospitals.
Sometimes I get addresses of
hotels in advance, but often I am flexible about where I stay. There were moments when I experienced a desperate feeling. After my flight from New Delhi to Bangkok, I walked around Khao San road area to find a room, but everywhere was full. I’ve never seen so many western tourists like in this area, and February is in the high season. Feeling so tired after a long flight and walking around for hours with heavy backpack just to get the same answer “Full”, I nearly cried and thought “Why am I here, in hell? I’m going to have no place to sleep. I should have been at home now. Today is the first day of the lunar new year in Vietnam and people at home are gathering for a party.” In the end, I asked a Thai tuk tuk driver to help me. He took me to a guest house in the area and I got a room. When I was back to this area in April and June, there were less tourists and rooms were available, so things were much easier for me.
One more challenge when being alone is how to overcome the fear and darkness.
Festival by Manila bay, the Philippines
The Festival by Manila bay still is one of the most interesting events that I've experienced.
The power was suddenly cut off when I was alone at my room in Mandalay (Myanmar). I was wondering "What is happening to me? I've just been to this country for 3 hours." Then I found my torch and walked down stairs to find food for my dinner. On my recent trip to Sri Lanka last February, I woke up at 3am, hearing a strange sound as if someone was walking on the flat roof of the guest house. All the doors and windows were locked, but the sound continued and it made me feel like my heart stopped beating. I don't think the house owner or tourists were there at 3am. Perhaps there was a thief climbing up from balcony. I couldn't sleep any more and it was a relief for me to leave the town safely for the airport at 5:30am.
My Vietnamese friend asked me "Aren't you afraid of being kidnapped?" I replied to her that I always have a strong belief that there are many good people. The decision is in my hands and I know how to refuse if I don't feel safe. To travel, we need to have passion, money, time, health and
also courage. In my case, I feel it's difficult to find an interesting traveling companion. Being alone is hard sometimes, but it is much better than with others as I have much closer contact with the locals.
The photos in this blog were taken on some of my trips in Asia. Below are blogs about my travel experiences: The loneliness of traveling alone My life during the last decade The people I met when traveling The meaning of life What did I bring home after the trips?
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