Some people say it takes guts. Some say it takes willpower. I say, all it takes is a fraction of a second, when egged on by your conscience and a deep desire to break free from the mundane, you decide to give ‘solo travel’ a go! The more you think, the more it’s not happening. Work, husbands, children, pets, plants… all tie us down. But it’s so liberating to see how everyone can manage without drowning or dying when you are away for a few days, just lazing without worrying about the laundry and sundries.
Get that delectable double-scooped gelato. Get your hands messy with that loaded gyro. Wear that polk-dotted frock. Take out your sunnies. Finish reading that last chapter. Take lots of photos (and selfies). And you will discover more than the landscape – yourself.
A lot has changed since my first solo trip in 2013 when on a whim I decided to travel to Phuket, a destination that seems to have earned its reputation mostly from vices .
“Who travels to Phuket solo? It’s like the Las Vegas of the East!”, asked an extremely inquisitive friend.
Saw the madness, survived the vice, and enjoyed! I discovered the Phuket that is usually forgotten in the blinding neon lights of Bangla Road, the cheap the cacophony of overcrowded bars or the cursed hangovers. Serene beaches, a beautiful nun’s monastery, a chance meeting with a renowned numerologist, a pearl fishers’ village and a quaint tea room in the lanes little known.
All the demons that a solo woman traveller is asked to wield the pepper spray against, decided to give me the slip and glad, was I not! Maybe I was plain lucky or just strategically smart. Whatever it was, I’ll give you a first hand account of how to enjoy your solo vacation without a solo moment of boredom or insecurity!
Never let your guard down: Ok, I’ll bring on the grandmotherly advice first . But believe me, Paulo Coelho’s theory of the conspiring universe applies in the reverse when you pray not to. From the moment you request an aisle seat or an upgrade because you are travelling alone, you are on the radar of every prying eye in the terminal. Sharpen your Swiss knife and keep your curt replies handy.
Choose a companion: I mean the kinds that fit into your handbag! A good book or a loaded iPod can follow join you in the tub, lie beside you at the beach, court you at the dining table and lull you into sleep. And sometimes, I like a glass of mellow Merlot to give some competition to the usuals!
Find your spot: For me familiarity gives me a sense of comfort, so I used to visit the same restaurant and mostly in the evenings because I wanted to be within a 5-minute walking distance of my resort. Just after a day, the waiters knew me and then even the owner. And that was my dinner spot forever. If you sense the friendly vibes, stay put. You will be rewarded with complimentary desserts, dish of the day, cocktails and a table with the best view.
Make new friends: “I want to go to Dovi”, wrote Mizoku from Japan in her email, a chain that started ever since we randomly shared a beach umbrella in Surin Beach. After almost an hour of listening to her lovingly convoluted vowels, I gathered Dovi stands for Dubai. And she likes garlic naans and Rajnikanth (not necessarily in that order). Nevertheless, that evening we chatted like old friends, shared some wine and my tripod got a lot of rest!
Go with the flow: You aren’t answerable to anyone or have to keep up with anyone, so enjoy that liberty. If you want back-to-back massages on the beach or sundowners, go for it. If you spot a little beach shack with wafting smells of grilled seafood, walk towards it. If you hear a band playing, follow it and dance. If you see smiling children, make them happier!
Learn something new: After all, you’ve ventured out for an experience… so go all out! I chanced upon the famed Blue Elephant Cooking School and Restaurant and instantly decided to court the feisty Thai spices. I visited the local market, chopped, sliced, cut, stirred and voila…a full 4-course Thai lunch that I shared with a complete stranger! My CV now has an added skill and my kitchen shelves got some prized Blue Elephant goodies. And did I mention a certificate to show off?
Find your Moment: Go out and do what makes you feel alive. Pursue the moment that comes and goes in a flash but leaves you with a lifetime of fulfillment. Mine was feeling the salt and sand cleanse my being.
I stayed at Ayara Hilltops, a 2-minute walk to Surin beach, serene and comfortably out of town
I booked: Meet The Locals tour from Phuket Heritage Trails. My lovely guide Chaya showed me the real Phuket and it’s local secrets, including lunch at a local Kopitiam )coffe and lunch house). Highly recommended.
The moment travel resumes, I am rushing out for my next again. It’s been long. Ladies need your suggestions for a place that has the sun, sand, music, good food and that can be afforded on a freelance writer’s pennies. Please share your experiences and inspire me.
And like they say, ‘What happens in ______ stays in _____!’ I’ll fill in the blanks and save it for our sisters’ solo trip club 🙂
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