As people learned I was traveling to Thailand solo over the holidays I had a variety of reactions - some amazed, others confused, many envious, and those who know me well said of course you are! My mom and girlfriends gave me the "you be safe" lecture and I just smiled, knowing what makes me nervous about traveling alone is also what excites me.
During the 21 hour flight halfway across the world, I had a brief moment of panic. What the hell am I doing heading to a foreign country for 2 weeks by myself with an open itinerary, no idea where I will be staying the second week, and no one to meet up with? I took some deep breaths and reminded myself I'd had great experiences when I traveled on my own in Eastern Europe, Russia, the Baltics, India, China and Africa with a backpack in my 20s and 30s. I could certainly do Thailand- with a roller suitcase.
And I did. It was a spectacular trip--beginning with a day exploring vistas and streets of Hong Kong on my layover, an exhilarating night bike tour and stunning golden Buddhas in Bangkok, New Year's Eve lighting thousands of lanterns into the sky, dance parties, temples and Thai cooking classes in Chiang Mai, rock climbing on magnificent limestone cliffs and snorkeling in warm aquamarine waters off islands in Krabi, and meeting a group of fun, international friends at every stop who became my travel companions. I felt so alive and never alone on this journey. And what's not to love about a country where the people and culture are so warm and friendly, the food delicious, and daily massage is actually affordable....ahhhh, the massages!
Would I have liked to take this trip with someone? Absolutely! I crave good company and there were definitely moments I would have loved to be sharing with someone I really care about - yet the many unique encounters and magic I experienced only came to me because I was alone and more open to spontaneity and connecting with strangers who became friends. I had to move out of my comfort zone and put myself out there daily. Strike up conversations with the person next to me. Ask if I could join people at their breakfast table. Get off my phone, look up, smile and make eye contact if I wanted company. I could also just be with myself and that felt pretty darn good as I'm not often alone here at home with no agenda. I had a special opportunity to connect deeply with others and with myself on this trip - a good reminder of how liberating solo travel can be. Only thing I would do differently next time is bring a small backpack, not a large suitcase!
If there is somewhere in the world -even in your local region you have been wanting to see, don't wait around for someone who has the same vacation time, energy and interests as you - that may never happen. Use your miles. Get out there and explore! It's medicine for the soul.
To your wanderlust in 2016,