Monday, December 8, 2008

Tips for Solo traveling

"Remember what Bilbo used to say: It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to...

- Frodo to Sam"
— J.R.R. Tolkien

1. Why solo traveling? and what drive you to do and enjoy the trip?

Well, it was a coincident actually. I had friend who plan to go Ireland together while we were in work back in UK, but it turned out she wasn't able to do for some reason. So I decided to have a go on myself. Yups do everything by myself; from research, planning, and action (booking hostel, route and find budget flight).

Then I discovered that when you travel solo it doesn't mean that you will go alone all along way. I met local who give more insight view about places and knowledge about culture. I met fellow backpacker who willing to share transport or accommodation. So why I never lonely when traveling on my own, because we can concentrate to learn what actually happen in our environment. Cultural changing, people speaking, how the local treat you and digging more information about the background of the travel itself. Places, foods, transportation, or simply the customs. As a traveller we absorb and study, looking the wisdom that can be missed when we travel in groups.

2. So what should we prepare to travel solo?
  • research about destination, make a point or themes that you are very keen to do/to see. For example : culinary travel to Luang Prabang, or Archeology adventure in Angkor Wat. Put this theme as the based of the goal and work based on that. Research can be with internet or books (guide books or travel books that inspire you).
  • decide what kind travel style you want to go. Quick, easy and no hassle or backpacking, more arduous and strenuous. This is relate to most of the other travel aspects. If you want to go backpacker style in tight budget, be prepare using public transport or walking with your backpack. If you want something more sophisticated, choose based from your convenience. Some people love challenges (that's why Amazing Race is so addicted), some people just want a quiet vacation. It's your style and you can change anytime you want.
  • then started looking for flight, bus, ferry or any kind transport that move you one to another places. Look at map, decide how you go, which country to start and so on. Create your own itinerary based on the other people, or tour agency or make on your own etc
  • make sure you know about travel document and foreign currency. Well this is why math can be useful in real life :) Travel Document like passport and visa (is VOA-visa on arrival or have to apply visa before hand?)
  • put the plan on the paper, you can do day by day, hour by hour or just putting grand idea what you want to do.
  • exchange with fellow traveller with any open suggestion. This is why forum and mailing list so important. You can rely on social networking (FaceBook, MySpace, Frendster etc) but everybody got their own opinion. Don't just walk off because someone try to scare you about destination :)

3. Places I have been solo, mainly UK, Ireland and some Asia

4. The overall preparation is depend on the length of the travel and the complexity of the tasks. Yeah, some area is remaining mystery but some place just so easy to walk in (big city or capital tend to better infrastructure than off beaten track). This is normal timeline for travel in 5 days somewhere in Laos (part-time not fully preparation)
  • Planning the route based on the map and current situation 3-4 days
  • Searching budget flight and accommodation 1-3 weeks, if possible get the advanced booking
  • Activity and things to in details. 3 days including booking 1 week
  • Read and learn local info 1-2 weeks (it's up to you, if you just want to jump to the sightseeing bus and off).

5. Tips to start solo travel :

First, ready for psychology barrier that sometimes put ourself in doubt. It's not material things but it's about how you build your own confidence. The challenge is knowing your ability to balance with so called unpredicted factors that could be occur during travel. Let's say : what should I do if someone rob my belonging or what I can do if I am getting lost. By realizing any possibility of problems and it's solution should bring peace in mind. You not have to planning everything in details, but using common sense and how-to attitude, I think everybody should be able to cope with fear or over-excitement. Once you passed this barrier, you will surprisingly easy to do next solo travel.

Second, grab the correct information. I said 'correct' can be translate as 'official information' above gossip or hear'nsay. So many online forum there that need to check and recheck, guide books that out of date or just miss match information. In this jungle of virtual information we have to have a lead to drive us in the right way. The destination information design to lure tourist. They can be full of persuasive language that their place is the best in the world. But all of those is up to your judgment. We're also have to prepare to bad side of travel and accept it as the part of travel itself. We never hope to have honeymoon trip all the time :)

Third, adjust quickly. I mean everything. From foods, time difference, language, cultural, or even behavior or daily customs. The key to survive hassle is try to get to know local, read about them or even learn the language just for the sake of easy conversation. The local people is your asset if something bad happen to you. Your attitude towards them reflects the relation itself.

Four, map map map. Sorry to say that but the key to better travel is knowing where you are. Map is the key to access many useful info such as : accommodation, transport, food etc. Most important is know HOW TO READ map, it can be paper based or GPS. All the planning stage always very useful with map on hand. How to prepare day tour, moving around or choosing places to stay.

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