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23 March 2020

solo travel for beginners

the reason i ended up in bali alone was simply because i had no-one else to go with. it wasn't one of those "eat, pray, love" moments, or a quest to find myself, it was just that i had a wedding to go to in new zealand and wasn't able to be flexible enough with dates to allow for any of my keen friends to come with me. i booked my flights more than six months in advance of travel, kind of hoping that by the point of travel someone would have a change of heart and join me, but as the time approached.. it appeared i was going solo. so, rather than dwell on the lack of company, i decided to take destiny by the balls and plan one heck of a solo adventure.

there were obviously things i was concerned about, this being my first real solo travel trip, but nothing too big i considered changing my plans. i'm an introvert by nature; i like spending time alone, i enjoy my own company, and i never struggle with loneliness (the covid19 self isolation will be a test for the ages), so the idea of a week alone in a new place seemed like no big deal. but, i definitely did have worries...

who will take my photos?

as i mentioned in my ode to the balinese tourism industry post, i really needn't have worried about this at all. i took my mini tripod and remote clicker with me, with the idea that i would set that up and shoot photos of me myself if i fancied, but realistically: this was wholly unnecessary. everywhere i went, there were plenty of people taking photos of each other, asking me to take their photos, and tour guides, wait staff and random balinese folk happy to lend a hand (read: offering to take photos) at the drop of a hat. thanks to the digital age we find ourselves in, you rarely get your phone handed back with one, wonky picture on it now; these days, you get a camera roll of angles and different lighting options to choose from.

what will i do if i get lonely?

for me, it's not that i feel lonely, per se, it's more that i can - on occasion -get sick of my own company. not often, thankfully, but when i do i just tend to go somewhere that's busier, noisier and more thriving to balance it out. it's not necessarily that i crave conversation or physical company, it's more that i crave a less solo atmosphere. luckily, bali is such a busy island that you're never too far from groups of other people, so getting out to busy cafes or bustling markets was an easy way to instantly feel less alone.

where will i go and what will i see?

mate, anything you bloody want. what a joy to be able to make those decisions alone, and not have to compromise on by making plans with someone else. before i left, i picked out a few things that i really wanted to see, and then let my days flow around those. if a guide made a suggestion that sounded good, i'd agree to it. if i'd overheard another group talking about something that sounded good, i'd do that too. if i walked past a massage studio and got offered another foot massage, i'd one thousand percent accept it no matter how many time a day it was offered. similarly, if i was tired, hungry or just wanted to hang by the pool with no guilt of "missing out", i happily let myself do that too. everything i saw, was what i wanted to see - no compromises!

will people stare at me eating solo?

a hundred percent not! i would just be looking at menus outside cafes and the staff would be like: "table for one with beautiful view?" and i'd be like: "erm, yes, ideal thanks" and there would be three or four other solo travellers eating with their views or scrolling their phones for their next adventure or reading a book in peace and quiet - and not a single bloody person gave two hoots what i was doing with my life. 

how will i get around the island safely?

thankfully, i had a recommendation of a safe airport driver from a friend who'd used them many times before, and i felt confident that they would get me from the airport to the hotel in one piece. i had plenty of communication with the driver before i arrived, and he sent me photos of him so i would recognise him at the airport on arrival. he was very friendly, chatty and made me feel so comfortable, so much so that i then used him for a lot of my other island travel. 

originally, i was planning on using the hotel-approved transport, but couldn't have been happier to carry on with the recommendation i'd been given. and honestly, even picking up a grab car or scooter (south east asia's answer to uber) or a taxi from the side of the road in a busy location seemed fairly safe, though i only did that twice, and only because my booked transport got stuck in traffic and i had an appointment. obviously, there's also organised tours, shuttle buses, and scooters for hire - but personally, those did not feel like the safe option for me, so i happily preferred to spend more money on private transport than risk my life on those crazy roads!

will it be safe for me to travel solo as a woman?

i did a fair amount of research on this point before i went, because obviously this was a big worry of mine. in relation to bali, it couldn't have been safer to travel solo as a woman, but i do suspect that's not the case in all countries you travel to. it's best to research this one quite extensively before you go, and speak to others who have been before you. i found twitter was a great resource for finding people to talk to - and alleviate - about my worries. 

it's fair to say, i found my first solo trip so easy, so natural and so freeing that i absolutely will be doing it again. not anytime soon, mind... but i definitely will make sure to have an adventure that's all mine at least once a year, because i feel totally emboldened having done it. it made me appreciate my own time, value my own choices, and ensure that i didn't take opportunities for granted. so maybe i didn't set out to "find myself", but i certainly achieved a level of discovery that i didn't know i could do alone.

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