9 countries down, 5 to go. I flew out of Manchester airport on the 26th December 2018. 5 months, 9 flights, 100s of amazing conversations and 1000 mosquito bites later, I find my self half way through my gap year/ trip of a lifetime. By far the most exciting, fastest, scariest and eye opening 5 months of my life. Here’s a run down ..
I could not have asked for a better introduction to solo travel than the experience I had in my first destination – New Zealand! I owe this one to the kiwi experience. A big green bus full of young like minded travellers with a goal of seeing as much of the country as possible whilst having so much fun.
The 7 or so weeks I spent across both islands allowed for amazing activities like white water rafting, glow worm caving, kayaking in national parks, surfing and one of my favourite memories, the world’s biggest swing! I couldn’t recommend kiwi ex enough to first time travellers. All the stress of organisation and planning is completely taken away so the only thing you’re really responsible for is enjoying the experiences it offers and making life time memories. New Zealand as a country is breathtakingly beautiful but the friends I made there are what completely made it for me and I already can’t wait to catch up when we get the chance to meet again. Genuine friends for life.
Next on the agenda was a fortnight in Fiji – possibly the most stunning place I’ve visited to date! For someone that loves the ocean and island life this was the ideal retreat I needed after a hectic non-stop few weeks in NZ. A company called Awesome Adventures allowed myself and a small group of girls to hop between 6 Fijian islands, some of which could be walked around entirely in 5 minutes! Once the girls and I had adjusted to their minimalistic way of life and extreme temperatures, we had two weeks of non stop laughter, usually with the help of a few rounds of cava (a drink the locals make from the roots of plants and enjoy for relaxation) (also illegal in Europe lol). Staying in home-stays with welcoming Fijian families provided the most unique insight into their simple culture and was a truly amazing experience I will not be quick to forget.
Australia is a county I had dreamt of visiting since I was very young and knowing that I was meeting a friend from home on arrival into Melbourne made me all the more excited. We started our adventure in Melbourne and used busses to travel up the east coast to Cairns, stopping at as many places on the way as possible in our tight schedule of 1 month. I can honestly say I loved every minute we spent in Oz and made memories that will last forever; sailing the whitsundays, driving around Fraser Island, snorkelling the Great Barrier Reef, turning 22 and taking one last look at the country from a 16000ft jump out of a plane. Being able to share these experiences with someone I care so much about made this month out of my year abroad so special and Australia’s beauty confirmed to me how much I’d love to go back out there to work in the future!
After a hectic yet incredible month, the both of us arrived in Bali and I felt a similar feeling of tranquility that I had felt in Fiji. The locals were some of the loveliest I’ve met and the cheap hotels felt like heaven compared to the cramped hostels we were used to, with luxuries from fruit platters to flower petal baths. We hired a motorbike in order to do some of the essential touristy stuff like coffee plantations, ATVing through the forest, elephant washing and even spent a couple of days snorkelling around the Gili isles. We really enjoyed Bali’s relaxing atmosphere and tried to make the most of our final week together.
The following few days were quite tough, and for the first time in 3 months I found myself feeling slightly lost. I’m sure anyone that goes solo travelling will be able to relate to experiencing a little bit of loneliness here and there, but I pushed on none the less and tried to enjoy my remaining time in Bali whilst re adjusting to independence.
I was soon arriving into Singapore airport, where I ended up meeting another lovely traveller who after chatting for a while, informed me that the following night was ladies night (free entry and drinks in all the top bars for girls) and invited me out with her and a friend she was meeting. This night was so much fun and the perfect reminder of the joyous spontaneity of solo travel. I spent the following few days exploring Singapore, which quickly became one of my favourite cities to date. It’s cleanliness, amazing architecture and evening light shows made me fall in love with the place and I’m so pleased it was a part of my itinerary.
Whilst in Singapore I made a last minute decision to take a bus to visit Kuala Lumpur where I spent 2 days wandering around the city, did a bit of shopping and enjoyed a well missed Nando’s before flying to Cambodia.
Cambodia felt like my first real experience of south east Asia. I arrived into Siem Reap blissfully unaware that it was the 1st of a 3 day new years celebration. A mass water fight took over the city resulting in me getting soaked by locals with pistols and full buckets of water. Something I was actually so grateful for as it was probably one of the hottest places I’v been! I spent a full day touring the many temples before heading down on a long bus journey south to Koh Rong island. The crystal clear waters made the island feel like paradise and my hostel provided a great beach front hub to socialise. I was really enjoying myself after a wobbly couple of weeks getting used to real solo travel… until I got food poisoning. After 12 long hours of sickness, diarrhoea and genuinely thinking I might die, a fellow traveller’s first aid kit offered some sickness tablets and hydration sachets which soon had me feeling back to normal!
I flew to Vietnam from Cambodia, and spent two weeks travelling this amazingly interesting country, quickly realising why so many travellers love it. Each place i visited was vastly different, from the bustling old quarter of Hanoi to the beautiful lantern lit streets of Hoi An. I loved the time I spent here but will especially remember motorbiking over Hai Van Pass and getting my denim shorts tailored to perfection!
From Vietnam I travelled across to Laos, where I am currently writing this blog from! Iv spent the last couple of days chasing waterfalls in Luang Prabang and strolling around Vang Vieng. Although not the most exciting country I’ve visited, I’m still enjoying it a lot and it provides a great stop off before flying to Thailand next week.
I am incredibly excited for the adventures the next 5 months will bring, starting with meeting my bestie in Bangkok who is coming over for a two week holiday! My further travel plans include seeing a lot of Thailand, Taiwan, LA, West Canada and staying with my auntie in New Hampshire before flying home from New York via Iceland!!!!
I am learning so much from this experience, not only about the world but myself. Seeing so many beautiful parts of the earth has made me even more environmentally conscious, living out of a 60 litre back pack makes me realise how little i actually need, and I’m understanding the importance of friendly company and appreciating the many fascinating conversations I have with people from all walks of life.
I have been lucky enough in the past to see a lot of amazing places with friends and family, however there is something so incredibly rewarding about solo travel that just doesn’t compare. There’s inevitably times that have been very testing but I haven’t once thought it wasn’t all worth it. So all I really have left to say is if you ever get an opportunity to solo travel, take it!
Stay posted for part 2??