So far in my life, I've travelled alone to Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea and China, as well as moving to Singapore on my own for a year studying abroad. At first, it can seem incredibly daunting and even dangerous to opt for a solo trip, but honestly, it's one of the most rewarding and life-changing experiences. You learn more about yourself, your limits and your strengths travelling alone for 3 days than you would in a year of your daily life. There is nothing quite like waking up in a foreign place and realising the whole day is yours to fill and yours alone.
Sometimes, solo travel may be your only option but don't be disheartened or afraid of that possibility; embrace it. When I was studying in Singapore, I had a recess week where I planned to go travelling with friends. My friends were desperate to go to Vietnam (somewhere I'd already been) so I made the momentous decision to have my own adventure and booked my first solo trip to Taiwan, followed by a few days in Hong Kong.
I spent my first couple of days in Taiwan hiking in the stunning Taroko Gorge National Park. If you’re going to be taking part in activities such as hiking whilst you travel, you may need to take out additional insurance. You can check the FCO Travel Aware page for more information. I was waiting for the shuttle bus that took you to different trails around the park when I met a friendly couple who were avid travellers.
We hiked to a waterfall together and spent the whole time talking about our travel histories, plans and endless travel dreams. They had both been frequent solo travellers before they met and I felt like I'd joined a special community by taking the plunge with solo travel myself. When I peacefully watched the sunset alone over the Taipei 101 tower a few nights later, I knew I'd crossed a threshold I would never go back on.
On the other hand, mere moments earlier, I was hiking to the viewpoint and had my first unsettling encounter as a solo traveller. It only lasted a few seconds but it reminded me that I was a young woman alone in a foreign country. This is the darker aspect of solo travel that can be a huge factor in why many people don't want to try it. It's such a shame because these experiences are so rare and so long as you stay alert, smart and prepared, you'll have a safe and rewarding trip. The FCO offers plenty of advice on staying safe whilst you’re abroad.
An older, drunk Taiwanese man nearby on the trail got close to me and said, “You look like a nice girl”. I had a moment of panic as I realised I was alone, far along the trail and far away from anybody else. He immediately carried on walking and I didn't see him again so there was nothing to worry about but unfortunately, that feeling of danger is part of the reality of being any solo traveller, and particularly a young female solo traveller.
My advice is to always keep your wits about you, be aware of what's going on around you and any strange characters that you notice. Although he may have meant no harm, if you begin feeling unsettled or sense danger then move towards a crowd or leave the area. If you find yourself in a worse-case scenario then at least ensure you have a basic understanding of self-defence (i.e. hit with the palm of your hand or elbow and aim for vulnerable areas such as the chin, groin or knee).
However, I will tell you that on all my solo travels, I never once encountered any issues and have had the best times of my life whilst travelling alone, all whilst becoming a stronger and better person because of it.
You've got to have the right attitude if you travel alone; being open-minded, brave and adaptable is key. The best thing you can do is be prepared but some of the best experiences I've had whilst travelling have in fact been spontaneous. Don't be afraid to change your mind, make last-minute decisions and alter your plans but always make sure that you are being safe and smart.
I personally like to create a loose itinerary for each day when I'm planning a trip. My main reason for doing this is so I can see everything I want to see in the timeframe I've got. Another massive benefit of daily planning is that it helps you budget. I love researching the places I'm visiting and finding all the hidden gems and exciting opportunities available. When you become passionate about the places you're visiting, your experiences will be so much better and more fulfilling, so do plenty of research beforehand (including checking vaccination and visa requirements!)
Without a doubt, solo traveling can be challenging and it can be tiring and daunting and strange but in my opinion it's the best way to travel. I got so much more out of my trips when I travelled alone and I learnt so much more about the places I was visiting and about myself. I went from being enticed and curious, but completely afraid of solo travel, to not wanting to travel any other way.
If you're even just considering the idea of solo travel, just do it. You won't look back. Trust me.
Author: Chloe Lawson is an avid solo traveller from the UK. She has travelled to over 30 countries and 10 of these solo. Since her first solo trip over a year ago, she has never looked back.