The First Time I Traveled Alone
Traveling alone can be scary, stressful, and anxiety-inducing. I remember the first time I traveled alone like it was yesterday.
I was not particularly young when I truly traveled alone though. In fact, I was 27 years old, living in South Korea, and had already traveled to several places, such as the UK and Italy. However, this trip was different. Unlike the other times I had traveled, this was the first time I had literally planned the trip out from start to finish by myself with no outside assistance. In the past, I always had assistance with the planning, and someone else usually took care of the finer details such as the accommodations, flights, and visas. All I had to do was just pack what I needed, show up at the airport, and make sure I was on the plane. After that, everything else was taken care of. However, the first time I truly traveled alone, it was different since I was responsible for everything from start to finish.
I researched airline ticket prices, hotels and hostels, any visa requirements, figured out what I wanted to see, and how much time I would spend in each country. I also had to figure out how to get to the airport from where I was living in South Korea at the time and make sure I could make it back. Therefore, I needed to be aware of the transportation situation. I tried to plan all of this while still keeping a budget that I had set for myself.
In 2011, I had been living in South Korea for just under a year, and a two-week long vacation was coming up. A lot of other people were figuring out travel plans, but I was somewhat on the fence about it. On one hand, I definitely wanted to head somewhere since the thought of just spending two weeks in my shoebox-sized apartment did not appeal to me, yet I was scared. I had never actually planned out a trip before on my own, especially a trip to another overseas location. The whole thing seemed daunting, and it was.
If I have to be honest, the same fears I had before I moved to South Korea and spent six weeks in Rome came up again. Familiar questions such as "How will I get around?", "What if something happens?", "What if I get lost, and I don't speak the language?" rushed through my head. However, in addition to those questions, I had other questions such as "How do I book a plane ticket?", "How will I get to the hotel?", "How do I figure out visa issues?"
Someone else always dealt with those types of issues, but now I would be responsible for dealing with it. All of these questions that flowed through my head overwhelmed me and caused me more stress. I almost decided to forego the trip out of fear and my perceived inability to figure something like this out, but thankfully my desire to visit another country won out in the end, and I'm incredibly grateful that it did.
Despite my fear of not really knowing how to plan out a trip, I knew this would be a big chance to prove to myself that I could actually plan out something relatively complicated, and I did not want to let myself down. Plus, I already knew from experience that I could do it. I had spent six weeks in Rome more or less on my own in 2008 and was able to survive without any major issues considering how I did not speak Italian in any substantive way and had budgeted relatively little money. I had also been living and working in South Korea for almost a year without any major problems, so for me, trying to plan out a trip of this kind was like the final frontier for me, and it would be the chance for me to prove to myself that I could do it and lose my "travel virginity" in the process.
The first thing I did was figure out where I wanted to go. This particular trip to Southeast Asia actually involved four different countries (Taiwan, Laos, Cambodia, and Thailand). In retrospect, the logistics of this trip were a bit complicated considering the amount of time I had to visit them, and all of the things that could have gone wrong, but it actually gave me excellent experience in making trips with similar logistics later in the future. However, if I could do it over again, I would have probably chosen maybe only two of the countries and focused on those since two weeks was not enough time to truly see and appreciate everything.
I will save the details of this trip for another later blog post since many interesting things happened, but I will always hold the 2011 Southeast Asia trip close to my heart. This was the first time that I had planned out a trip to four different countries totally on my own. I had researched the ticket prices, looked at hotels/hostels on different websites, figured out what the visa requirements were, and made a plan of what I wanted to see and do.
When I think about that now almost 7 years later, I have realized that a lot of the current practices that I do now when I plan out a trip and when I am in the country developed because of my experience with this particular trip. Of course, there are things I did then that I no longer do now since I've gotten significantly more experienced in the art of traveling. Yet, I think the most important thing I learned from this was that I actually had the ability to plan out something complicated and execute it successfully. Now, being honest, this particular trip was not as smooth as I would have liked. There were definitely issues that I had to deal with at the spur of the moment, but it really helped cut my teeth on what to do and how to think quickly when unexpected issues arise.
While traveling can definitely be scary the first time you do it, I can 100% promise that most fear tends to be in the head. Since that time, I've planned out trips to 64 other countries, and it is no longer scary but quite exciting albeit somewhat exhausting. The first time you travel alone is always scary and may not be particularly pleasant, but the more you do it, the easier and more familiar you become with the entire process. I would say the most important thing is to be careful with planning but never expect the trip to go absolutely perfect. Something can always come up, and how you handle it will often determine how you will remember the trip.
Ultimately, I would say that if you can believe you can do it, you will. Despite my fears about how to go about planning a multi-country trip, I did it and was successful. You just have to trust and believe in yourself that what you're doing is right.