Over three years ago I traveled a majority of Vietnam mostly by myself. On what was such an epic trip, made me realize that I hated traveling alone. I've never done anything like that before in America, yet alone in Vietnam. I had very little travel experience prior to that. I was hardly well prepared, and I came into it with a lot of anxiety and fear. Eventually, things turned out well, but I still preferred having a friend around. The unknown aspects of what I'll do, and how things will transpire upon meeting the right or wrong people on the road might change the entire sphere of things.
And now, solo travel doesn't bother anymore. Traveling to Pleiku this past weekend was the first time that I was by myself in so long. I used to look at people traveling alone and wonder why they didn't have any friends. This was especially true in Myanmar when solo Japanese travelers would just be out in the Bagan dessert by themselves. This always made me curious. But now, I totally get it.
Traveling alone has so many benefits. I don't have to wait on anyone. I can make and change plans as spontaneously as I want. I don't have to consider anyone else. My time is of my own. I don't have to share bathrooms. I'm not rushed. I don't have to walk a certain way for others to keep up. Lol. Then again, it also has its disadvantages. There's simply no one to talk to. Photo opportunities are more limited. It's easier to have a helpful hand, especially filming a travelogue. It's much safer to travel with a friend. If I were to get kidnapped or any bodily harm were to happen to me, no one would really know about it. It will definitely require less planning. A second brain is always better than one.
|Talking to locals.|
Eating alone is another issue that I had to overcome. Most of my meals are alone now. I'm okay with that. I'm not afraid anymore. I don't like sharing a table with strangers, but in doing so, I'll have an opportunity to talk to people that I might not. I remember sitting underneath the tarp with the balut duck egg lady and meeting a few local people also huddled next to me. One lady stole some slices of mangos from my plate, thinking she conned me. Then there were other dudes who kept smoking. That was pretty annoying, but there wasn't much I could do. They were decent people though. But I find that older people are more likely to talk to me. People my age are more likely to stare or are too shy or arrogant to speak up.
If I'm with someone else, I won't have the opportunity to truly focus on the surroundings around me. I might be too busy talking, because I tend to do that a lot, and so I'll forget to appreciate the real aspects of doing something non touristy. I'm lucky to look like I could blend in for the most part. Until the cameras come out, if I'm by myself, people won't stare at me or think of me an outsider. Once I open my mouth it's too late. If I'm with another traveler, John, Kim, or even Old Boy, speaking English will automatically create an invisible wall between me and the locals around me. If I'm with white or foreign looking people, the locals will think I'm a tour guide or a homosexual tour guide. So, it's difficult to converse with them without leaving my friends out of the mix. I felt like I was able to have more meaningful conversations with locals when I'm alone. I always refer to myself as a Dong Nai person who grew up in America. I never use the term Viet kieu. They're the ones that use it. In Pleiku, people are actually pretty accepting and warm to that fact. In Saigon, nobody cares. In Hanoi, I just say I'm Mongolian.
I've come a long ways. Vietnam has created a new sense of independence for me. I don't think Americans are as adventurous when it comes to backpacking compared to the Europeans, so very few of my friends would consider traveling alone. But, Vietnam is actually so easy to travel. Transportation is widely available. Taxis can be expensive, but xe oms are cheap if you know how to bargain. I prefer carrying my own helmet around though. Hotels are affordable for the most part- though three years ago I was trying to penny pinch. Now, I'm spending a little bit more on hotels. Upwards 25 dollars a night, simply because as I'm getting older, I appreciate certain comforts that I won't get at home. And I've felt like I'm progressing as a person in the past few years. I have Vietnam to thank for that. Thanks Vietnam.
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|Alone in Sapa.|