I have done some fair share of traveling alone and I know exactly what it’s like to be out there facing uncertainties everyday with only yourself to rely on. Sometimes, it’s the terrifying feeling of not knowing what to do, sometime it’s the loneliness that comes with it after you are on the road for several weeks. These feelings can really take its toll if you don’t balance it out carefully.
I just came back from Myanmar about a week ago and I believe this trip was the trip I enjoyed the most, not particularly because of the country, but because I chose to change myself to enjoy and have fun more. It’s not easy mind you. It requires you to step out of your comfort zone and let yourself exposed to whatever comes your way but it is well worth it.
Without any further ado, here are some of the things you can do to have fun and enjoy yourself more while traveling alone.
Talk to the Locals
As I walked down the Mandalay Hill trying to find my way back to the hotel, I saw a little girl playing with her little sister. I waved at her expecting her to shy away and ran back to her parents, but she suddenly walked up my side and asked my name. Although, we hardly understand each other, we did exchange some present memories showing her my Myanmar’s photos from my camera, and having a companion of what could have been a very lonely walk back.
Tip: Approach the locals and start making friends. You are after all, traveling in their country and this may open up a window for you to see the local life where others will rarely experience.
Talk to other travelers
I went to Myanmar, and I learned about the french culture. "How the hell did you learn about the french culture in Myanmar?", you may asked. By talking to other travellers. I used to be very reluctant to talk to other travellers because I feared they may shut me out and I would be embarrassed. The thing is, that doesn’t matter. You are in a foreign country and you are unlikely to see that person again for the rest of your life, so why not give it a shot.
While I was ready to leave the Shwenandaw Monastery after I spent an hour there, I saw a fellow solo traveller who was just arrived, and she sat near the tree at the entrance. I decided to bit my tongue and ask her if she was traveling alone like I did. That little conversation stretched out to over an hour long of discussions about life, travel experiences, my culture, her culture and even music genres. Not to mention that she also suggested places to visit in Myanmar (Inwa) and I decided to follow her suggestion and I was not disappointed. This is probably one of the best talk I had in a while. Isn’t it amazing that 2 people, who I would never have met through an ordinary daily life, were able to converse for more than an hour? This is traveling in its fullest potential.
Tip: The key is to look for someone who travels alone, or maybe a couple and start smiling and say Hi as you walk passed. If they say Hi back then you could start by asking common questions like “Where are you guys from?” or “Are you traveling alone as well?”. If they answer you and ask you more questions, it means that they are open to talk to you. You will know it right away whether they are interested in talking to you or not when both parties are trying to move the conversation forward by asking questions. If you are the only one asking questions, then you might be bothering the other party so end the conversation and let them be in peace.
Be goofy in front of a camera
It is daunting to travelled a country and have no photos of you in your camera. The problem with traveling alone is that you will have to ask some one to take it for you or in my case, put it down somewhere, set a timer and be goofy in front of the camera like a crazy person. That turned out to be something I really enjoyed, having fun with myself and entertaining others in the process. It may also become a conversation starter to other travellers as well. You can ask others to take a photo for you and offer to take a photo for them in exchange. Not to mention, you also got an awesome photos of yourself for your friends and family to see.
Just have fun. Maybe do a jump shot, or a perspective shot that is worthy of your Facebook profile photo. The trick is to be comfortable in your own skin. There are no people around to judge you after all.
Prepare a good book for some down times
When traveling, there will be several down times like waiting for a flight or while on a bus or on a train. You will be bored out of your mind if you do not have anything to do. I’ve learned this the hard way when I had to wait for the check in counter to open for 3 hours. My phone’s battery was running out and I got 2 more hours to go without anything to do. That was the moment when I wish I had bring a book to read. Since then, I have always prepared one in case of down times.
Tip: Bring a book that will let you sink in and amplify your moments. A book that will engage you into thinking about your surroundings. This might be weird but my book for the trip to Myanmar was “Pale Blue Dot” by Carl Sagan. The book is about space and how our future of space exploration may unfold. This may seems like a weird match but the books really got me thinking about how silly we all are to put our efforts on things that are so small and insignificant. Travel also has the same effect. Your mind are expanded through experiences of other cultures. It reminds me of why I decided to travel in the first place and makes me feel grateful of where I am and for making the decision to travel solo. You will be surprised how creative you can be especially when you are in an unusual surroundings.
Get lost.. on purpose
Last but not least, when traveling, get use to being lost and find the beauty in it. When I was in Bagan, Myanmar, I decided to ride a bike through a shortcut which should lead me to this big remote temple (Dhammayangyi Pagoda) but instead I ended up in a cactus farm (really) somewhere in the middle of a field under the heat of a thousand suns. I was able to find shelter near there and as I tried to find my way back, I looked around and realised how beautiful it was. The vast plain stretched over several kilometers with thousands of pagodas spiring up from the ground. It was that moment on that I found myself enjoying being lost in a foreign land. I eventually found my way out of the maze and reached the temple with that great feeling when you overcome an obstacle.
Tip: Don’t get stress out when you are lost. That will do you more harm then good. Start by realising which way you should be heading. Use a compass if you must and start moving in that direction. Remember to enjoy the beauty along the way as well and keep in mind that you will not find this kind and excitement and adventure if you follow the common routes.
Now you know how to enjoy and keep yourself sane while traveling abroad alone. If you enjoy this post and wants to add to the list, feel free to add that in the comment below, send me an email or follow me @peachananr