What It’s Like Traveling Solo in Your Early 20s

What It’s Like Traveling Solo in Your Early 20s

I started traveling solo when I was 21. Although before that, I had a few episodes where I’d sneak out here and there, taking the next bus out of town whenever I felt like it. As much as I hated the commute, there was some sort of peace going on a long bus or train ride with my earphones on—bonus if it’s raining. There were also times when I would travel with family but I’d go a different path just because I didn’t want to see the usual spots (that counts, right?).

In case you haven’t read it yet, my first solo travel was to Bangkok. I was randomly scrolling through the flight sale when I saw and scored a cheap round-trip ticket. I was a fresh graduate with no savings so it wasn’t really the ideal timing, yet I immediately booked the flight without telling my mom. She was worried because I’m literally a small girl, and according to her, I’d easily be a target like one of those Liam Neeson films we watch.

Grand Palace Bangkok Thailand

Not to badmouth the city, but Bangkok has this bad rep about having a lot of scammers. Most of my friends who went there have the same horror stories. And I was only 21, not to mention alone. Everyone thought it was a bad destination for first-time solo travelers.

I never regretted the decision though. It was beyond words. I’m not really sure if it was the experience or the city itself, but I miss Bangkok. It was a trial-and-error trip that I was literally broke on my last day. I experienced walking five kilometers because I didn’t know what public transport I could use (they have a different system for their buses). I didn’t have an internet connection because my phone is postpaid and I couldn’t insert a Thai sim card. You’d think that’s another horror story but at least I didn’t get scammed.

Bangkok Art and Culture Centre

Since I started traveling solo, people have been asking me how I do it.

Isn’t it scary?

Omg, you’re so brave, how did you do it?

Who are you running away from? Is it a bad breakup? 

I always smile and say, I just did. The whole experience honestly came like a very natural thing for me to do. I’m an introvert. I’m used to being alone. I can proudly say I’m independent. But no, these things don’t exempt me from feeling a little scared.

Some people will hit on you including your cab driver, but that happens almost anywhere. You’ll get lost and it will be scary. You’ll find yourself running out of money so you’ll have to cancel your tour for the next day. You’ll realize on your last day that walking around with a cup of local coffee in your hand in an unfamiliar place feels more like home.

You’ll get homesick and call your parents. You’ll miss your friends and wish they were there with you. You’ll see yourself checking emails, and worrying about the job you paused for the weekend. But on your last day, you’ll wish you can stay.

You’ll talk to a few people who’ll pat you on the back and say you’ll meet the one someday, assuming you’re lonely just because you’re alone. You’ll meet new friends who will ironically know you more than the ones you have back home.

You’ll see other tourists blocking the view just to get an Instagrammable photo of them but you’ll get used to it. Again, it happens almost anywhere. You’ll ask a stranger to take a picture of you in return.

After Bangkok, I told myself that I would definitely do it again. I went to Bali and Siargao, and then to Camiguin—my last destination before the pandemic.

White Island Camiguin

Traveling solo is for everyone. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a relationship or single. You don’t have to wait for that one big heartbreak to make you want to run away. Do it because you want to. Do it because you want to grow as a person, away from someone you’re dependent on or something that you think defines you.

It’s always good to give a little time for yourself even if it’s just a four-day trip to someplace nice. Wear your best dress, eat that tub of ice cream, dance in the rain, who cares?

If there’s one thing that I learned after traveling solo a couple of times, it’s to be your own person.

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