2014 was not my year. But it was the year that I learned the joy of solo backpacking. It taught me things I never would have realized with all the ruckus and noise I’d have if I’d be with company.
It all started when I badly broke my heart and ego. Cliche hahaha! And looking back I was like, yeah thanks, I learned a lot.
Travelling alone helps you grow, mentally and emotionally, like an intimate meeting of oneself through solitude.
So here are the things I learned for about a year and half now of having solo travels:
1. You get to appreciate yourself and other people more than you thought you ever could.
You see people do things the way you wouldn’t, like how they won’t even blurt a wee “thank you” to a waiter or how they don’t use the word “please” as if saying it is a total waste of time. You see how the flaws in yourself that you were minding for years doesn’t really matter because everyone’s got them, like for example, I used to be really conscious about my stretchmarks and my not so curvy bikini body. But then, when I have gone solo on beaches, I gained that confidence and mindset that if I won’t mind it, then it doesn’t matter. Truly liberating that I get to accept who I am, and what I’m made of. (I may be bantering about my small boobs but hey, I love myself, I’m just stating a fact and wishing too heehee)
You also get to be mindful of other people who needs care and love, because you know well the lack of it. You learn to be more kind, courteous and tolerating. You may still be that bad ass bitch inside but you learn to know who needs to see that kind of person that you are. You become selectively bitchy in short.
You learn to observe people and that makes you think that what if you are in their shoes, would you be doing the same? You reflect on the person that you are and the person you want to be and most importantly, you discover the kind of people you want to be with.
I have this fear of taking trains. Not because it gets crowded. Whenever I am alone at a train station I can’t help but get intrusive thoughts that I might jump on the rails as the train comes closer. It scares me that I might do it. I literally panic when I have no other choice but to take the train. Though I only get the panic attacks whenever I am alone, I feel perfectly safe and sane though whenever I am with someone.
Whenever I am alone, I find time to try conquering this phobia. But sometimes anxiety catches me long before I get my ticket. Ha. But sometimes I get to conquer it. and those are one of the precious moments that I get to feel that I’ve gone really brave. It will take time I know but someday phobia I know, I will beat you.
Someday I’m gonna beat every fear. Every trigger I have. Just so you wait.
2. Freedom and Independence
You realize that you don’t really have to depend on others and depend on worldly things to make yourself happy, sometimes all you need is yourself and an eye for satisfaction.
You have all the time you need, and no one’s saying that you have to stay or get there at that time or what. Nobody’s telling you that you can’t just stay in the hotel room all day! You are free. You are all you need and time is in your hands! Plus you can eat whatever you like! No more, ‘oh you can’t eat that, you are lactose intolerant’.
On my first trip alone, I wake up early to swim as the sun slowly blazes to its morning warmth, and as people flock to meet the morning waves I get out of the water to get my breakfast and read on the hammock to my heart’s content. I had all the time I want and need. What could I ask for more?
You get to find ways and places on your own. When I travel alone, the most exciting part for me is finding my way around to my lodging place. I always make it a point to have the placed pinned on my phone’s map, as I get to it using GPS haha. Thank you technology.It’s like finding a way around your life’s mishaps. You realize that yes, you can actually get away from being ‘lost’.
3. You realize beauty and joy in the simplest of things.
Sometimes, when we travel with friends, we try to get most out of the travel by going in scenic places and going on tours in such cramped amount of time that you have. We hurry ourselves and take pictures then move to another, and you disguise satisfaction by having pictures just for the sake of being “there” too.
I realized on my solo goings that you don’t really have to do what others (aka travel blogs) have done. I realized that one learns to experience a place more if you only let the place, culture and the solitude speak to you. Like for example, I loved watching the sunset at La Union better than the tiredness I felt after the tour at Baler. Though I’m not saying that I did not love Baler, or don’t take the tours.
All I’m saying is, in that precious moment that you appreciate the place just for being it, devoid of all the pageantry for tourism, it’s overwhelming. It makes my heart aflutter with the raw beauty it presents.
Like also for example my solo trip at Baguio. It was a couple of days alone and I enjoyed it. Most of the time though, I was at the inn. Having tea at the cafe and reading. Well I did enjoy early morning walks through the stretch of Session Road, looking for cafes to have breakfast in, getting around the city and when I tire by midday (most likely by 11am) I go back to my inn. And after that, I’d chill and sleep on my room and eat when I wake up. I would have wanted to go out at night but nah, I loved the inn’s cafe, they served heartwarming meals and generous cups of tea, it was so homey.
But what I really loved with my stay in Baguio was my room at night. It had a nice view of the city and beautiful nightlights. And that made me realize that sometimes we need not go anywhere else to find that view for us to appreciate a place at its fullest, because sometimes what you were looking for is right outside your window.
And of course never will I forget my walk trips along Abbey Road and the whole neighborhood of NW8 aka St. John’s Wood (it’s like the highstreet of Central London). Who would have thought there was beauty in a wallfull stretch of vandals? I was breathing history through my nostrils. I was fortunate that I was just a block away from this road. (Was not really alone at London, I was staying at my relatives but most of the time whenever I don’t have sessions I get to walk and explore alone)
When you’ve gone places on your own, you learn to find your own kind of view and why not in turn try to appreciate what it offers? It’s like how we need to find our own view with things in our life, and that we should not settle for something just because it’s everyone’s point of view, you are entitled to your own. Find it.
They didn’t have much in life but they managed to smile and be happy with what they have, unlike us, we have almost everything we’d basically need yet we still find reasons to not be joyous. I then realized that maybe we have to remind ourselves that we have to be thankful of what we have and find joy in the littlest things. We are more than fortunate with the things that we have right this very moment.
We can never be contented enough, and we’d be frustrated a lot, but that is how life does for everyone. Enough happiness is a matter of satisfaction. Let’s appreciate the things we might have overlooked or that we might have taken for granted. We are more than blessed, so learn to smile!
4. Little acts of kindness makes the world a better place.
I believe our country abounds of kind people. It’s just that we get really paranoid of deceit that sometimes we take it for granted, sometimes we even dismiss it.
I have had random kindness acts from total strangers. Like that guy who lent me a peso for I the conductor had no change for my bills and I had no coins with me. Even had a milkshake from a random person because he said I looked too engrossed with my reading on the hammock, I must chill a bit (I wanted to know who it was but the waiter won’t budge that I just had to regard my thanks to whoever that milkshake was from). I have even witnessed people doing random acts of kindness in the urban, really rare though. My faith in humanity restored everytime.
And when you have seen so much kindness in a harsh world, you can’t help but be kind too.
London teems of kindness too but without the hint of suspiciousness we Filipinos have.
A guy handed me this note and asked if he could hug me. God I was taken aback at first but I said yes. It was a long hug. The kind of hug that calms. When I finally had my dose of hug he asked if I felt alright then. When I said yes, he smiled, turned and waved goodbye. I never knew his name but I believe that was the virtue of kindness: You don’t have to know who did it, it’s enough to feel that someone cares.
Also, I have had meals payed for in advance by people in front of me! It was not a one time incident though that had that feeling that I have to pay forward for the next in line to make their day too.
Kindness is damn contagious we should spread it. But as you are spreading kindness, don’t expect kindness in return. Kindness is a one way thing, but who knows maybe they may not have returned your kindness because they have given theirs to others. A domino effect that makes the harsh world a better place.
5. You discover things about the world and yourself.
One of the things that I discovered was the beauty of the classic reads. Of being a bookworm I have read almost every young adult mainstream bibliographies of John Green, Rainbow Rowell, David Levithan, Dan Brown, Neil Gaiman (except Sandman), JK Rowling (even her books as Robert Galbraith) every series, like GoT, LoTR, Percy Jackson.. etc. Yes. I’ve read a lot.
And when I came to stay for a few months in London I began to read Arthur Conan Doyle, Jules Verne even Edgar Allan Poe. I fell in love with their works. Sometimes I’d laugh at how impossible their scifi stories were as I was reading them, but then I realize the immense imagination they exhibited in their time.
I also finally learned how to make comfortable small talks with total strangers. I used to keep to myself when I’m alone but I learned that I can actually channel a conversationalist in me. I’m a really shy girl, but at times, I get to beat it.
6. You learn to decide the things worth having a run for your money, in short you become money wise.
On my first solo trip at Aninuan, Puerto Galera I preferred and I do recommend Sunset at Aninuan since we have been regulars there. Though I was familiar with the place, it felt different checking in alone. It is costly though, a room for two for P3300/night but it had alot of amenities and perks like, it had a bar, restaurant and pool exclusive for guests. Plus they had laundry services, hahaha. I loved their laundry service, eases your life after a tiring stay.
It was my first solo trip and it was weeks away before March good thing their rates weren’t on peak-season yet. I stayed for 2 nights there and it was literally money burn, had to bandage my wallet for a week or two after that.
My second solo trip was a result of a bit of frustration of our trip to Baler last September 2014. I felt like I have not enjoyed the place fully that I had to comeback on impulse that November of the same year (just before I leave again for London for a few weeks).
I booked the same hotel we had, costed me P1600 a night, not bad for the price because the crew were really attentive and friendly, plus you have guest kits, towels and slippers! Although wifi signal on my room that time wasn’t great I had to go out my room or into the lobby. But hey, I didn’t really go there to surf the net so I guess it doesn’t really matter.
The Kuyas also make sure to give you a glass of water after every swim. Really great service. I loved their menu too! Everything sounds yummy, looks yummy and is really yummy.
When I went to La Union last April, I booked an AC room at Lola Nanny’s for P500/day, hey not bad. It had a good location, and homely, lovely, droolably cooked meals though they had a common bath, which was not so bad at all.
I stayed for three days, actually wanting to stay longer.
And just this July, I spent some days at Baguio.
I actually have relatives there, but I preferred to book an inn instead to, of course, make it really a solo backpacking trip.
I found this inn mentioned in a blog that I had to look at it since it had a lot of good feedback. It was said to be cheap but really good.
I was wrong. It was not good. It was like home! It was definitely better than I expected.
I was given an ordinary room, no fan or AC because duh, it was really chilly you’d like to keep your windows closed at night. The room costed me P400/night really cheap and great deal because though it was a common bathroom (but male and female had it’s own) I realized I was the only woman renting a room that week. I had the restroom and bath for myself! I stayed for two nights, and I wanted to stay longer but I decided to go back to QC since there was a storm and I didn’t want to be trapped there in case the storm hits Benguet.
I wonder where I’ll go next and how cheap my lodge can get! I learned that you need not spend a lot for quick getaways, you’re there for the place, for the food, for the experience and you have to make every cent count to say you had the most out of it.
7. Alone and Lonely are two different things.
Alone is when you are on your own and you are satisfied by the company of yourself. You may be with yourself only, but you know you have others behind your back who support and believe in you.
Lonely is when you are in the company of yourself yet you want somebody else’s. It’s an unsatisfied feeling, like having someone/something else decide for your own happiness.
I never felt lonely when I traveled on my own. I just felt happy, independent, and strong.
I felt confident and I seemed to have carried that newfound confidence with me everywhere. I may still be the shy girl around cuties (hahahahaha) but who knows, maybe it’s just a ploy. 😜
Going on solo backpacking is really worthwhile. It’s refreshing and empowering. It gives you the feeling that you are in charge of yourself and what you want, and yes— no one can stop you.