I'm adding my two cents on cool experiences, mistakes, and pro-tips so far traveling on my first solo trip in case it helps any new travelers or inspires anyone to take a trip! For context i'm mid-20's, female, American. Sorry for the long post i'm tossing three different trips in here.
Trip Length: 10 days
Time planned ahead: 5 days
Places visited: Bangkok, Phuket, Phi Phi Islands, Patong, random city near Bangkok IDK?
Trip Info Stuff:
I got tired of waiting on my friends to commit to traveling with me, one of my favorite pastimes when bored at work is entering random cities into google flights and looking at the calendar of how much it costs to fly to different places each month. Great deals. I found a cheap flight leaving the next week for Thailand so I said PHUKET and booked it.
Mistake one - I tried to book on China Southern's website for a super cheap round trip flight. I have taken multiple online courses through my work on avoiding phishing/scamming and I still got phished (my debit card was hacked and drained by the next morning).
But it's OK - I booked the same flight through Expedia, got insured, and my credit company is really good about reimbursing the money. Was a little bit stressed because I needed the new credit card to arrive before I left in a few more days but it all worked out. I now have more than one credit card, and don't use my debit card for anything I don't have to.
Stories: I planned this trip only booking my very first AirBNB for when I arrived in Bangkok, and my inter-country flight/flight home. I'm so glad I didn't lock myself into anything else, at least for my first solo travel experience, because I was able to be super flexible which made my experience way better. For example, I hated Bangkok and being in a private AirBNB meant I had no one to talk to. I ended up messaging my airBNB host to hang since he still lived in the city. We went to a ping-pong show and cruised the bar/food scene. He was white and blonde and absolutely blew the tuk-tuk drivers minds when he spoke fluent Thai which was hilarious to watch and also helped us save a bunch of money. I also learned about "Buddha Days" which means no alcohol can be sold at bars that day...legally. bummer. I'm glad I got to see that city and I would still do it again but i'm so thankful I didn't sign myself up to stay for a long time there.
Mistake two - Why did I ever think that printing out maps ahead of time would be of any help when THEIR ALPHABET IS DIFFERENT THAN AMERICA'S?!. Taxi drivers just absolutely did not understand where I wanted to go and would straight up drive away when I tried. That is when I truly wondered what I had gotten myself into and really how little can a person not think this through before world travel alone?
But it's OK - because even though I blanked and went full blonde ignorant American i'm also willing to be flexible and very stubborn to still have a great time. I missed the day tour meeting spot/time that I wanted to do because I couldn't get a taxi. So I walked around a bit and found a new day tour where I ended up getting to see cool stuff like floating markets and jungles that I would have never known about.
Stories: After finally getting out of Bangkok my fun increased exponentially in Phuket. I made a friend on the bus into town by bonding over trying to avoid all the GIANT bugs that are somehow riding on the bus with us(why Thailand?) and we met back up for dinner and drinks and live music. I explored temples, gardens, and even more food on my own time and stopped to take as many pictures as I wanted without worrying about anyone waiting on me. My hostel folk tried to feed me about 100 times, and I shared (hidden) beer with them on yet another Buddha day.
Side Mistake: If you have to catch a 6:30am ferry and you're going to very carefully hide your passport in your sketchy hostel while you're out and about put an alarm on your phone to get it before you check out and padlock the hostel behind you at 6am while nobody else is there for the day yet...
Stories: I learned that my personal travel groove is getting to a city with only the first night in a hostel/hotel booked and then feeling it out. I also like to research a ton of potential spots to see and bring them in a notebook and decide what fits my mood/energy status once i'm there. After that I either extend that stay or go somewhere i'd like better or wherever my new friends have suggested. Patong was one of my favorite stops on the trip and I would have never heard of it if I hadn't chatted with random guys on my ferry to the Phi Phi islands. It's like Thai Vegas on the beach but with lady boys who put heart stickers all over you for a Valentines Day not spent alone!
For those wondering, well how do you just strike up these conversations with strangers I use something related to our surroundings and gauge if they want to chat or not based on how they react. Be ready to gracefully take a cue if they don't want to engage but 99% of the time people are looking for friends too and stoked that you talked to them first. I simply said "hey i'm noootaserialkiller I'm going to take dramamine for the first time so if it makes me pass out i'm not a crazy person will you please just remove me from the ferry and leave me on the dock or something?" They did me one better and invited me to lunch and the bars later that night. And I didn't pass out!
Side tips especially for wet countries: Bring an empty plastic water bottle (plastic so you won't care if you lose it), pen and paper, shower cap (to put wet shoes/clothes) and plastic sleeve for documents (print out all hotel and airline info incase you can't find wifi). Backpack with a rain sleeve cover.
Plastic water bottle for saving money on water at the airport, you can bring it along with you and buy the big water jugs to save money but refill your little one for day trips. Brush your teeth with it too just to be safe. Pen is for quick notes, airport VISA stuff, etc. Your phone might die and you might need to write down a translation, phone number, address who knows what. Shower cap to wrap your dirty soggy shoes or swim suits so it doesn't make your whole bag musky.
TL;DR - made a lot of mistakes on my first solo travel but had an awesome time because I at least was smart enough to have blonde proof back up plans (photo copied passport in person and online, extra cash in different places, etc) and the mindset to go with the flow until it all works out.
I was going to add Costa Rica, Spain and Portugal stories but this is really long already. If anyone wants to hear more I've gotten significantly less stupid with my travel mistakes and i've got more stories!