I travel solo, but I’m hardly ever alone

I travel solo, but I’m hardly ever alone

People often wonder how I can travel alone. Don’t you feel lonely? They ask. Don’t you need somebody to share the experience with? Others ask. Well, different people like different things. I love travelling solo because I love being independent and free. I think it’s not a common thing where I come from but I’d say it is quite common in individualistic cultures. And even though I travel solo, I am often not alone and certainly I don’t feel lonely.

While travelling around the world I couchsurfed 141 days with 50 people and also stayed with some friends. It adds up to 5 months of staying with different people. In addition, I hitchhiked with over 180 people so I certainly wasn’t alone while travelling. I also get to meet people in other ways such as at hostels or just by chance. One of the biggest advantages of travelling solo is that people – the locals in a particular country are not afraid to approach me and strike up a conversation. And also I am more open to be approached by them. And this is what travelling is about – getting to know people from the country I am visiting. I do believe that people travelling with friends are less likely to interact with locals and vice versa.

This is about a few situations when I befriended different people while travelling around the world. When I arrived in Karkaralinsk, for instance, a fairy remote place in Kazakhstan, my host who had to leave the town arranged for her friend to meet me. And so I met Ali, a local who worked for the national park I wanted to visit. He took me for a short hike and showed me some nice places.

Ali from Kazakhstan

While I was travelling in Laos I made some friends at the hostel I was staying in. It was in Luang Prabang. Maxime who was from France and I rented a motorbike and went on a short trip to see Tad Sae waterfalls. I met Emilie at the very same hostel and we ended up travelling to Phonsavanh together, renting a motorbike and having a great time exploring the Plain of Jars and then travelling to Vang Vieng, too. We also had a good laugh about the Friends episode when Joey tried to learn French – Je depli mblue (which was supposed to be Je m’appelle Claude.)

Maxime from France
Emilie from France

I was spending Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Thailand and until the very last moment I wasn`t sure what I would do. I ended up organizing a couchsurfing event which I was surprised a couple of people joined given it was a very last minute thing (I only thought of it on the day itself). And so there was me and 6 other people having drinks and watching the fireworks in Bangkok and just having a really nice time.

My New Year’s Eve event in Bangkok
My New Year’s Eve event in Bangkok

I met Rafael from the US while we were both staying at a really cosy hostel in Pyin Oo Lwin in Myanmar. We borrowed bicycles and went to see what for me was the highest waterfall in Southeast Asia. We also took a train to Hsipaw together. What I find great though is that we also met in Thailand and Singapore later on. Meeting in Malaysia and Indonesia didn’t work out but we’re still in touch!

Rafael from the US

Myanmar was a country where I had a chance to interact with children and children are the best. In Yangon, I was approached by a bunch of kids who wanted to practice English, take photos and also joke around. I spent there quite some time as I had so much fun. In Mandalay, I seemed to be an attraction for kids working at a local restaurant. They appeared to be really surprised that a foreigner would stop by and eat there. And some of them tried so hard to serve me well. When I went hiking near Hsipaw (on my own as opposed to as a part of an organized tour) I had lunch with a local family. The boy didn’t seem to trust me at all.

Lovely Myanma children in Yangon
A young boy working in a local restaurant in Mandalay
A local family I had lunch with when hiking near Hsipaw

I met Wout, a Belgian guy, in Cameron Highlands while I was being hosted there by a guy who also ran a hostel. Wout was staying there. We hitchhiked around the Highlands together and went hiking, too.

Wout from Belgium

After arriving in Jakarta I met Ike who was one of the people who joined my New Year’s Eve event in Bangkok. She is Indonesian and she showed me around some parts of the city and we had a delicious dinner together.

Ike from Indonesia

Indonesia was another country where I was approached by local people very often. I can’t even count how many times I was asked to be taken a picture of with some locals. Countless times. Especially in Java. ‘Mister. Mister. Picture.’ I heard the word mister so many times. Sometimes I even got instructions: ‘Freestyle, Mister.’ Whatever it meant. I also met some children while walking in a park with one of my hosts. And then when I was hiking near the Bromo volcano I met a family of locals and one of the guys actully knew Slovakia and could name its capital. He and his wife had been living in Germany and he could even speak German. I couldn’t have been more amazed. And when I was relaxing on the Koka beach I was also approached by a group of students, and one of them, Emen asked me to join them to go back to Maumere, their hometown and stay at his place. I did go to Maumere but on the following day and I stay at his friend’s house.

An Indonesian family I met when hiking near Bromo
An Indonesian family I met when hiking near Bromo
Lovely Indonesian children in Surabaya
Emen and his friends in Maumere

Although it’s not my cup of tea I sometimes go on organized tours, mainly because it’s easier and less of a hassle to visit some places that way. And that means I meet people who have decided to do the same. I went on a two day jungle hike in Laos, a three day hike to Mt Rinjani in Indonesia and three day hike to Inle Lake in Myanmar and some other trips. That’s also one way of meeting new people, but for me it comes at a cost of lost freedom.

My hiking group and our guide at Mt Rinjani

In Melbourne I stayed with Yoda (yes, that’s right) who I had met earlier in Bangkok. He also showed me some nice spots in Melbourne and I got to see the Thai restaurant which he runs in the city. He also has two dogs – Penny and Muffin. Or where their names Jenny and Doughnut? 😀

Yoda from Melbourne

And there are times when I go crazy and I befriend inanimate figures like when I was visiting Astana in Kazakhstan. Such fun!

Making new friends in Astana
Making new friends in Astana

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.