ummer is here and it’s time to take a holiday. But since I don’t have a teaching job like many of my expat friends, I usually take my holiday opposite of everyone else. While this provides the ability to get better rates and fewer crowds, it leaves one major downside, no one to travel with. While I did move to China alone, I had not done much solo traveling before arriving. But once I made it here, there was just so much to discover. I soon began to realize if I continued to wait to travel until I found someone to come with me, I would miss out on some amazing experiences.
I had only been in Beijing for a few months when I decided I wanted to take my first short getaway. I missed the beach, so I decided to book a train to Beidaihe. The coastal city was a short two-hour train ride, and the ticket was cheap. I packed my bag, called a cab and headed to the train station. When I walked in, I was completely taken aback. A huge screen scrolled with all the destinations and times. It was so busy, and I felt completely lost and overwhelmed. Finally, I pulled out my translator app and asked for help. I finally made it on the train and ended up making friends with the people around me. They gave me tips on what to do in the city and where to get the best seafood.
When I arrived, I took my time, made it to the hotel and enjoyed a long, quiet, relaxing day on the beach. I did not have to worry about what anyone else wanted to do and could go at my own pace. The short two-day trip was just what I needed and made me realize that traveling alone was not so bad, and in some ways, better!
Now that I had the solo travel bug, I started to branch out more. I found some local travel groups that did one and two-day trips around Beijing. I visited an underground cavern, ancient villages, and even the Inner Mongolia grasslands. The best thing about the trips was that there were a lot of other solo travelers as well. It was fun getting to know new people, some of which are still my friends in Beijing to this day.
It was coming to the end of my contract, and I had some paid days to use, but everyone I knew was not able to take time off. While I had taken some short solo trips, I had never done any major traveling on my own. It was either bite the bullet and go or give up the days. So, I booked the trip. I was Thailand bound for 12 days with just me, myself and I.
I was excited about my first big adventure since moving to China and started posting on social media leading up to the trip. I got a lot of messages from friends back home asking who I was going with and what my plans were. They were surprised and confused when I told them it was just me and I was just going to keep loose plans and see what happens.
Now I am an avid solo traveler and at times prefer it. I know that traveling alone or even something as simple as going to a restaurant alone is hard for some people. My advice is to take a step out of the box and see what you are missing. There are so many online groups for solo travelers, that while you might travel to your destination alone, you can meet up with others who are heading to the same destination as you. I am in a solo female travelers group on social media where people share stories of where they have traveled solo, what places are safe, where to stay and even requests to meet up. Another group for solo travelers is set up as a host site. If another solo traveler is heading to your city, you can offer to host them in your home and vice versa. I once took a girl up on her offer in Vietnam, and it was a fun and interesting experience, especially since she was a local and had all the inside info on where to go and what to do.
While traveling alone is a scary thought, not getting to experience all the things there are to offer is even scarier. Don’t get me wrong, I love traveling with a group of friends and creating memories traveling with family, but I wouldn’t give up the freedom and lessons learned through traveling and discovering things on my own.