I wish there was a less cheesy reason for why I decided to travel solo, but my story starts like the plot of every rom-com cliché: I had my heart broken.
I know how eye-roll inducing that is, but originally, I wasn't even thinking about traveling alone. I was supposed to fly to Korea with a bunch of friends, but as fate would have it, all of them cancelled on me. TBH, I was so scared when I found out. So many questions popped in my head: What if I get lost? Or worse, get mugged? What if I die? Solo travel wasn't something I even considered.
At the time, I was already sort of recovering from the breakup—meaning, I wasn't a crying mess anymore—but I wasn't completely okay, too. I was experiencing that awkward phase of feeling fine but still trying to find my footing.
Still, I ran out of fucks to give and refused to cancel the flight I booked with my friends.
I was both excited and scared when I started planning my trip to Korea. Before this, I have only been out of the country twice—both times were with friends who did most of the planning. I was a follower, not a leader, in this department, so I didn't know where to start!
On top of that, I was on a budget, so I had to make sure that every single thing on my itineray fit my P30,000 allowance. Thankfully, K-pop and K-culture were some of my feel-good escapes during my period of heartbreak, so it felt natural to build the rest of my trip around it.
When I arrived in Seoul, I was scammed by a cab driver who asked me to pay P1,500 for a ride that should have costed no more than P500.
My first solo adventure was NOT easy. I'd describe it as a healthy mix of good and bad, really. When I arrived in Seoul, I was scammed by a cab driver who asked me to pay P1,500 for a ride that should have costed no more than P500. I spent a minimum of two hours walking around, getting lost every day because of how bad I was with directions. On my last day, I broke down in my hotel room because all the ATMs I visited didn't accept my card, and I only had KRW1,000 (roughly P44) on me.
But the trip also gave me a lot of good memories. I had a stranger give me a mandarin from her bag of groceries after she helped me with directions. There was another girl who walked and rode with me in the subway, so I could find my way home. A lady, who I didn't know was watching me after I asked for directions from her, pulled me at the last second before I got on the wrong train. Strangers gladly took the time to take my photos. Vendors from the night market helped me sort out my money and give the right bills because I was always mixing them up. Elders who barely knew English put the effort to stutter and wish me good luck on the rest of my trip.
The best thing about traveling alone was that I was my number one priority. I did things on my own terms, in my own time.
The best thing about traveling alone was that I was my number one priority. I did things on my own terms, in my own time. While making my itinerary, I didn't have to consider other people's interests. I also had the freedom to spend as much time as I wanted in a particular tourist spot. For someone who had been dependent on others for the majority of her life, it was exactly what I needed: to have control and responsibility over myself. It made me feel empowered again.
It also made me realize just how good the world is. There's a certain kind of peace in going around on your own, but every time I needed help, it was always within reach. People who didn't know me or even spoke the same language as I do made sure I was okay. These moments of kindness did so much for me.
I experienced unmatched feelings of strength and independence after accomplishing something I've always been so afraid to do. I enjoyed it so much that only three months after my trip to Korea, I went to Taiwan alone for my birthday. While that trip was definitely smoother than my first, it was just as fulfilling. It gave me the space to think, to breathe, and most of all, to realize that I am capable of doing things on my own as long as I'm brave enough to see it through.
Do I recommend traveling alone? Yes, absolutely! I took the risk because I needed to find my center again by doing something without any help from anyone. The thing is: You don't really need to have a broken heart to try it. Traveling solo taught me that there are always good people to meet along the way and that at the end of the day, I can always count on myself.
Since then, I've planned four more trips, two of which I'm doing solo. This time, I'm not doing it because I'm recovering from a broken heart, but because I've learned to love myself again.
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