Recently I was asked by Urlaubsheld to write about why I solo travel and what I love about it. As I didn’t want to take away from people reading my book, it got me thinking. What was it about solo travel that I loved so much?
The other day I had to go to Kuala Lumpur for a visa run. I was terrified. Not so much for the logistics of a visa run or going to a city that I hadn’t much cared about the first time around but more for the fact that I wasn’t sure if I still had it. It being my ability to solo travel. I wasn’t so sure if I was still in love.
As it is, The Girl Who Travels has met a man. A man who likes to travel and be with me. So being with him, some great press trips, and a holiday in Morocco with my dad has led to precious little alone time. There was so little solo travel of late that I felt I was cheating when talking about it during interviews for my book.
I felt like a fraud impersonating this solo travel expert I was supposed to be but by the time I arrived in Kuala Lumpur I was slightly terrified. Besides my usual airport/taxi/how-not-to-end-in-a-ditch anxiety, I was wondering if I still knew how to do this whole solo travel thing. Would I be sad, lonely, lost?
I arrived sick, tired, and my first plate of Hokkien Mee noodles tasted horrible. The fact that Kuala Lumpur and I had never really warmed to each other and I would have preferred to be in Bangkok, Singapore or Hong Kong didn’t help matters.
In the evening, a bad aftertaste from the noodles still in my mouth, I crawled up in my hotel’s double bed all on my own. I didn’t spread out octopus-like as I should have after sharing a bed for four weeks in a hut without aircon. Instead, I did what I usually like to do when I have a big bed all to myself: I curled up in a corner, no debate which side of the bed was mine, and arranged laptop, camera, iPhone, and an overload of fruit parcels on the other side.
While I put my overpriced SIM card to work and enjoyed the latest episode of Masterchef it slowly started to come back. I had a headache, a runny nose, and a sore throat but I realized – I was happy. Happy to do as much or as little as I wanted, to feel sorry for myself for having a cold, for wasting an evening in Kuala Lumpur to watch Masterchef.I realized then and there that solo travel is a bit like riding a bike: once you learn it you know how to do it forever. I still did know and it felt good.
The next morning I woke up and wondered if it was all a fluke. I still felt sick and I was missing the man. Maybe solo travel was overrated after all? Had I grown out of it? Was I one of these women, after all, that traveled alone only until she finally found someone to do it with?
I had not much time to ponder about it. I had a cold to get over, work to do, and dim sums to eat. So I did just that. I drank an overpriced rose lemonade in a cafe that can only be described as Instagram heaven and made up for it with some of the cheapest and best dumplings I have ever had. I bought an excessive amount of jackfruit and spent most of my hours writing on my hotel’s terrace or in my bed, enjoying the luxury of the aircon. I didn’t take more pictures of the Petronas Towers, went to the Bird Park, and I definitely didn’t take a bus to see fireflies at night. I was not only being a bad traveler I was even being a bad tourist. But I didn’t care, I was firmly back in the solo travel saddle again.
Solo travel is not always as rosy as people like me want you to believe. It isn’t the holy grail of travel nor the real life answer to Eat, Pray, Love.
What it is though, at least for me, is the ultimate freedom. The freedom to do or not do what I feel like in any given destination and situation. The freedom to go anywhere I want to go whether that makes sense (Morocco again? Sign me up!) to the rest of the world or not. The freedom to make a plan and ignore it on a whim, to stay in or hike mountains, to explore ten new restaurants in a few days or eat the same dim sums every single day, to spread out in bed or curl up in one corner.Solo travel is not always great nor glamorous or fun and you shouldn’t believe people like me when we are trying to tell you that. Just like any trip, any other form of travel, just like life, it has its ups and downs.
But for me, the freedom that comes with it makes it all worth it. Just like dim sums can make Kuala Lumpur worth a trip.Heading to Kuala Lumpur and need a place to stay? If you are looking for a perfectly secluded and luxurious option check out Villa Samadhi (also voted one of the best beds I ever slept in!). For a more budget option in the middle of Chinatown, I can highly recommend The Lantern Hotel. – Affiliate links to both – as you know, a girl’s gotta pay for her next flight.