Alone?

When I am not traveling wit JF, I will usually continue traveling alone. I had lived alone in Bangkok for 3 months and now I am back here alone too. Traveling alone is always a concern to some. I’ve talked to so many people who have dreams to travel but most of them prefer to travel with their partners. Safety-wise, I’ve been asked about how I survived being alone in Bangkok alone while Bangkok is dubbed as a dangerous city to be at on your own. It is true, it takes time to gather courage to travel alone.

Traveling solo has its pros and cons. After some time, it always more pros than cons to me. There are so many people you can meet while traveling alone, and yes you can also enjoy the fun of having temporary traveling partner while you are alone. You can always travel at your own pace, do whatever you want to do, eat wherever you want to eat and choose to stay wherever you want to stay. You don’t have to wait for your partner to get ready, you don’t have to wait for your partner to finish packing, and you never need to argue of which way to take when both of you are lost in the city. When you are on your own, you are so much more independent and in control.

Among reasons why many refused to travel alone is because they cannot take it having to eat alone. Yes, it is a sad imagination but it is not bad as it you think it would be. Single traveler is easier to be approached by other single traveler and the next thing you know is the two of you sitting at the same table, laughing for hours, beer after beer. But then, if you must eat alone, bring a book. Read, and maybe this is a good time to learn foreign language. Keep yourself busy. Own a journal and write.

Of course, traveling with your partner will benefits in terms of sharing the cost of hotel/hostel room, taxi ride, everything will become cheaper when you split the costs. This is definitely the downside of traveling alone.

It is so much easier to experience stranger’s kindness when you are alone. You are definitely more approachable. There is nothing scary about this too. See? You eventually are not really alone. How not to become lonely? Stop feeling alone. Think that you’ll always stumble upon other travelers, because you’ll always be. Choose to travel during peak season so you won’t feel as empty. Some of my friends use Couchsurfing and they know with that they’ll always have some company. Be bold and confident and ask if someone wants to go out and have dinner with you. Chances are they will always say yes. Meeting new people is always fun and this often happens when you are alone. I cannot help you if you are very shy but don’t complain!

I have made so many temporary traveling partners while I was alone in Bangkok for 3 months. It was all great and I’ve made wonderful memories with them. Even though it was just temporary fun, fun is always going to be FUN. Single travelers that I met while I travel alone were all very independent, sounded and acted very educated and they are the most fun partners that you could ever enjoy being with.

So go ahead, don’t be afraid. Alone? It won’t suck that much.

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You have got the money, haven’t you?

You had been working your ass very hard, you work multiple jobs to make your dream trips come true. You booked the flight ticket probably a year before the trip and you have got everything planned. Now you got shitload of money and you think you can be on spending spree abroad and that you’ll be fine because everything else in Indonesia or Romania is cheap, that’s fine if you have a job waiting for you when you get back to home country or you plan to work wherever you are traveling to. I’m talking about how to save money while traveling. In my earlier post I’ve stated that I struggled — even having shitload of money can cause you troubles. Shopping is compulsive. Partying every night is equally compulsive. You don’t want to end up begging for money abroad or worse, ending up sleeping on the street. I’ve seen those, so many times, in every country that I’ve traveled to. Maybe this will help you.

1. Make a budget, write down your spending money and how much you’ve spent in a day

You may have started with loads on the first few days of the trip. Without writing it down, on 5th day you are wondering where have all your money gone. You overspent and freak out. This is why this is so important, especially if you are traveling for the first time. I overspent when I was in Paris with my boyfriend. We could’ve been seeing so many places but I was procrastinating while in Paris and because I was lazy. The thought of having so much money and you’ll be fine is not a good idea. Divide your money into days you planned to spend abroad and into categories; food+tips, transportation, souvenirs, accommodation, monuments/museum entrance passes and unexpected expenses (like getting fined or tickets). This will make you feel so much better, and by doing this, I did have the chances to be on spending spree and we ended up going to 3 other countries+skiing trip while it wasn’t planned in the beginning because I thought we are going to be short of money.

2. Be selective when it come to food and drinks

Unless you are in Asia, alcohol will cost you more than water. Unfortunately, I don’t drink but I’m very concern about alcohol consumers. Beer is addictive, you want to go drinking every day and night and at the end of the day you realized that you have spent way too much on alcohol that you have to also do rationing on food, meaning, eating ramen or unhealthy fast food throughout your trip. I’m not saying you cannot do that, but alcohol is always the biggest part of the spending. Being in foreign countries makes you want to try so new food too. It is okay to have 2 days or 2 night in a week dining in fancy restaurant on your trip, but rest of the days in the week you could save more money by embarking on gastronomical adventure by eating street food or you can simply cook in your apartment/hostel.

3. Carry your own prescribed medication 

It is very wise to carry your own medical supplies, also your own first aid kit. Food poisoning and flu can be easily treated with Imodium and Teraflu. This will cost you less than having to consult doctor, paying for the service and extra unnecessary medications and of course paying for a taxi to get you the hospital because you are cannot take the train or walk when you’re sick. This happened to me when I was in Trieste, Italy. My sinusitis was very severe and I should’ve brought my own medication from Malaysia, which I know was a lot cheaper and though the hospital service is free in Italy, we ended up paying loads for my sinusitis medication over the counter at the pharmacy in Trieste.

4. Take overnight sleeper train or bus

This will save you lots of money while you are actually traveling from one place to another, or from one country to another! Transportation nowadays are so much better. JF and I took the sleeper train from Budapest, Hungary to skiing town, Brasov, Romania. It was €320 for 2 return sleeper double couchette, across the countries for 14 hours. We saved a lot on hotel stay already, and also compensating on flying cost. But don’t fully take my words because it is different from country to country. In 2011, I suffered from high fever and severe back pain after an overnight bus trip from Phuket, Thailand to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia but the overnight bus that I took from Melaka, Malaysia to the border of Malaysia and Thailand was really comfortable and cheap. The biggest part of spending while traveling is always the transportation part. If you can combine it with accommodation, you’ll be surprised of how much you actually can save.

5. Find alternative ways to avoid disappointment

I was so upset when I cannot get on the gondola ride in Venice, Italy. JF made it up to me by saying I can get to see snow and experience winter and so we did.  However, not all of this you can experience cheaply but certainly there are so many alternatives you can choose to avoid disappointment. My skiing trip in Romania was way cheaper than that 1/2 hour gondola ride. That was so much better and I never thought sacrificing some unnecessary expenses would feel that good and now I didn’t feel bad or missing out anymore for not having that kind of experience in Venice. Doesn’t mean that if you are on budget trip, you cannot travel well and do expensive thing, this is why step #1 is the most important.

ImageMy fancy escargot experience in Paris: Try new food, but don’t splurge on them everyday!

Break on break-ation

How artsy the horse is in Margit Island, Budapest

How artsy the horse is in Margit Island, Budapest

I was really amused by this one. I asked the pet store owner to flip him back, she did. Great success!

I was really amused by this one. I asked the pet store owner to flip him back, she did. Great success!

Yes, a break on your break-ation. At some point, you’ll get tired of scaling the cities by visiting all the monuments they have to offer. Some would take a break by doing some shopping, but you can always do that when you got home. I took breaks on break-ation by simply going to the river, see some swans, going to the park, see some ducks, going to pet stores, or going to the zoo. No, if you think all zoos are the same, they are not because you have to understand why there are zoos and why there should be zoos.

Never forget, human and animal interactions is proven to help you cope with stress. Have you taken your break on your break-ation? Go pat some sloths or feed some swans!

Peeking Lemur at Budapest Zoo

Peeking Lemur at Budapest Zoo

Snoozy sloth at Budapest Zoo

Snoozy sloth at Budapest Zoo

I adopted a huge swan in Prague, Czech Republic

I adopted a huge swan in Prague, Czech Republic

Yes, you can pat the sloth at Budapest Zoo

Yes, you can pat the sloth at Budapest Zoo

Grand Circus, Budapest

Grand Circus, Budapest

Very adorable red oanda at Paris Zoo

Very adorable red panda at Paris Zoo

A polar bear's butt at Prague Zoo, Czech Republic

A polar bear’s butt at Prague Zoo, Czech Republic

The funny pigeon interruption at Notre-dame, Paris

The funny pigeon interruption at Notre-dame, Paris

I was busy feeding these 3 hungry birds in Vltava, Prague, Czech Republic

I was busy feeding these 3 hungry birds in Vltava, Prague, Czech Republic

Wall Cat in Brasov, Romania

Wall Cat in Brasov, Romania

Traveling and its downsides

Quoting my favorite traveler’s blog, Nomadic Matt : “When I meet people and tell them about what I do or how long I have been traveling, their response is usually something like, “Wow! That is so awesome! You’re so lucky! I wish I could do something like that!…Finally, you get tired. Really tired. Of traveling. Of everything. After a while, everything becomes just another “one of.” That 100th church, 100th waterfall, 40th hostel, 800th bus ride, 600th bar… it’s not the same after a while. It loses its charm and luster. Travel becomes unexciting. Ask any traveler – at some point, they hit that point where they are sick of traveling. They just need a few days or weeks to recharge their batteries.”

This is from my personal experience:

Traveling is great, but I learned from my trip with JF that if you don’t want to get tired of traveling, do it slowly. Don’t go out and see 100 temples in one day, then go to another 100 cathedrals the next day. I still have to plan what I am going to do on the trips but not flooding a day with so many things to do. Some travelers tend to have this “race” on their schedule, thinking that they have to compete in “Who Went to 30 countries in One Month First”.

You want to be able to do things you want to do, to see things you want to see. If you do it slowly, you will be able to see everything. Trust me, traveling needs so much patience, flexibility and independence although I agree that you don’t have to be rich to travel well. Long term traveling also needs plans, if not, a draft of what you are going to do. Unless you are in a tour group, which usually, you just have to pay, sit down and relax. I am not sure if I can count that as being a traveler. I wrote once on my Facebook status — “Tourists see things they want to see, travelers see everything.” For 3 years of constant traveling, I am living with this.

I struggled on my first trip outside South East Asia which was to Europe, spending summer of 2013 in Turkey, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Germany and Holland. I am a bit lucky I got supports from my boyfriend, but still, I struggled, BIG time. We fought on the way, we fought about where to eat, simply because there are too many choices but very different individual taste. We fought about should we walk or take the train, and is it worth it to purchase weekly train passes for that you have to also decide if you should stay that long in one city. I never knew that traveling could be so hard. You have to separate expenses, you have to sacrifice something you are dying to do (in my case, sacrificing Gondola ride in Venice because it was TOO expensive) and have a backup plan, in case you have utter heartbreak when you get to your dream place, only to know that you cannot afford this and that (I found a very nice cave in Postojna, Slovenia, got there after long train ride, only to know that the place is a big tourist trap). This might not be applicable to travelers or tourists with thick pockets, they might not need advice anyways.

ImageVenice: The gondola ride I dreamed about all my life, that I have to sacrifice, MYR 320 for 1/2 hour is not worth it.

Sometimes, in some cases or base on my experience (my winter trip, skiiing in Azuga, in the middle of nowhere in the Transylvanian Carpathians of Romania) the most depressing thing is there is not much information online about places you plan to go, and for this you just have to “gamble”, be there and see how it is going to be, while on the way you will think about yourself as being irresponsible and lack of a planner. But I compensated for everything that I sacrificed in my past trips with JF (example above) by planning and executing the most amazing ski trip in Romania, despite very little information can be gathered from online forums about this particular place.

Image

Azuga: Nice, but really in the middle of nowhere with very little information, even about how much the snow is falling.

Being constantly on the run could be sweetest escape, especially if you had been dreaming of doing so for long time. But you have to be mentally prepared, that should be on top of your bucket list.