Solo For The Soul: How To Travel Alone And Love It

Posted: May 31, 2014

Traveling alone can be quite unnerving. Here’s a personal travel account to dispel your fears, and help you plan your solo travel with ease.

I am admittedly not a full time solo traveler. I’m sharing this from a first time solo travel experience -to reach out to  people out there who have the same apprehensions and concerns, and hope this may help alleviate some of it.

One of the first things you need to be okay with – is being with yourself. This sounds simple enough, and ridiculously obvious, but it’s not always the easiest thing to do and is not everyone’s cup of tea. You need to just be aware of that as you plan, because going solo is a lot about being comfortable being with yourself, and enjoying your own company to start with.

Having traveled a lot for work, I usually ended up doing shorter trips and activities by myself around the cities I visit. So, that’s a good indicator that you’re going to be just fine ‘being with yourself’. I had never actually made a travel plan to go somewhere just by myself, not for the lack of will to do it, but more because I am the kind of person who needs an activity around which to pivot a trip so my social awkwardness gets suitably masked. The opportunity finally presented itself after I got my diving certification and had completed a couple of dives; it was a perfect setting against which to do a trip.

 Going solo is a lot about being comfortable being with yourself, and enjoying your own company to start with.

My biggest fear of solo travel is not safety, or the task of planning, or boredom. It is the fear of speaking to strangers! Yes, you read that right. It’s the most ironic thing for someone who loves to travel, but I am mortally afraid of striking up a conversation with complete strangers. I think of myself as a fairly open person – when approached, I do quite enjoy interacting and getting to know new people, cultures, purpose of their travel, where they have been etc – just don’t ask me to speak up first, please. Maybe on one of my trips I will explore this unnatural fear more deeply, but for the moment let it suffice that I had a trip planned and it was to revolve around diving and if people spoke to me I’d be great.

The trip was planned for Bali. Why Bali? One, because I’d not gone there diving, and two, it had visa on arrival. Most importantly, IT’S BALI! I dream of white beaches, crystal waters, and gentle sea breeze. For me, Bali was all of those, with the added promise of awesome marine life. So that was step one – deciding where to go and why. Where in Bali? – now I had not expected this to be as tough a choice because in my mind I told myself – this is Bali, it’s an island and I’m going to go there. Looking at a map is super helpful to give some perspective on such matters – it’s not JUST Bali – it’s huge, so you’re not going to traverse the place in a few hours. Therefore, some practical thinking had to be done so a place could be identified. Naturally, I did ask around and research online, but ultimately the decision comes down to what you are looking for. For me, I did not want to be close to the city center and from a time stand-point could afford only a 1-2 hour drive from the airport. It had to be by the beach for the diving, with access to some good dive spots. Now it may not always end up that you have made the best choice based on all this, but at least you have done your homework and know what to expect.

Naturally, I did ask around and research online, but ultimately the decision comes down to what you are looking for.

Identifying a hotel is the next big one. I am sure there are numerous ways to go about this, but my preferred choice has always been booking.com and trip advisor. Usually, I’d be more adventurous in  my choices, but keeping in mind it was my first solo travel, I was looking for safety, transport facilities, proximity to the market, and what other reviewers had to say about the place. All reviews are not to be taken at face value of course, but it’s usually a fair indicator, and you can also cross-verify it through a few other searches.

So it was all decided and set – I made the travel bookings, double and triple checked with the hotel for my airport pick up and room check-in dates – all was good and I was off.

Now, here is the thing about dreaming of a place and romanticizing it, I imagine people will be floating on their personal cloud, tropical music plays in the background, groups of ecstatic people chat and laugh lifting everyone’s spirits and that everyone who is going there is going for a holiday. Naturally, it came as a rude shock when I sat at my assigned terminal gate waiting to board and saw all these serious-looking people who probably are travelling across for business, or live there. They did not see any reason to giggle in a carefree manner that would lift everyone’s spirits. Note to self at that moment – everyone is not going on a holiday – just you or maybe that couple in the far corner who were unreasonably happy in contrast to the others. With that reality check, I headed on to board the flight.

 All reviews are not to be taken at face value of course, but it’s usually a fair indicator, and you can also cross-verify it through a few other searches.

The flight arrived at Denpasar closer to 8:30pm. Usually,  I prefer getting into a place during the day – it just helps me get my bearings. But I did not have a choice on this one, so I placed my trust in the hotel transport arrangement. Having said that, I did feel the need to be additionally cautious, because it just makes sense – so I took a picture of the cab and its number plates, got chatting with the driver when he collected my bags just so I could know him a little more, not sharing unnecessary details but more about the island, the hotel, what to expect etc. Once in the car, I made a call to my husband letting him know I reached and when I was due to arrive at the hotel – so the driver was aware that I was connected. Having the phone functional upon landing is a must for me.  These are not fool-proof methods towards anything, and most of it is common sense. For me, it just made me feel more comfortable. Though I’d add that the hotel was really great, they sent a good driver and vehicle, and at no point did I feel unsafe despite the fact that it was a 2 hour drive in the night. To add to the whole aura, it starting pouring cats and dogs midway. I did get a lot of bad movie flash backs of terrible things that such weather builds up to, but more importantly, I was devastated that this would affect the diving.

The hotel (Padang Bai Beach Resortwas a small comfortable place, and one of the good dive shops in the area. We reached around 10:30pm, when everything was shut around town. The resort itself was a bit of an informal affair, so the night security was the person to hand over my room keys, breakfast coupons etc, which the hosts had already informed me about. With that, I settled in for the night after multiple bolt checks, at one point, confusing myself if it was open or closed. The rain just continued on steadily through the night, making my chances of diving seem bleaker.

In the light of day, I discovered just how tiny the town really was, and that it’s actually a port for boats heading to Lombok. While this is information that I did know through my online trawling, what I did not imagine is just how tiny a place it could be, and that the port was at the head of the road. It’s not a crazy busy port so all-in-all, not bad. What I read online was what I got.

to be continued…

Pic credit: Bram&Vera (Used under a CC license)

A Marketing Communications person by profession, spending time outdoors energizes me – be it travelling, diving,

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