Other Grandeur Travelers.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Perks and Perils of Solo Travel

More than a week ago, I decided to go on a weekend trip to Taipei for my first solo travel of the year. This has become my tradition since this blog has been up and running. Traveling alone basically jumpstarts my adventures every year.

What makes solo travel appealing though? Have you done it? Or, have you thought of doing it? Here are some of the reasons why you should try it at least once or twice in your life.


1) You have nothing to worry about except yourself. Two words: Flexibility and Spontaneity. I am stating the obvious but people forget how advantageous this can be. The best thing about traveling solo is the fact that you really own your time. No chains. No shackles. No real commitment. You follow your schedule and no one else's. Sometimes, when you travel with other people, you don't share the same interests and that makes planning the itinerary more difficult. A common ground needs to be reached. In the end, you can no longer do the things you want to do or see the places you want to see.

Go wherever you want.

2) You would do things you wouldn't normally do. When you travel solo, there's a sense of freedom that permits you to go beyond your comfort zone. An urge to be experimental opens up. (Stretch your Imagination. Go Wild). During my visit in Taipei, I got to try the hot springs in my birthday suit (I'll have a separate post for this later). I probably would have not thought about this if I had been with family or (guy) friends. It might be awkward seeing them in their naked glory. Yikes.

3) Your confidence levels shoots up. When you travel alone, you can only rely on yourself. This independence makes you more comfortable in your own skin. Becoming social is now organic, especially during times when you need to ask for tips or directions.

4) Find yourself. When you aren't sure about what you want in life, traveling alone might help you decide. After studying for many years, I chose to take a break and start this blog. What I wanted eventually became much clearer. My confusion turned into an epiphany. Charging everything to experience builds character and that helps you discover yourself.

However, since solo travel has certain advantages, I would also cite some reasons why solo travel can be a "pain".

1) No one would take your pictures. Picture taking is an essential component of any travel. Without someone to take your photo, this process becomes a hassle. As a result, you now become a keen observer with impeccable intuition. You have to scout your surroundings for potential "photographers". Some may look nice but but you'll never know if they are willing until you ask them. This art requires perfect time and a wide smile. (Solution: Bring a Tripod).

As a rule, you can only ask a stranger to take your picture twice. If the shot is still a failure, ask another person. Always be polite. I only had one picture in this area. I asked the old lady to include my feet but she probably did not understand me.

2) You can't share your stress with anyone. There are times when things turn out for the worse during your vacation. On my first day in Taiwan, I found myself on a bus to Taichung instead of Taipei. I arrived in Taoyuan airport around 12 midnight. It was a rainy and and freezing cold night that didn't seem too promising. The first thing I looked for was the bus station in the airport.

I paid TWD 145 (around P220) for my trip going to Taipei. Before boarding the bus, I serendipitously saw one of my schoolmates from Ateneo who was also on vacation there.

It was turning out to be an interesting trip. What I did not know was how eventful it would become. The guard at the airport told my bus was the one on the left so I trusted him. As soon as I got on the bus, I realized everybody had a seat except me. Bad sign. My mistake was that I failed to confirm if that bus was heading for Taipei.

I sat here the whole time.

Tired, I figured that a "Come what may" attitude would be required for this situation. While we were on the highway, I immediately saw a fork on the road. There was a huge sign before it. Take Left: Taipei. Take Right: Some unknown place I could not even remember. I had a gut feeling that we were headed for the unfamiliar route. A hint of anxiety was arising, forcing me to ask the driver where we were going. My usual lightning speed English  was incomprehensible to this man. I asked again but slower this time. Luckily, one beautiful lady who also did not have a seat helped me cross the language barrier. She said that we were headed for Taichung. It was around two hours from the airport. She gave me two options: 1) Get off the bus and hail a cab for TWD 2,000 (around P3000) 2) Or, Sleep on the bus (if i can since I did not have a seat!) and wait until we reach Taichung. From there I can take a bus going to Taipei for TWD 200. I chose the latter. It was perfect since the MRTs in Taipei would start running at 6 am. I would reach Taiwan before that and I can get rest while we were on the way. Perfecto.

Bus Station in Taichung.

My new bus! Life saver. They even gave me the front seat.

Without the help generously the lady had given to me, I would have probably stayed in Taichung for a while. After four long hours (From Airport-Taichung-Taipei), I finally reached Taipei -- my temporary home for the weekend.

3) Traveling is more expensive. Solo travel means you have no one to split the restaurant/hotel bill with. Hence, Traveling can drill more holes in your pocket. For the budget-conscious traveler, solo traveler may turn out to be impractical.

My hotel would have been way less expensive if I had brought along some friends.

4) It's always fun to have company. Having people around you when you travel makes the trip easier. Laugh with your family and friends. Share beautiful and crazy moments with them. Although social networking sites such as facebook/twitter somehow keep us connected, nothing beats having real companions (Meaning, they are "physically there").

Having said all these things, which do you prefer more? Solo or Group Travel? It's ultimately up to you but I believe nothing beats the experience of traveling alone. The world is yours to conquer. Consider it as a rite of passage--a coming of age, if you may. If you haven't done it, a lifetime is still waiting for you to learn this art and discover how rewarding and beautiful it can be.

Can you give more reasons why you should or shouldn't travel solo?

For my complete Taiwan post, please Click Taiwan 101


eric said...

I like traveling alone but i agree that it's better to have friends most of the time.

Anonymous said...

it depends when you really feel like doing it alone, you should. :) Great Post, GT. PS, I like the birthday suit.

John Marx Velasco said...

I traveled solo once and I found peace! But it was fun to be in a group!

deobaraanmd said...

thanks B! Hope you enjoy your solo trip soon. :P

marxtermind - It's nice to find peace when you travel. I know that feeling. It's like you are one with the world.

Anonymous said...

Hi! Ive tried traveling solo in Aus,it was OK in terms of having my own time and pace except that i easily get bored PLUS there's no one to take my photos in every view where i want it taken so i have to request a fellow traveler(usually a guy so he won't deny my request :)) to do it.Overall,it was a pleasant experience._Rae

Aleah said...

My blog is called Solitary Wanderer, and yes, I travel solo a lot. I love it because in other countries, the people I meet while traveling feel "protective" about me, making sure I have the right transportation, have company, etc. Once in Angkor Wat, I was trying to take a picture of myself by putting my camera on a huge boulder. This French woman then said, "Let me take that for you." The shot was a fail but the gesture was much appreciated :) (More reasons for traveling solo on my 15 April 2011 post.)

deobaraanmd said...

@Rae- picture taking is always our problem but we always seem to manage it.:p
Hi aleah! I think that's one of the best things you experience when you travel solo. You do meet a few people who are generous and kind enough to help a stranger in a foreign land.btw, have fun on your next solo trIp in Beijing!

Anonymous said...

yikes, makes me rethink about traveling solo! unless may tour guide.. haha


deobaraanmd said...

there's no fun in that haha

Hoobert the Awesome said...

I also want to experience traveling alone. Ate Chyng inspired me to do that after her solo trip to Sagada. I'm going to try it this year.

I all agree with what you said. Level up talaga ang confidence mo 'pag mag-isa ka. Of course, wal kang choice. You're alone in a sea of strangers kaya dapat talaga pairalin mo ang social-self mo. Hahaha.

Solo traveling, on the other hand, is really pricey.

deobaraanmd said...

hey poot! yes level up indeed! haha

Anonymous said...

i prefer to travel in a group because of a tight budget and i always believed,in the saying:"the more the merrier" hehehe

deobaraanmd said...

of course, the more the merrier. :P

Pinoy Boy Journals said...

i prefer to travel solo just because i feel more comfortable knowing i am one with the country. you're right, when you travel alone, you don't have anyone to be accounted for but yourself, you go as you please, leave when you're tired. the hassle of course is always spending for two. with regards to the photo op, through experience i've managed to perfect the art of taking my own photo. he he

deobaraanmd said...

Thanks for the input! I totally agree that we all have to master the art of taking our own photos. haha

nunalsafeet said...

Personally, i have found a compromise between traveling alone and being with a group - i found several friends with the same interests and travel style as i do. This way, i get the best of both worlds :)

deobaraanmd said...

Hi kathleen! That sounds perfect! I have a few travel buddies myself. :P

Desiree said...

I prepared to travel w/ friends @ least have some1 to take pictures, split ur bills & to share fun w/, but u have to choice some1 that u share commom interest... but sabi mo nga, @ least once or twice its nice to travel alone, like what I did last wk, I went to Dubai alone but I stayed w/ my relatives para tipid, but since they were busy sa work, I enjoyed the country by myself, then they will just meet me @ nyt... I enjoyed the experiece too much...

deobaraanmd said...

hi desiree! thanks for sharing your experience. in the end., it really depends on you which kind of travel best suits your personality. Safe travels!

Anonymous said...

Hi.Whats a good place/district to stay while in taipe? Aside from the night markets im also interested in museums and gardens.
thanks! -Rae

traveleray said...

I feel solo travel is a great idea, and while we may not do it every time...every once in a while, its the best thing ever.

Also, I came across an interesting platform to connect with co-travelers as well as locals http://www.mingletrips.com/
Its really quick and easy way to find buddies to hangout with...and free!

deobaraanmd said...

Hi traveleray! i agree! Solo travel means freedom. I will check that site. thanks!

Skye Evans said...

I am also Solo Travel Enthusiasts. I recommend you to search for travel deals and stay away from hassles.
Heathrow airport cheap parking
Luton airport cheap parking