Saturday, April 11, 2015

solo travel

earlier this year, i went to catanduanes. all alone. and just like my solo travels in in the past, the question i get is always… "are you alone?". some even go overboard by blurting lines like "don't you have any friends" or "i can't imagine traveling all by myself". others ask "aren't you afraid traveling solo" or "why travel alone". well, the simple answer is why not. many writers have already noted the joys and advantages of traveling solo. i follow and this community has provided not only travel itineraries for solo travelers but more importantly, wrote many articles on travel safety and do's and don’t's when traveling all by yourself.

for me, what solo travel gives is that true sense of freedom and independence. during my weekend in virac, i didn't feel like going back to the hotel right after a tricycle tour of the town of bato. so what i did was to check out the small but packed catanduanes provincial museum since i still have 30 minutes before it closes. the following day, i didn't feel like having breakfast so had my head shaved first before heading to the carinderia right beside the hotel. one can easily tweak the itinerary during a solo trip, no one to argue with, especially if you're travel companion is a "queasy" or itinerary-nazi one and striking a compromise is not even  needed.

a solo traveler has the freedom to think of no one but himself. i long wanted to see borobodur ever since my asian civilization subject during second year high school. so when i was given the chance to be in jakarta for a business trip, i grabbed the opportunity to book an airasia flight to yogyakarta and spent 2 days to see borobodur and nearby prambanan. again, i didn't have to consider factors such as your companion having no enough budget or that someone wants to cut the trip short. i'm pretty flexible when it comes to accommodation so there was no need to deliberate over prices or even location. it was an easy breezy affair.

on the subject of food, a solo traveler has the wild abandon of eating what you want, when to eat main meals and where to eat. from nong khai to vientiane, the bus ride was about 2.5 hours. the only hassle is the long line in the immigration counter entering laos. i only had cupcake provided by the bus company so i didn't have anything to eat. good thing, lunch can come in bamboo tubes courtesy of a nice lady selling rice cakes cooked and packed in a bamboo tube. while waiting for the rest of the passengers to come back to the bus, she offered me 2 options, 1 sweet and the other one a bit spicy. i of course went with the sweet one but didn't have any clue on how to get the sweet treat inside. she took back both bamboo tubes and broke them in one swoosh. i had my early lunch ala pinoy's inangit.
you have all the time to dilly-dally when you're on a solo travel. on my last late afternoon in virac, i felt like doing nothing but to just walk around the town center and that was what i exactly did. i realized that i haven't seen the newly built pier yet so off i went there and spent a good 40 minutes watching the waves and young kids practicing their dive tricks. early in the evening, there was a program in front of the town hall so i sat there watching the province's named personalities dance the night away. sometimes it's also a good thing to be a bit indecisive and veer away from your schedule because that leads you to some nice discoveries such as a very nice lugawan/mamihan right across the one and only fastfood joint (jollibee) in catanduanes or a crowd-free temple in bangkok.

solo traveling also gives you the choice to not conform or to somewhat change someone else's view. if you feel like not talking to anyone, you can keep your mouth shut and only talk when asking for directions or placing an order. but if you feel like striking a conversation, you have all the time to do so. of course, oldies have long said that we should not talk to strangers but solo trips provide a venue for free expression of one's thoughts to complete strangers. in vientiane, i went to check out the happening scene near the river. many foreigners were already having their beers but i wanted a good laotian dinner. so i chose an al fresco restaurant and ordered grilled fish and salad (yes, very un-pinoy!). while waiting for my order, a mid-40s european lady sat on the next table. i thought she was waiting for a friend but it turned out that she was also traveling alone. some few smiles here and there and in no time, we were already chatting about travel. she said that she's already in her 4th week of travel in indochina but is afraid to travel eastward to the philippines because of security concerns and manila has a lot of touts and con artists. but the pinoy in me said that a tourist can get conned anywhere in the world, even in a quaint city like vientiane or moreso in cosmopolitan and so-called romantic cities like paris or rome. after downing our 2nd bottle of beer, we waved goodbye and she said that she'll be in manila soon.

of course, there's that feeling of uncertainty when traveling alone. after all, you're exploring all by yourself and you do not really know how the trip will turn out. but i must say that my solo trips were some of the best decisions i made. i booked a trip to cebu in december 2013 and up to the point that i already got to cebu city's south bus terminal, i still haven't decided where to go. i opted to stay in the city for a night and took to the bus station to go to argao the following day. that turned out to be a wonderful decision as it signaled a fun-tastic 3-day tour of southern cebu. historical walk in argao, quiet time, rock climbing and centuries-old church in boljoon, culminating in whaleshark watching, tumalog falls all to myself and heritage trail in oslob… superb trip!
in more ways, traveling solo is more relaxing. aside from having no one to bicker or compromise with, one would have a lot of quiet time. quiet time that you can use to look within yourself and examine your long-term plans. clichés put it well… "colors are more vivid and sounds are more meaningful" when traveling alone. one gets to appreciate the beauty all around you because you can have all the time in the world to stare at an artwork or a beautiful landscape. a forumer even said that solo travel allows for individuals to hear and appreciate history even more. during solo travel, one does not have to sit through incessant chatting especially with a talkative companion.
worry not… there will be a lot of interpersonal conversations as well. traveling solo will allow for tête-à-tête with random individuals, who by the way are not always after your money. aside from getting me to a nice, comfy and cheap accommodation in oslob, kuya mike (the trike driver) and i talked about how the bohol earthquake destroyed heritage trail in bohol as well as re-aligned cebu's eastern shore. in my chiang mai trip last october, the sawngthaew driver and i talked about life choices and how we are lucky to have our own families. 
with all the joys of solo travel, i'm not saying that all people should do is to go traveling solo all the time. we still need to connect with our own kind. travel is a shared experience that reinforces bond between family members and friends and according to cheche lazaro, keeps a marriage intact. but once in a while, it's always good to be on your own… your own travel all by yourself. every men and women must travel solo even just once in their lives. solo travel is an investment that never grows old, can never be taken away and actually enriches you as a person. 

so what are you waiting?! travel pa more and travel solo. as henry david thoreau said, "the man who goes alone can start today, but he who travels with another must wait till that other is ready."

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