To celebrate a year of surviving Living Alone In London and securing a grad job, I decided to take myself on the trip of a lifetime. I had six weeks, and five countries on my list: Singapore, Australia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.
Living alone really helped me form a stronger sense of self. I was more confident about who I am and what I wanted – I thought. So I headed off on my Big Trip within days of graduating.
I didn’t want to be that cliché ‘finding myself’ girl, but having worked towards this trip for so long I was hoping to learn something about myself. I expected to discover something while being active – meeting elephants, diving the Great Barrier Reef, crossing paths with locals. But it was the times in between, and the bits that went wrong, that I learnt the most from.
The ‘oh my god a lone female’ thing
I’d had a few worries about travelling alone before going, such as ‘What do I do when I can’t find my passport and no one reminds me where I put it?’ or, ‘What if no one talks to me for six weeks and I forget how to socialise?’ Neither of these things happened. But I was the receiver of well-intentioned-harassment.
‘Oh you’re on your own? Didn’t any of your friends want to travel with you? Aren’t you scared at all?’
Er, not until you asked.
Getting too intimate with your fellow traveller’s, er, explorations
Travelling alone is a liberating experience. It opens your boundaries, exposes you to new people and new ways of life. And puts you into extremely close contact with complete strangers.
In one Hanoi hostel, I was effectively in a double bunk bed with a stranger. Which was all fine and dandy, until one couple across the room were shagging SO loudly, a disgruntled sleeper joined my neighbour. Then, with three in the upstairs bed, the downstairs occupants joined in the shagfest. Nothing says good morning like being lurched about the bed to a soundtrack of weird slapping noises...
After a lot of poking and muttering from my neighbour, I got told off for politely asking her to fuck off and let me to try sleep. ‘I’m actually trying to help you babes, I asked my friend down there to hurry up. I actually had sex in the bathroom so I wouldn’t wake you up, so stop being a rude bitch.’ Er. Thanks. I guess.
The perils of being young, wild and free
Not to say that one shouldn’t indulge in some self-liberation. But no matter how you frame it, hot holiday sex with a hot Australian in a sticky-hot hostel room just isn’t that hot on the world’s squeakiest bed with five snorers surrounding you.
Trust me on this. Go hide in the bathroom. Out of respect for your dormmates. Sorry, guys.
Finding personal space
With all the communal living and hostel antics (which is really fun and easy to adjust to after living alone for a year, FYI) it’s actually quite tough to set aside time to find yourself. I apologise to all of the galleries, museums and hostel bathrooms that I desecrated with some personal time. While meeting new people and doing once-in-a-lifetime activities is an amazing part of the experience, it’s the moments you steal alone that are most pertinent.
Whether you find yourself while staring out of coach windows, or waiting for buses, or during a moment of self-love in a rainforest, travelling is amazing as long as you put aside the time to pause, stare out, and reflect. Or wank.
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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.