Since I waved an emosh-goodbye to the fam, hopped on a one-way flight to China and waded my way through the sea of people on the Beijing subway, alone, I can honestly say I’ve never felt more alive.
Most people have asked me whether I’m nervous about any of it; travelling solo, eating by myself, not having someone to share my experiences with?
What they don’t realise is… people piss me right off.
I’ll quite happily spend a few days with other folk, until I catch sight of their annoying habits or loud eating – by which time I’ll make a speedy getaway and continue my journey, relieved and on me’ todd.
This trip, for me, isn’t a spur-of-the-moment escape. I’ve diligently saved money, horded travel books and watched ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ on repeat until my eyes bleed, dreaming that one day, it might be me.
As it happens, right now is the perfect time for me to spread my wings and immerse myself in the places I have only ever seen through a cinema screen or read in blogs.
So whether I had someone to share this with or not, I was making damn sure I was doing it before I got married, knocked up and my beloved travel books were bound for a one-way destination; a dusty cupboard under the stairs.
Here’s my take on why going solo is one of the best decisions I have ever made…
I didn’t realise until my cheek muscles started to ache, that I’d actually not stopped gayly grinning since I left England. 3 weeks in, and not only do I feel a zillion times happier than Larry, but it’s as if a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I’m totes zen dude.
Not gonna lie, smiling has already got me out of a few compromising situations with Chinese locals, like;
Smiling at the angry Beijing subway lady when I pronounced ‘chegongzhuang’ slightly wrong and held up the mammoth queue for a good 2 minutes trying to explain. Let’s not even go into what happened when I chanced it with ‘dongsi-shitao’…
Smiling whilst saying no to having my picture taken with everyone and his bleedin’ dog at major Chinese historical sites. For the tenth time, I DO NOT want to be in your family photo with your wife, son and elderly mother at the Shaolin Temple. Most of the time, they go ahead and take a sneaky one anyway… *sigh*.
Smiling vacantly when I don’t understand what they are saying to me (which is 99% of the time. They’ll then try again, slower, and it clicks.
I love to learn. Whether that’s a new Chinese character, or just something silly about myself. Without boring you to tears with my ‘epiphanies of life’, I’m finding that the best way to figure stuff out is when you have a break from the daily grind and time alone.
Things I’ve learnt about myself so far;
1. I’m actually quite good at speaking Mandarin!
I’ve totted up a grand total of about 30 hours of spoken Pinyin and I can now understand common words, and grasp some characters. Being in China is a good way to throw yourself in (surprisingly most people don’t speak English) and thankfully, I’m not a beginner anymore!
If you’re wondering why I decided to learn Chinese, read my blog about it here.
2. I’d rather work to live, than live to work.
I tried the career thing, and I’ve realised that it’s not the right lifestyle for me. Some might say that it was a waste to go through 6th form, a university degree and get started on the career ladder, to give it all up and “drift”… But it’s been a learning curve and I’ve poked my head out of the other side realising that I want to make my own way and see more of the world first. Yes, I probably won’t have as much money as most or have moved up as quickly, but it’s really not about that. There are plenty of ways to live frugally, work intermittently and still see the world.
3. The best decisions are made by yourself, for yourself.
Long story short, don’t let anyone tell you what to do! If you really want to do something, work towards it, save, plan, write lists galore… and make it happen! Yes you can take in other people’s opinions, but remember that yours is the one that counts.
One of the driving forces behind me doing this is the impending doom of the big 3-0 (JOKES).
It’s not as scary as it sounds. I have plenty of friends who are 30+ and doing all of the things they want to do before they settle down. 6 months ago and in a bit of a life funk, I decided it was time to sit down and write a bucket list. I realised that, 23 years in, I could only tick off 1 or 2 things out of the pages and pages of stuff I wanted to do/see. That settled it.
Game on. Giiirl, let’s get this DONE!
Here are my list of top 5 solo female travel bloggers who have totally inspired me to go it alone. Between them, they’ve visited hundreds of countries and counting. They are full of enthusiasm, their posts are teeming with handy tips and frugal ideas for wannabe solo travellers. I dare you not to catch the travel bug after reading…
May this be the push you needed to go and book a one-way flight!