Go Solo and Slow
How long-term solo travels can lead you to discovering yourself
By Gelyka Ruth R. Dumaraos
Aleah was nursing a broken heart when she decided to go solo traveling in Europe.
Three-months later, she went home with a wider perspective on life, and a stronger heart and character, ready to take on whatever possibilities that come her way.
Meanwhile, blogger Gael Hilotin hopped on a bus six years ago to visit a friend’s family in Benguet just to have a break on her routinely work. With a degree in Anthropology, this lady is not new to visiting remote places and immersing herself to the culture and their people. Adjusting in a new place, and having that constant curiosity on things around her come naturally in her character.
Years later, Aleah and Gael are two of the most known female travelers in the country—exploring places, meeting people, and pursuing passion one travel destination as a time.
Alone but not lonely
Some may say that traveling solo and slow may be lonely. Terrifying even.
While many think they do not want to look like losers for not having any travel buddies, as what TV writer and author Kristin Newman told Time, solo female travelers wanted to get the life they want without having to adjust to anyone’s time and preferences.
“It’s the same how people don’t want to eat dinner alone. I think people are afraid of being lonely, of being scared, of looking like they didn’t have anybody,” she notes.
Moreover, the scary thought of getting lost, being robbed, and meeting scammers as you go on the streets of a new place may pull you down and make you shun your dream of travelling.
But for Aleah, a freelance writer and editor and the author behind travel blog Solitary Wanderer, solo traveling made her discover herself more—this is amidst the risks.
“I have learned that I am strong and confident when I’m traveling alone. I know how to take care of myself,” she says in an interview, adding that one should know the line between chasing dream and risking safety and security.
Gael, also a freelance writer, can attest to this. She said, “I’ve learned to navigate in strange places and overcome obstacles all by myself. I also get to test my patience and courage and I have more time to reflect.”
Aside from meeting new people and learning about the places and their cultures, the two says that going places alone is a way to discover yourself more, away from your comfort zone.
You get to learn how to push yourself to the limit—be it that time when you had a tattoo with Whang Od in the mountains of Kalinga, or when do not mind sharing a hostel room with six other foreigners just to save a penny.
Author Candy Spelling wrote in Huffington Post that without anyone to please but yourself alone, you enjoy a sense of independence, while having the opportunity to have a restorative mind.
She says, “I think that if you can take a trip on your own, you might find that the peace and tranquility are worth it. It’s just you and the universe—no one to answer to! You may see, as I did, that such a scenario could be very restful and transformative.”
Aleah spills that one of its downsides is that when you’d like to take a photo of yourself in a nice backdrop, no one is there to take yours.
She said, “I have to either use the timer, or ask someone else to take it which usually ends up not a good one.”
Also, witnessing a spectacular view for the first time gives a kick of melancholy as you also remember people that you want to share the stunning sight with.
But more than the view and the blurred shots, solo and slow travelling is rewarding as meeting people along the way is something you can treasure for a lifetime—it may be that photographer you met while in Thailand’s Krabi Island, or the kid who was selling postcards in Vietman.
While keeping yourself on guard at all times, Gael says that we should not lose hope in humanity and just give in to the notion that strangers should not be trusted.
Sometimes, strangers find long and lasting friendships to fellow strangers too.
“I have also learned that people are kinder than we give them credit for. Sure, there are places where the people seem rude and unfriendly, but someone’s bound to come and help you out without expecting anything in return,” Gael notes.
Fast forward today, Gael is now known to be the Pinay Solo Backpacker. Her blog is her avenue for chronicling the places she visits in and out of the country, as well as in imparting information to fellow travelers around the world
Aleah, meanwhile, is now crossing diverse cultures, networking with a whole bunch of people who share the same passion, and going places in South America, as she embarked on her two-year journey.
Since last year, Aleah has been hopping countries from Bolivia, Brazil, and even went hiking up to Peru’s Maccu Pichu and the United States.
For them, they are living the dream.