Tuesday, February 2, 2016

On travelling [solo]: What I've learned so far

There aren't many occasions where I'd end up questioning my life decisions. Come to think of it, I can only recall two:

1) When I encountered 6-foot waves in succession for the first time and wiped out. I seriously thought I was going to die!

2) When I rented a boat and went on a private tour to Balicasag Island last week. I was accompanied by two boatmen whom I had only met that same day. Balicasag was an hour away on rough seas, and take note it was my first time in Panglao -- I had no friends, no relatives on the island. You could say, my guard was up the entire trip.

Although safety precautions when travelling are pretty standard, women just have to be extra careful and alert when exploring alone. The second scenario was obviously scary, hasty and reckless. In case something did happened to me, I sent photos of the boatmen plus the contact number to my sister in Manila with a note: "In case I don't make it back, you know who to look for." She responded, "Text me the moment you get back to Panglao Island." I'm happy to report though that the boatmen were friendly and were only interested in my payment, thank god.

Here are some of the things I've experienced while travelling:

Getting hounded by locals

While walking along the shore of Alona Beach in Panglao, I was hounded by locals offering tours, asking where I was staying and if I had any companions in tow. Although this would seem to be the norm in some areas, the odd thing was I never encountered these in Puerto Princesa (I guess tourism is more regulated there). And these locals were relentless, they really followed me around. It reminded me of India, somewhat.


In Bali, my sister and I were cat-called on the beach, hounded by locals, and interrogated by Uber drivers who asked one too many questions. We'd make up stories and tell them we stayed at different hotels or alight a few meters from our destination just to make sure we weren't followed. Some shady locals (groups of 3-4) also congregated in certain tourist/shopping spots along Kuta making "choke-points" so we had to steer clear of those, too.


Yep, I lost my iPad Mini while abroad. But it was mostly because I trusted too much and was careless. I only discovered it was missing when I arrived in Manila, needless to say, I couldn't do anything about it anymore.

But don't despair...

Some places were safer than most. Auckland was very nice to us, and so was SingaporeKorea, and Batanes. So if you've experienced anything negative or scary while travelling, chalk it up to experience and trudge on. In spite of all the "horrors" of travelling alone, there is still lots to learn from each country you visit and from the locals you interact with.

Solo travel is a road to self-discovery

Solo travel is the most liberating experience hands-down. You can choose to backpack around the world, or start small by visiting strategic places in your home base first and then exploring from there. By travelling alone, we have the freedom to do whatever we want without having to weigh things with a friend or companion. It also promotes personal growth and independence; with heightened senses it also teaches us to trust our gut feel and sharpen our intuition.

Most of all it helps us plan and budget wisely knowing that if we fall short on cash, then we only have to rely on ourselves and no one else. I remember only bringing one ATM card to a beach trip, with the very ambitious plan of only spending Php 3,000. When I almost ran out of money, I ran to the nearest ATM machine (thank god the island had one) and realized that I had transferred 90% of my funds to another bank account with the ATM card carefully stashed back in Manila. That was a rude awakening. I was then forced to be more mindful of my spending in order to "survive" the next few days. So, always plan well and be prepared.

My advice...

I'm still pretty new at this but what's important is that we should always be careful when traversing new territories and unexplored areas. I mean, it's no different from travelling within the Philippines where crime is common. Every place can be deemed unsafe when you don't do your research! When alone you need to be smart, observant, and alert at all times. And when the situation calls for it, live a little, too! You don't want to be super caught up in yourself that you miss out on all the fun :)

What have you learned by travelling solo? 
Please share them with me!

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