October 16, 2013

A Tale of Solo Traveler

Many people keep asking me about my interest on solo traveling. Why I love traveling alone, and even become addicted to it. Dangerous, lonely, and many other bad perception towards solo traveling are known. It seems like to travel by yourself would feel pointless. Here I will try to answer for those who are curious about it. You'd do well not to generalize this opinion to every solo traveler out there, as this is my own belief on matter.

It's funny seeing the various responses people would give me when I told them that I travel alone. Well, if I tell them face to face, they would most likely be surprised, looking at me as if I'm a weirdo and "what the hell are you doing to travel alone? you don't have any friends? are you insane?" Written all over their faces. After that, they repeat the same question - that is it true that I want to travel alone - as though they don't believe the girl standing in front of them is a solo traveler. Then they would ask other questions to satiate their curiosity. Well, yeah, if you see me just from my appearance, you would probably see me as most people do: a demure girl who is totally, absolutely very much distant from adventurous activities such as solo traveling. And if you do, I’m sorry to say that you’re looking at me from the wrong angle, dude :)

The most common question that people ask me is about my couragethe answer to which I honestly am not sure of. I don't know why but I always think that as long as we travel in the right way, we will be safe. I always remember what my mom said to me (not only in this case, but everywhere I go) about the most important things when I'm traveling alone: Firstly, don't look people in the eye when you pass by them, especially the ones you deem suspicious. Second, don't walk in quiet streets/places and don't go outside after dark. Third, don't show your weaknesses, which in my case is my "daydream" habits. And the last one, always pretend you have the ability to fight people even when you don't, which means you have to act tough when the situation calls for it, such as by sporting the “apa lo liat-liat” glare *heheheh. As long as you are cautious, I guess everything would be fine. At least, it’s been working for me so far.

My mom is the best solo traveler I’ve ever known. Among the questions that people asked me, one in particular got stuck in my head. The question more or less sounded like this: “I just don’t get it, how could she allow you to do this by yourself?” Well, if you want to hear the truth, my parents---especially Mom---freaked out when they knew that I wanted to travel by myself, but she finally understood after I had explained to her that I wanted to do this because I love it, and that I just preferred to travel alone these days. To this she calmed down and said,”Oh…you’re just like me. I also love traveling alone”. Afterwards she began to trust me because she knew how great it feels to travel alone. Thank you, Bun, for being such a wise mother and inspiring traveler.

Solo traveling teaches me life lessons that shape me into a better person. I had never imagined that I would be so addicted to solo traveling. I used to have this serious illness which doesn’t let me to get too exhausted, meaning I would always have to have someone watching over me just in case something bad happens; I’m careless and forgetful; I’m literally a daydreamer, my mind easily wonders whenever and wherever and I wouldn’t realize it until I’m doing it, much like breathing in that it just happens; I tend to act clumsy upon meeting someone new; I’m na├»ve because I often see something and someone in a positive way which isn’t really a good trait to have when you’re on your own. Solo traveling has taught me to turn these weaknesses of mine into life lessons that I couldn’t possibly hope to attain otherwise. Since I’ve traveled alone, I can and always do take care of myself and everything more than ever; I can say “no” to people; I’m not as gullible; I became more aware of my own limits and try not to do anything that I feel well beyond my capability; I open myself to people, try not to be clumsy and instead be more adaptive. The surprise is the biggest thing. It teaches me about a way of life that I knew nothing about before and I gain a view of what the world is like. 

I want to have fond memories about places and the people in itThe main reason why I love traveling alone is simply because since I moved here, there has been no one who really knows me and vice versa. For some people, it's fine to travel with people even when you really don't know them, but for me, I prefer to travel alone rather than with people I’m not close with. I tried to have several trips with some people who I’m not well-acquainted though, yet the result was always the same. I hardly got anything except a good picture of myself in bad situations which could’ve came off as bad memories if I hadn’t been with people in those situations. But then I finally realized one thing: that even with the people I am comfortable with, it felt the same. So far, when I try to remember my previous travels with them, the memories of me traveling *with* them are stronger than the memories of me *visiting* the place. Even though I can still remember the places, it is just the place, not the story nor memorable thing that I remember. But when I travel alone, the places I visit would leave a greater impression than when I go with people.

It doesn’t just happen to me, but also with my other friends who do solo travel. While one of them told me obviously that she could hardly remember anything about her traveling with her friend, she could still remember clearly when she traveled alone. My other friend told me many things about her adventure and her conversation and other interactions with the local people when she traveled alone, but when I asked her to tell me about her story when she traveled with her friends, she was only able to tell me about the funny things that happened with her friends, and not a single thing special about the place that she had visited. Then from that, I concluded one thing: "if you want to look for good memories with people/your travel partner then don't travel alone, but if you are looking for unforgettable memories which give you an insight into the nature of the place and its people then it is way much better to travel alone".

Whereas most people would avoid getting lost when they travel, I actually love it. They’d get anxious on the thought of finding themselves alone and at a loose end in a place they don’t have any idea about. On the other hand, I can’t think of any better way to get to know places while also getting excited about the unexpected. I just feel like I’m on a real adventure when I get lost. Indeed, for me it’s an opportunity to explore, to get pleasantly disoriented, to rush past familiar sights and dawdle over only the things I want to see.

I also love to found myself. Traveling alone makes me think more about myself, about life, about other people in my life. And that's what I love from traveling alone. It's not only allowed you to learn and think about the place you visit and people you meet, but also about yourself. By thinking about it, I can learn more about myself, I know myself better, I found the aspects of me that I haven't found before.

Another big advantage I feel when I travel alone is the freedom of choice and everything I do. This is especially felt when I want to go to a place that I've always dreamed of, I prefer to travel alone. Why? It's simply because I don't want other people who will be the partner in my traveling ruin that moment and the traveling I have will not meet my expectation because of them. You know, sometimes when you are traveling with people it's much more complicated. Starting from choosing an accommodation, places to visit, when or where to eat, walking, etc. Me, honestly I don't really care about the place I want to stay if I travel in a short time.I’d rather buy cheap food from the local markets or shops and then eat it on the way than having to eat at restaurants and staying in place. Furthermore, I love traveling by foot, while most people would choose taking faster means of transportations. For me, street is the best place (the market being a close secondin which you really can feel the local culture and life, not the touristic places. So, if you just take one metro to other, or just visit touristic places, you would miss so much the real atmosphere of local culture and life, and I hate that. There are many other things that fall under my consideration when traveling with other people, especially ones who I don't know well.

Alone does not always mean lonely. The big upside I feel when I travel alone is the total independence. I’m grateful that I was born as a mixture of independent, adventurous, and introverted person. Believe it or not, I don’t feel lonely when I’m traveling alone. The only time when I do feel a bit lonely is whenever the sun goes down while I’m still outside. Unless the daylight fades, I hardly feel lonely, even when I eat alone in the middle of a crowd.

The only thing I dislike from traveling alone is when dusk comes. I always face the dilemma of choosing between staying outside or going back to the accommodation where I stay, because both choices have their downsides. To be honest, I prefer staying outside so I could see the beautiful city lights. But I know it's very risky to go around alone in any places at night. On the other hand, going back early to the accommodation sometimes makes me feel lonely. I would say it depends on the type of accommodation itself and also my mood. When I'm lucky enough to have a comfortable accommodation and get to meet nice people while I’m at it, I will be fine. But when there is no one I can talk to and my mood is not good, then I can feel the bad thing of traveling alone.

I take much more photos than most people do. This is another reason why I don’t want to travel with other people, especially ones that don’t like taking pictures or those who cannot enjoy their surroundings. From my experience, I was always left behind because I could not stop myself from taking pictures of beautiful, eye-catching objects. I love seeing details in everyday objects that most people would not care to recognize. Also to be honest, all the pictures you can see on my previous post are good as they are because I was not in a hurry when I took them, and because I never opted to skip or pass potential photo materials just because I needed to catch up to my traveling partner(s).

I still have the chance to have a picture of me, but really, I don't care about my (self) picture when I travel alone. Some people keep asking me about the pictures of myself when I travel alone. Well, if you were talking with the me from several years ago, she would probably be concerned about the pictures of me when I travel. But now, I really don't care about that. I'm not anymore the person who takes pictures of herself in front of "touristic" or symbolic places and put them all on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or any kind of social media you can put your photos on. Sorry for those of you who do, as it doesn't matter actually because it depends on the person, doesn’t it? In my case, I just don't feel that way. Well, the other truth is, *ehm* I can be so demanding about my photos if I feel I'm dressed properly enough (I know I'm such a phony) and thus it makes me expectant to be photographed (I know I'm such a phony). But when I travel alone, I don’t dress myself (and even if I do, I don't expect to be captured). Thus, I do not care about my presence in my photographs anymore

Just because I love traveling alone doesn't mean I don't want to travel with other people anymore. Even a solo traveler is still a human! haha. Of course, I want to travel with my parents, my family, my best friends, my future husband, my future daughter and son, and even my friends who aren’t really close with me. How much addicted am I on solo traveling, it still feels good to have traveling companion who I can share my excitement.

Last but not least, for those of you who haven't tried solo traveling, I highly recommend you to try, even once in your life. If you like it, then you’d know what I feel. But if you don't like it, then at least you had an experience about it. For all the girls who are reading this, maybe some of you are willing to try but haven't believed in yourself. Well, I think you should start doing so, and also be more confident of your own capability. We are girls who, sooner or later, will be a mother of our own children. I always remind myself to do whatever I like, to reach my dreams, to understand myself and to become a better person before I have a life commitment to be a wife and a mother. Someday, we won't have much chance to do it again, and even if we still do, it will no doubt be different than now. Our priorities and obligations will be much different. So, for those of you who still have the time to be on your own, go. Explore the world, get as much as experience you can, muster your courage, find yourself and then come back when you are ready :)

"Travel only with thy equals or thy betters; 
if there are none, travel alone"
The Dhammapada

*special thanks to my brother, Ali Araafi, for the editing


  1. ozuu sehati bangeet. bru aku mau nulis ttg woman traveling alone. aku juga mengalami hal yg sama. sejujurnya sih klo aku, lbh suka jalan2 sndri. berasa lebih menikmati suasana kotanya. klo grup maks. 3 orang.
    bahkan pas jalan2 sendiri, hasil foto2 biasanya lebih oke krna kita selow ga merasa keburu2 ada yg ngguin.

  2. aaa bheellaa, ayo tulis juga di blog-mu, mari kita sebarluaskan bahwa solo traveling itu menyenangkan! hehe.

    aku juga maksimal banget 3 org deh, kalo udah lebih dari itu pasti udah ga berekspektasi banyak sama trip-nya karena tau ujung2nya bakal ga sesuai ekspektasi haha.

    iya bener banget bheel, setelah aku traveling sendiri dan brg org lain bbrp kali, akhirnya bener2 nyadar kalo foto2nya kebanyakan yg oke pas solo traveling.

  3. yesss!!! memang yg agak bete kalo org mandang sebelah mata sm solo traveller hahahah.

    btw ozuuu, aku tiap baca postingan ini mataku selalu ketaut sm foto yg plg akhir. suka bangeeet. tone warnanya oke, angleny oke, semua kombinasinya dlm 1 frame oke bangeeet. ozu keren xDDD

  4. U have pretty hands Nazura. I pinned your blogpost on my Pinterest.

  5. @bhella: hahaha iyaaa aku juga paling suka foto terakhir bheell hihihii :D
    @lovinitta: thank youuu :)

  6. Ozuuuu.. paham bener deh ngerasain banget semua kata yang kamu tulis di sini. Hehhee.

    1. Aaaa ka Ayuuu! kapan - kapam sharing juga dong kaaak pengalamannya pas solo traveling di Korea dan Jepang. pasti seru dehhh! :)

  7. Inspiring banget!! Boleh minta e-mailnya? mau nanya2 nih hehe makasi ya :) salam kenal btw