Adventure of a lifetime: Travelling alone to Southeast Asia, by Laura Staudt
By Laura Staudt
Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz
More on the blog: www.withoutamap23.com
Erasmus+ student at the School of Journalism & Mass Media Studies, Faculty of Economic and Political Sciences, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Winter semester 2018-19
The article was written and published in terms of the course “Writing Personal Columns in Newspapers, Magazines & Blogs”, Erasmus Plus Programme of Aristotle University Thessaloniki.
Imagine... You are in a place more than 10.000 kilometres away from your home...
You can’t read the signs around you, the way people talk sounds strange to you. No one speaks your language. Traffic on the streets is crazy. Thousands of motorbikes and other vehicles cross each other seemingly without any rules. The air is polluted. You have lost your sense of orientation a while ago. There is hustling, bustling and a lot of noise all around. The smell frequently changes from interesting to disgusting. People sell the craziest things in their tiny shops and stalls. Things you’ve never seen before, things you couldn’t even name.
You are lost, you are overwhelmed and most of all: You’re all on your own.
What might sound like the beginning of a horror movie actually describes my first day of a trip alone around Southeast Asia, quite well. I was exhausted, jetlagged and completely overwhelmed. I asked myself how crazy I must have been deciding to do this. Here I was, thousands of kilometres away from home. All alone… That’s when the greatest adventure of my life began.
My family and friends thought I must have lost my mind when I announced my plan to travel Southeast Asia on my own for four months. But if you ask me, it’s been the best decision of my life so far. Of course, I was worried – what if I am on my own all the time? What if I get lonely or homesick? Attention, spoiler: Yes, I was alone sometimes, but I never felt lonely. Even more than that, travelling on my own taught me to be happy just with myself. Furthermore, especially in Asia, it is common to stay in hostels where you meet plenty of like-minded people. So, if you’re in the mood for hanging out with people, you just go to the hostel bar and get to know whoever is there.
Another downside of travelling solo is the fact that you don’t have someone to share your immediate emotions and feelings with. Whatever you see or feel, whether you are enthusiastic or sorrowful, you are left to deal with it on your own. While this can be a very unusual situation, it can, on the other side, teach you a lot about yourself. You get the rare chance of discovering your own true self. At the same time, you’re much more likely to meet new people and you’re more open for new experiences.
One thing often mentioned when it comes to solo-travelling is that it would be more expensive as you can’t share any costs but have to pay everything by yourself. While this might be applicable to some western countries, from my experience I can say that you can travel on a budget in Southeast Asia without any problem. If you’re okay with sleeping in dormitories (trust me, you get used to it) and eating the local street food, then you can keep most of the expenses low. Moreover, street food is usually the best way to experience local traditions, customs and habits. Can you imagine something more “local” than sitting on small plastic chairs in the middle of a street surrounded by Thai people, spooning up a delicious, aromatic and spicy red curry?
It is important to realize that while travelling on your own you will have to make every plan on your own. This means that you need to make every single decision just for yourself. Whether it may be where you are going to sleep tonight, where you eat, where you go tomorrow, what you want to see and when… It’s all up to you. While on the one hand this can be truly challenging and demanding, you also have to consider that on the other hand it makes you as free as possible. In my opinion, this is the most beautiful thing about travelling solo: You are completely independent from everyone and everything. Every decision you make, you only make for yourself. And maybe for the first time on your life, you can experience what it means to be truly free.
If you ask me, travelling somewhere completely on your own is something everyone should do at least once in their life. For me, the trip to Southeast Asia was just the beginning. I have done many trips alone ever since and I don’t want to miss out on this opportunity of freedom, anymore. Surely it can also be wonderful to travel with a person that you are very close with, but travelling alone is a whole new experience. Even though the whole thing might look terrifying at first sight, when given the chance, you should absolutely take it. It might turn out to be the adventure of a lifetime.
Find more on my blog: www.withoutamap23.com
Monks near waterfall iin Laos
Sunflower field in Thailand, Lopburi
View from the top of Bokor Hill, Cambodia
Monks in front of abandoned casino, Cambodia
Life's a Beach, Vietnam