Solo travel lessons

Visiting Bangkok was my first truly solo adventure. It’s the first time I ever left one county to visit another by myself. And it’s the first time every aspect of planning a trip was left to me. Between the layover and the bus ride, I had plenty of time to gather my thoughts on how I will travel differently in the future.

1. Planning is everything.

I barely planned at all for Bangkok. I bought the plane ticket and made a hotel reservation. The end. Just a few minutes into my plane ride from Beijing to Bangkok, I realized I’d made a mistake. I was talking with my sweet seat mate who happened to be a Thai-native. He suggested I visit Chiang Mai. He said, “I don’t think you will like Bangkok. You seem like a small city person.” He was right. And not the last Thai to suggest I go to Chiang Mai.

2. Information is power.

I didn’t make very many decisions or plan very well because I just didn’t know what I was getting myself into. I didn’t know much about Thailand. I had only bothered to look up sawadeeka and krohbkoonka. I didn’t even do much searching about Bangkok. I read a blog post and a Wikitravel article.

For my next solo trip, guidebooks will be purchased well in advanced and read cover to cover before planning very much. Reading the book on the plane was helpful and made the trip easier, but it wasn’t enough advance notice for me to make very good decisions before landing. (I ended up changing my hotel because of the guidebook and the discovery that my previously booked hotel was actually pretty far from the sights in the Old City.)

3. Timing matters.

This goes right along with planning. In Bangkok I gave myself too much time in some situations and not enough in others. For example I gave myself three hours to get to the airport, check-in and go through security and immigration. I ended up killing two hours in the terminal just waiting for the Air China desk to open. I would’ve rather spent the time in a Thai cooking class.

And in a classic example of not giving myself enough time, I completely spaced checking the bus schedule from the Incheon Airport to Chungju. I just assumed there would be a bus at 12 p.m. on Tuesday when my flight got in. I needed to be at work at 3:30 p.m. and it’s a three hour 20 minutes bus ride.When I finally made it to the bus terminal at Incheon, it was 12:30 p.m. The next bus was scheduled to leave at 1:10 p.m. so I called another teacher who covered my class for me. I finally arrived 10 minutes late for my second class of the day at 4:40 p.m.

Next time I will need to pay more attention to how long things take when I arrive so I can plan better for my exit. And I will definitely give myself more than 10 minutes between traveling and working.

4. Decide what I want out of my trip before I go.

Even though I saw some truly amazing sights in Bangkok, ate some delicious food and met some great people, I’m not anxious to go back. The city was not what I wanted from my mini-vacay and I ended the trip disappointed. Not entirely Bangkok’s fault, not entirely my fault either. So next time, I’m going to figure out what it is I want from my trip then plan accordingly. (There’s that word “plan” again.) If I had planned for what I wanted I probably would’ve flown into Ko Samet, and never gone to Bangkok in the first place. I wanted beaches, sunshine and relaxation. What I got was a river, sunshine and stress.

Despite the mistakes, hassles and stress, I’m looking forward to my next solo venture. The freedom was exhilirating. If you ever have a chance to travel solo or “free” as my students call it, you should. At least once.

Have you traveled solo? What do you think of traveling free?


About kristamaesmith

I'm a writer living with my boyfriend in Salt Lake City, Utah where I cheer for the Jazz, walk my dog, and spend too much money in local restaurants. I work in marketing for higher education and blog about food, travel, television, and whatever shiny moment catches my fancy.
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4 Responses to Solo travel lessons

  1. Andrew says:

    I am so excited for my solo trip!

    And i must say i agree with you. For me the most important aspect of traveling is, what am i going for. With that knowledge its easy to create an agenda. For my trip i wanted a beach, culture, and food. So with that i booked a stay at a beach resort for 5 days. That way i have plenty of time to soak up the sun, drink a coctail on the sand, go snorkeling, etc. Then for the next week i have no specific plans, but i have done a lot of research. (via internet and my “Lonely Planet, Fiji” book.” I know what sights i want to see, where i want to hike, what fresh markets i want to shop at. But i have given myself the freedom to move about as i choose. That way, i can spend my time doing what i want and not hating what i’ve chosen…

    Well, my opinion might change when i get back, i’ll keep you posted!

    So, where’s your next trip going to be? 🙂

    • saltcitygirl says:

      I’m happy to hear your Fiji plans are going so well. You’re going to have such a blast! I wish I could join you. It looks like my next trip will be Busan, South Korea (February) and Hong Kong (May-ish). Thanks for commenting and reading.

  2. Amanda says:

    I don’t really do much solo traveling anymore since anywhere I go, my husband now comes with. (But he’s cute, so I’m OK with this. 🙂 )

    But we went to New York this past weekend, only with a place to stay at his friend’s and play tickets for Saturday. Didn’t plan a thing, just went there and figured we’d wander around. And I’m with you on the needing to plan more thing. If we hadn’t had his friend we stayed with to help guide and offer suggestions, we would have been so lost as to where to go that’s actually worthwhile.

    The No. 1 thing I learned though was to Google Map the locations before you get there. It can give you a better perspective as to what’s near to what and how you might need to plan what you want to do. (That could have saved us a very, very long walk up Fifth Avenue.) Second would be to actually look at the public transit map too. Thank God we could call his friend when we couldn’t figure out which subway train took us where we wanted to go.

    • saltcitygirl says:

      I’m glad you found your way with help from Nick’s friend. Google Maps are great when they work. I definitely think there’s a balance between planning too much and not planning enough before the trip. Hopefully your future travels fare better.

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