Gotta Go My Own Way

(Disclaimer: Title taken from the song of the same name, from High School Musical.)

As promised, here is
Part V of my
Banaue — Buscalan — Baguio chronicles.

As I mentioned in Part I (which you can read here),
This trip was my “first”
Solo trip.

I say “first” with quotation marks because technically, I
Went to Japan on my own, for my exchange program.
However, perhaps due to my very sociable nature, I
Already made friends by my second day there, and
Was no longer on my own since.

Further, I believe I used quotation marks around
“Solo”, when I first mentioned this trip. This is because I
Used to think that going on a
Tour package-type trip
With a group of other people
Didn’t quite count as a solo trip; although, I went on my own,
Without knowing anyone else on the trip prior to leaving.

I have since been convinced otherwise
After reading this article about
Alex of Travel Fashion Girl, who
Started solo traveling by joining such tour groups on her own,
Before making that leap to truly single-person traveling.

And that’s kind of what I want to talk about:

What it means to take a trip
On your own.

When I was traveling around Japan, especially my
Last two weeks of travel there, I
Took most of that trip
With my Malaysian friend.

Whereas our European dorm mates
Backpacked and
Hitchhiked
Around Japan
On their own—mind you, I know at least one guy who did it, and
One girl did, as well—
The two of us agreed
That we needed at least one other person to travel with.

At the time, I believed this was the effect of
A difference in culture and background; that is, it’s
Less safe on your own
Around Southeast Asia
Than Europe, for example, and this is
True even for natives of these countries.

Now though, I
Obviously think differently.

It’s true that you can get

Stolen from,

Held up (at gun / knifepoint), or even

Raped

While traveling on your own. But,
The same can actually happen,
Even if you’re not traveling—and really,
You don’t spend all your time
Commuting to and from work, for example,
In the company of someone else. And
Sometimes, even if you are in a group,
Bad things happen. You can
Never really anticipate these things, though
You can do your best to prepare for them
(E.g., street smarts and common sense).

Yet, why do people do it? Why do we
Take that risk,
Not just to travel, but to do so
On our own?

No, it is not because we are all
Closet introverts; though,
Even extroverts benefit from
Some alone time.

More than that though, it is
A challenge
To learn about yourself—

How to take care of yourself
(e.g., to pack only what you yourself know you need and will be able to carry),

How you deal with people who know nothing about you
(e.g., what you’re willing to tell people about you),

What scares you
(e.g., climbing a mountain without knowing if someone can help you),

What boundaries you are willing to cross and those that you would never do
(e.g., only drinking enough that you can still trust your own judgments afterwards),

When to make a decision
(e.g., what do YOU want to eat RIGHT NOW),

When to stand by that decision
(e.g., “No, I don’t want another drink, thank you.”),

Who you miss
(e.g., your family, your best friend, your significant other),

Who you are
(e.g., “the sociable one”, “the peacemaker”, “the non-drinker”)—

Without the comfort of other people.

Of course, some people
Won’t understand.

An officemate of mine asked me, “Why aren’t you
Traveling with your boyfriend? Won’t you
Get sick of traveling alone […] ?”
(Coincidentally, I recently read this article just after my trip, and it may
Answer the former question. It was actually rather
Apt for me, except maybe number 4.)

And when I told my mom, she said,
“Who are you with? […] I’m asking a serious question.”
To which I replied with “a serious answer”, that
“I’m on my own.”

While others will surely
Question you(r sanity) and/or
Dissuade you, but
In the end,
The decision is yours.

Even if solo travel proves
Not to be for you (and I’m sure it really isn’t for some people), but
If you never try it even once,
You’ll never know now, won’t you?

So,

Are you up for the challenge?

P.S. Have you taken a solo trip? What was it like? What did you learn? I’d love to hear about your experiences! 🙂

*Notes:

  1. Part II of this trip, a review on the agency I took the tour with, can be read here;
  2. Part III, on my packing revelations, can be found here; and,
  3. Part IV, on feminism and modesty, based on my experiences on this trip, can be read here.
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