Taken from my travelogue: Sometime early April at Gypsea Yoga in Lombok, Indonesia
I landed on this beautiful island just under two weeks ago and can hardly grasp how fast time has flown by. I am now in Lombok just off the shores of Bali for a few days of solitude, rest and relaxation at a hideaway in the jungle, Gypsea Yoga. There are countless memories I could write about but I thought I might focus my next blog on travel tips, which I have been brewing on recently. Traveling alone can be the most incredible time of your life and sharing memories with new friends in unknown places is something you can’t quite put into words.
It’s very special.
Here are a few things I have learned traveling alone as a female in South East Asia. I hope one day you will all be able to experience this part of the world. It has changed my life and will forever feel like home in my heart.
Don’t be afraid to let go of a plan. The most amazing experiences will be ones you didn’t originally set out to do. I have found that usually if I have a plan it goes with the wind because of new friends I’ve made or unexpected events. Be spontaneous, let your days unfold as they will and you will never have regrets. Not sure where to go? I am a full believer in the freedom of a one way ticket. Trust me, the story will write itself greater than you could have imagined.
Don’t over research. Let yourself experience the destination first hand and the reward will be even more exciting. Do what you need to do to be safe, the rest let happen as it will. I like to find a place to land the first couple of days but not commit beyond this. You’ll find the best places to stay through the people you will meet. This is how I ended up at 90% of the places I have and it makes the journey far more personal. Don’t waste your time lost in internet reviews- get out into the real world and see where it takes you. You will be amazed!
Free yourself! Let go of expectations and comforts of home. I have had nothing but positive days only because I don’t let frustrations get to me. This is the best part of travel! No wifi? Good, hang up and go explore. The bed a little too hard? Good, appreciate what you have more at home. Take something from each experience and don’t ever complain. Learning to live in the moment is the greatest gift of travel.
Get over yourself. Traveling in Asia means you are sweating every minute of the day. It’s no place for makeup, curling irons and nice products. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable and let yourself be natural. Ladies, the tropical environment will grow you longer locks and nails but yes you will do some damage to your hair. Once buying expensive products, I now buy bar soap at the local grocery store and whatever conditioner I can get my hands on. Be one with your environment, it’s the greatest time to let go and simplify your life. The ocean does wonders for your skin and there’s way more important stuff to be focused on. When you start to realize you need a tiny fraction of what you actually buy, you will feel awakened.
Make friends. If you are traveling solo and planning on doing hostel life, enjoy it! It is the greatest way to meet new friends from all over the world who have similar desires and passions as yourself. Don’t worry about a messy roommate, sounds late at night or having no privacy. Embrace the moment and take advantage of meeting more people to share memories with. Push yourself outside your comfort zone, grab some ear plugs and blend in. It brings you close fast and you will never forget any of the friends you make.
Walk around with good energy and others will be attracted to open up to you. You will have life changing conversations in the most random places; the corner of a broken down restaurant, a bathroom, a balcony outside your room, waiting in line… Good conversations are everywhere. I’ve helped sprinkle the ashes of a friends mother over a coral reef in Indonesia, I’ve comforted broken hearts and had others comfort mine. I’ve laughed, cried, danced and sung with people I barely knew for a few hours with completely different background. Life is beautiful. Before you know it you will you realize you are not as unique as you think, there are millions of other travelers just like you trying to figure it all out and have a good time while doing it!
Go slow and let go. Everything takes time in Asia. Sometimes a whole day will be planned around getting to your next location. Drivers will be late, food takes forever to reach your table and somehow an entire day will go by with little accomplished. Embrace it! Let yourself become more flexible and recognize you are in a different environment. You will come out much more relaxed and less anxious as a person than you started.
Eat well. Go local! The worst mistake traveling is trying to mimic what you like at home. No there’s not always coconut milk for your coffee, or even filtered coffee for that matter. If you have set an intention to be the same traveling, go stay at a fancy resort and never experience real culture. Try new things, see what’s in season, order something that’s native to where you are. Don’t make the mistake I did and crave Mexican food only to find your quesadilla is to much disappointment filled with curry. Respect where you are and be adventurous. Don’t count calories, worry about your weight or ask for a million changes to your order. I guarantee you will walk away disappointed and probably having annoyed the locals. Plus it gives us foreigners all a bad reputation! Street food is often the safest and you will spend pennies for the best meal of your life. Visit the local markets, they are the best!
Get comfortable in the uncomfortable. If you want a real experience, don’t complain about your bed and nightly mosquitos net. Don’t balk at the squatting toilets or lack of toilet paper. These are the moments I have grown the most in! I remember first arriving in Asia and being overwhelmed with the heat, squeaky beds, no ac and a mosquito net clinging to my bitten legs. If you need a break, mix in some nicer accommodations along the way. Mixing it up creates a wonderful balance. Besides, didn’t you come travel to learn and grow? Now is your chance.
Explore, adventure and try new things. What is the area known for? Do it! Learning to surf in Sri Lanka and learning to dive in Bali are two things I will bring home that will forever remind me of the places I visited. They will be a part of my story I will share with my future family and bring a lifetime of joy. Try and look outside of standard tourism (see below, the next tip is how you will find all the good hidden spots and find yourself in surreal moments).
Talk to locals. Often they know English and love to share even just a smile with you, if you initiate it. Taking my shoes off, getting dirty in Sri Lanka, picking curry leaves and looking over the shoulder of a local man cooking up his grandmother’s curry was one of my favorite moments. In Bali, making friends with locals who had a small bar shack on the beach and toasting over the sunset drinking a local beer, nothing beats it. I even found myself at the midnight hour submerged in cold temple water participating in a phenomenal hindu blessing ceremony and meditating in the moonlight with families. These moments are priceless and far from tourism. Don’t be judgmental and don’t fear others. Negative energy will come right back at you. If you only have positive energy (and listen to your intuition), that is all you will receive in return.
Just be smart. You are a foreigner and can be smelled from a mile away. Some countries are much more developed than others, so please take what I say with a grain of salt. Ask the locals you befriend what quality prices are for cabs, items and adventures. Then, be confident when you stand down to what is obviously a rip off price. The locals will actually respect you more for it and it will help drive down costs for other travelers. Most things are negotiable, but out of respect be fair and never offer a price you aren’t willing to pay. Please, never ever get into a cab or tuk tuk without first knowing the price or verifying there is a meter (rookie advice).
Don’t be reckless and watch what you drink. If I am not with a group, I’m in before dark. Pretty simple. Noone likes a sloppy drunk anyway.
Don’t carry wads of cash on you and keep your money close. For most countries, I rely on a fanny pack that clings close to my body under my clothes at all times, which is unseen. Some places in SE Asia still have heavy corruption and if you get pulled over the last thing you want is to have to hand all of your money over. Again, be smart. Some other countries it is perfectly fine to have a purse, but pickpocketing is a real issue. Sentence one is your best bet in these situations.
Please help contribute to less waste in the places you visit! Water is not always safe to drink but buying countless bottles of water is a waste to our environment. Come traveling with a thermos that filters water. I rely on “life straw” and fill it free of charge everywhere I am. No issues, no waste.
Be confident in all situations. If anyone speaks to you inappropriately tell them with confidence to stop and hold your ground. Follow your gut in all situations. The heart of life is GOOD but there are many wounded people in the world who you must be cautious about. Again it goes back to not being a paranoid negative traveler! Your intuition will guide you and nothing brings you back in touch more with your intuition than travel.
Have fun and let loose. Learn to go with the flow and become a better person for it! My favorite thing to do when I arrive in a new city or country is go for a walk and visit the local market. In particular, the snacks. You will learn more doing those two things in one hour than you will reading online. Life is to be enjoyed and there is so much to see outside your door. Just get out there and you will no doubt stumble upon your next adventure and new friends.
Enjoy each day and spread love. That is the purpose of life. So, if you are on the fence about something I encourage you to just dive in. Dive in whole heartedly and be your biggest cheerleader. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, else and more will come after this first step. Be true to yourself and never put a limit on what is possible. Go for it and never look back.