My first solo trip was to Jakarta, way back in 2005.
And it was not even meant to be.
What happened was, my colleague was due to travel to Jakarta for a work trip, but due to some issues, I went in her place instead.
Since I’ve never been to Jakarta, I decided to extend the trip by a day, at my own expense, to explore the city.
While a day isn’t exactly very long, it did give me a sense of how it feels like to travel alone.
It was surprisingly enjoyable.
While eating alone took a little bit of getting used to (some food is just meant to be shared), the other bits were quite liberating.
You get to make your own decisions on where to go, what to see and who to speak to.
Granted, I got cheated by a tout near the Sunda Kelapa port, but it could have happened if I had travelled with friends too.
Since that trip, I’ve never shied away from travelling solo.
Yes, I still travel with friends now and then, but if they aren’t free, I’m just as happy exploring a new destination myself.
And one of the good things about solo travel is that you’ll get to meet a lot more people on the road.
Travelling in a group, you tend to stick together, and while that’s fine, people are less likely to approach you.
But travel solo and suddenly, you’re much more approachable (whether that attention is wanted or not is another story).
When I signed up for a day tour near Dunhuang in China, I suddenly got myself several new friends.
They were curious about my travel plans and why I was travelling solo.
After the tour, I joined one of the guys, who was also travelling solo, for dinner.
And we had a great chat over barbecued meat and beer about China politics and the country’s ethnic policies.
The next day, I travelled with another group, whom I also met on the tour, to another city by train.
Another time I was travelling along the Three Gorges, also in China.
As I wanted to save money, I opted for bunk which I had to share with three strangers.
And one of them was really interesting.
She is a retired teacher and she told me quite a lot of stories from her teaching days.
And she also kept plying me with food and snacks which she had brought along for the trip.
But besides meeting new friends, solo travel is also a great confidence booster.
And you get to see and do only what you want – there’s no need for compromise.
Solo travel is also a good time for reflection as you have a lot of time to think.
In between jobs in 2012, I was travelling in Yangshuo and after a day of cycling around the countryside, I decided that maybe I should try out for a field which I’ve never worked in.
After getting home, I sent out my resumes and slightly more than a month later, I started work at my new company.
So that solo trip was definitely a life-changing experience.