So. Quick catch up: a month ago, I rode a plane going to Ho Chi Minh City and spent 12 amazing days by myself, going to four different cities in 3 neighboring countries. It was definitely one of the most nerve-wracking and liberating moments of my life. This was my first ever solo trip and my first trip abroad — it was definitely overwhelming for a perpetually anxious person like myself. Armed with a backpack, a not so concrete itinerary, and a little bit of bravery, I soldiered on and started my journey.
During that trip, I have encountered a handful of people asking me the same questions:
- Where is Mark? Have you broken up that’s why you decided to travel alone?
- How did your parents let you go on this adventure?
- How much money did you spend? And how can you afford such luxury?
- 12 days is a long time. Why visit four cities only when you can include Laos (or some other nearby place) in your itinerary?
- Aren’t you afraid?
While these questions are quite common with friends and acquaintances, I realized that I never really thought about it before venturing on my trip. I was too occupied with work and was too excited that I didn’t even bother thinking about other things. It also puzzles me how I ended up on that journey, and despite being back for a while now, I still feel amazed at how I was able to pull it through. So yeah, how did I end up traveling by myself?
1. Where is Mark? Have you broken up that’s why you’ve decided to travel alone?
First of all, we are very much together and he was really supportive of my decision to travel alone.
Actually, the trip was originally booked for the both of us as our post-anniversary celebration. Sometime last year, I chanced upon some really cheap roundtrip tickets to Ho Chi Minh City during Cebu Pacific’s Sale (P2,500/pax) and booked it on a whim. We were supposed to go on a 4-day adventure in Vietnam but Mark backed out in October as he couldn’t file a leave from work. I know that I wouldn’t like my ticket to go to waste, but as I have never been out of the country yet, the idea is somehow terrifying. I don’t have much fear of being alone but currency exchanges and being broke abroad just made me feel all panicky. It sounds funny, but more than anything, that was the thing that scared me the most.
I honestly didn’t think about cross-country travel until one of my closest friends, Cza, went home and blogged about her Ho Chi Minh – Phnom Penh – Siem Reap trip. I knew that it would be a long shot but seeing blogs and hearing stories about going to Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand boosted my curiosity and confidence. I know that many people have gone to this route and I know that I can do it, so I decided to plan my way around. I wanted to make the most out of my trip so instead of just following Cza’s itinerary, I decided to extend it up to Bangkok, which is just a few hours away from Siem Reap. I told Mark about my plans and he was totally cool with it. I’m really happy to have someone who understands my travel impulses and who is just supportive about it. He knew that traveling alone has been something that I’ve always wanted to do, and he just knew that this would be the perfect timing. He even came with me as I shop for my backpack and exchange currencies.
So, no, I am not single, you guys. I just wanted to be my own person for a while and Mark totally understood that. I guess I’m just a lucky woman to find someone who trusts and loves me enough to respect my choices in life. 🙂
2. How did your parents let you go on this adventure?
This was, unexpectedly, one of the easy parts of the trip. Last year, I was invited by a tourism council for a 12-day trip and I have already asked my parents for their blessing. My mom was cool with it, even telling me to buy her tons of magnets (she collects them! If you’re from another country, please buy me one and I’ll pay you. I’m serious). Unfortunately, that trip did not push through and I had to give it up because I can’t leave work. My parents knew how heartbroken I was during that time, and so, when I asked for permission to go on this cross-country trip, they eventually said yes. I just messaged them every day, assuring them that I’m still alive and well.
3. How much money did you spend? And how can you afford such luxury?
I spent PHP 35,000.00 for the whole trip (hostels, food, souvenirs), excluding bus fares and flights. As mentioned, I initially booked a round trip HCMC flight (PHP 2,500.00) and then just bought a return ticket for Bangkok to Manila (around PHP 3,000.00). Bus tickets are around $56, all of which I booked online. Saving up for this trip took me a couple of months, but I suppose I was just lucky that my trip was in January and I got bonuses in December, a majority of which are allotted for my travel.
Travel really comes with a price tag, and if you’re coming from a third world country, it would definitely be challenging. I guess I just wanted this trip so bad to a point that I am willing to do everything to make things happen. And for those who are curious, I don’t really earn a shit ton of money. I earn just right to somehow live comfortably. I just know my priorities and I try to budget my hard earned money well. :p
4. 12 days is a long time. Why visit four cities only when you can include Laos (or some other nearby place) in your itinerary?
Honestly, 12 days is still not enough for me. I know you might have seen itineraries on the internet for 7 days in these three countries, and while it is doable, I don’t think that it’s my way to go.
I used to do a fast-paced type of traveling, especially during press trips, and I realized that it’s not something that I’d like to do. Seeing as many sights possible in a short period might be the most economical way to go, but I guess I just like to take my time to absorb the things that are happening around me. During my last day in Ho Chi Minh, I realized that my travel was only scratching a small surface of the whole experience, and I knew that I want to do so much more if only I’m not restricted by time and budget. I started to feel more familiar with the streets, felt at home with the friendly smiles of our hostel’s Vietnamese receptionists, felt a sense of belonging as I drink coffee in the streets, and felt a weird sense of direction as I got lost around the city. I knew that I still wanted to spend a day or two just being comfortable with the seemingly alien aura of Vietnam, but there were so many things to consider and I just have to give up my dreams of traveling slowly.
If only I have the luxury to travel for a long time, I would definitely grab it. For now, I suppose I have to make the most out of trips and spend more time on destinations than what people would usually recommend.
5. Aren’t you afraid?
When I was in Ayutthaya, I took a group tour and went around with three other Filipinas to save up. We went around the ancient city for four hours, took tons of photos, and ended up sharing our travel experiences. One of them asked me why I was alone and if I was afraid to do this by myself. “I couldn’t do it because my boyfriend wouldn’t allow me to do so. Besides, I’m not really comfortable going to these types of cities,” one of them said.
The same sentiment was shared by another friend, who asked me if I was not afraid to travel in these “kind of places” by myself. She came from a well-off family and couldn’t even bother to ride the public transportation in Manila, so I guess that explains it somehow.
But really, guys, what is there to be afraid of? I got scammed in Vietnam (I’ll tell more about that on another post), but that didn’t stop me from having fun and enjoying the trip. Hearing about bad experiences in certain places doesn’t mean that it’s going to be a bad experience for you as well. It just means that you have to be extra cautious and you have to be smart about your choices. Danger and crimes are literally everywhere (come on, Manila isn’t the most peaceful place on earth, you guys), but sometimes you just have to have faith that you’ll be okay. Beneath it all, humans are still kind, and while there will be times when your faith in humanity will be challenged, you still have to believe that things will be okay.
I was on my own but I never felt afraid, or alone, or lonely. Traveling solo is challenging, but it’s definitely a life-changing experience. I still have a lot to learn about being on the road, but I suppose this first trip is a great way to start learning. 🙂
How about you? Have you ever traveled alone? Where have you been and how was it? If you haven’t traveled by yourself, do you plan to do it soon? Share your thoughts below, I would love to know!