As you read this I’ve just gotten back from spending Easter in the Philippines, and the week before I was celebrating Songkran in Thailand, therefore this will be my last post from my time in Malaysia for a while, other than a few more Foto Fridays. So it’s time to talk about something I really haven’t talked about much on this site before– solo female travel.
My trip to Malaysia was my first time truly traveling solo as a female.
Although it’s a bit embarrassing to admit, I’ll be honest, minutes before boarding my plane I sat in the airport here in Hong Kong bawling my eyes out, debating whether or not I should get on the plane.
My flight departure had been delayed an hour, luckily, for my sake, and while everyone else lined up cheering that the plane was finally here and ready to board, I stood there in line crying, while those around me just stared.
So let’s back up a bit.
Originally I had booked these flights on impulse back in September because they had an insanely cheap sale ($40 round trip!) and I figured it would be best to swoop them up while I could and figure out the logistics later… as I often like to do. So I quickly hit ‘purchase’ and landed myself two roundtrip tickets to Kuala Lumpur.
Planning was coming along nicely, until we found out Johnny’s company wasn’t going to give him the days off to go.
Okay, no problem, I thought to myself, I’ll just ask some friends if they’d like to join me instead.
A week before departure, I still wasn’t sure if either of the parties I had invited would be able to go with me. Two days before the flight, I found out neither could.
Thinking things over I finally decided, I’ll go by myself.
Honestly, I was a bit nervous. Sure, I travel around Hong Kong by myself, and I traveled around a lot of Japan by myself as well. But traveling and exploring places when you live in that country is totally different than flying to a new country to explore on your own. In these places I knew the culture, the language, and how to get around by myself. Traveling to Malaysia would be the first time I was really traveling solo.
After spending a day coming to terms with the idea, I started to actually get excited…. until the day of the flight.
As more and more friends and coworkers found out I was traveling alone they began to question why, especially for my pick of destinations.
“Don’t you know KL is one of the most dangerous cities in the world?” was the response I was given by more than a few people. I began to get anxious as usual and second-guess my decision.
I began to consider my safety arriving at 2am to a new country, and decided to pre-book a coach into the city since I knew I didn’t feel comfortable taking a taxi alone at that time of night. Upon trying to purchase the bus ticket, I realized my card recently had a hold put on it.
Great. Now I literally had no way to access money other than the cash I would be bringing. I began to get even more insecure.
After work I quickly met Johnny to say goodbye before heading to the airport. Check in and immigration went smoothly and I headed to my gate only to realize the plane had been delayed an hour.
To keep myself from feeling more anxious I tried to keep myself busy by using the free WiFi. Since I couldn’t book a transfer to my hostel, I decided I would wait it out at the airport in KL until it was morning before taking a bus or taxi into the city, so I sent an e-mail to the hostel stating that I would be arriving in the morning rather than at night.
Minutes later they responded telling me that they had not actually confirmed my booking and they were sold out for the week.
I now had nowhere to stay, no credit card to make any bookings, and was going alone. It was like the universe was telling me not to go. I sat there in tears frantically typing an e-mail back to the hostel while trying to call Johnny.
Over the intercom I heard them announce that the plane had arrived and boarding had started.
A few minutes later I got a reply from the hostel that they found a spot for me, except for only one night of my trip. Johnny also confirmed he had gotten ahold of our bank and that the credit card should work again.
I stood in line trying to balance all of my belongings in place with one hand, while trying to quick find another nearby hostel on my iPad with the other. I decided I might as well try again to make a booking with the credit card, and without failure, the card went though. The hold had indeed been removed.
Despite feeling minutes ago like everything in the universe was trying to prevent me from taking this trip, things were now finally coming together. I breathed a deep sigh of relief as the flight attendant checked my ticket and ushered me on board.
The rest of the trip went without a hitch and it was actually one of the best trips I’ve taken thus far. To think I almost didn’t make it to Kuala Lumpur that day.
Over this short weeklong trip I learned a lot about myself, and when reflecting on my experiences it dawned on me that traveling alone is dangerous.
Why? Not because it’s unsafe, not because I’m a women, but because it’s addicting; it’s empowering.
Coming back from my trip, I wholeheartedly believe that every girl should go on a trip alone at least once in her lifetime. It’s now something I’m going to strive to do at least once per year.
Nowadays, girls are not independent enough, and it’s about time that changed.
Traveling solo allows you to be independent; it forces you to become self-sufficient.
As I navigated airports, buses, getting lost at night, language barriers, and learning to sleep in a shady airport I quickly learned a lot about myself and just how capable I was when I only had myself to rely on. By having to face these challenges on your own, you will grow and become a stronger person.
Traveling solo allows you to gain experience and skills needed in life, and not just on the road. People who travel are typically adaptable, self-sufficient, tolerant and problem solvers– which is why employers love to hire people who travel!
Not too mention the wonders travel works on your confidence. Feeling confident actually makes me feel stronger as a person and less likely to become a victim of crime while I’m abroad. And honestly, after more than two years of travel, I can honestly say the place I’ve felt the most at risk was back home in Chicago.
Traveling solo forces you to be aware of what’s going on around you, and it forces you to be street smart. While most of the world is good, there of course are always going to be people trying to scam or take advantage of tourists. You need to know how to fend for yourself in the real world, and the best way to learn comes from experience.
And don’t let the thought of becoming lonely deter you from traveling alone. Being your own company is needed every now again, and if you really want to make friends, you will.
I thought it would be so difficult to meet people while traveling, but I ended up meeting a ton of awesome like-minded people. Many of them were traveling for months at a time, and talking with them honestly only fueled my addiction to travel more. So don’t think that traveling alone will change you into an introvert, because I’ve found it actually makes me more outgoing!
After feeling more confident, becoming more self-reliant, and meeting people who are actually living the lifestyle I want, my love for travel has only grown. Traveling solo only added to my travel addiction– which is why for me, it’s dangerous.
While I know solo travel isn’t for everyone, it’s something you’ll never know you enjoy it until you try. So whether it’s a short weekend getaway in a new nearby city or a month-long backpacking trip through an unfamiliar culture, just get out there and do it.
Life is all about living and taking chances, trying new things and pushing yourself out of your bubble of a comfort zone, and solo travel provides the perfect opportunity to do just that.