As I grip onto the armrest of the BA plane as we take off, my heart rate quickens and I’m forced to make breathing noises like I’m training to give birth. It’s not the flight that’s freaking me out – it’s the fact I’m going travelling around Thailand on my own. Why would this ever seem like a good idea?
For me, it was one defining moment a long time ago in a land down-under…
I’ve always travelled with friends all over the world and had the best time. One of these trips was to Australia with my school friend Bryony and my uni friend Lucy. We hadn’t booked anywhere to stay (that’s how we rolled in those days), but armed with a rough plan and lots of enthusiasm, we set off. Luckily we hadn’t booked hotels, because when we landed in Melbourne and nearly froze, we decided to fly straight onto Cairns to warm up then work our way down. That was the only straight-forward decision we made.
The three of us, all being super-lovely and possibly a bit wishy-washy, and on my part massively immature (at the time, obvs not now. Ahem) took forever to come to any sort of decision. Two hours and countless ‘ooooh, I don’t mind, what do you think?’ statements later, and we were ready to order food, or choose which street to go down, or whether to get a taxi or not, etc. You get the idea, but it was in Byron Bay where everything changed.
We walked in the Beach Hotel bar (luckily it was pretty quiet), and the bar guy asks us what we want to drink. Obviously unbeknownst to him, he could of gone for a surf, had lunch and read a book by the time we ordered. Instead, he watched us umming and erring, his eyes darted from one of us to another and finally he asked, ‘how did you even get here?’ There, that was it. How did you even get here? From that one question I wondered… yeh, how the f*** did we even get here? Everything seemed to slow down and the universe finally succeeded in getting through to me. If I was here on my own, I would have just ordered without hesitation. Wouldn’t I? What would that feel like? Why would I ever be on my own though? A million questions came pouring into my head, the floodgate had been opened and I drowned myself in the possibilities. I came out of my daze to the rhythmic tapping of the bartender’s fingers on the bar.. I’ll have a G&T please Mr Bar-Man. And after that revelation, make it a double.
Back home I needed to plan this solo trip, but I didn’t tell anyone, because I didn’t know if it was a bit weird. Throughout my travels I met a number of women who were travelling on their own, and I always thought ooophf, I couldn’t do that. The mere thought of it was pretty daunting, but I decided to go to Thailand (land of smiles, don’t you know). My friends and family all reacted pretty much like ‘Oh. Erm. Ok. Really?’ But I had full support, love and hugs from everyone.
So, back to my flight to Bangkok. Yep I was pretty scared, but this time I had planned a bit better, booked places to stay and even sorted out internal flights. Firstly I did some volunteering in a school out in the sticks, where I met some of the most loveliest, polite children I’ve ever met in my life. From there, I flew to Koh Sumui, Krabi, Phuket to name but a few places. There were times, where I did feel like I didn’t want to eat on my own or wander around a temple without someone to share it with, and there a were couple of times when I felt downright sacred to be on my own. But I met so many more people than I ever did when I was with my friends, maybe because there was a few of us or a group, people didn’t approach, but here on my own, making new friends was easy. One of them was a girl who was volunteering with me, as there was only the two of us foreigners in the village and we had to share a bed, yeh we got to know each other quickly and became good friends! She joined me in a few places as I was travelling around, so it was always great to catch up with her.
I had the most amazing time in Thailand, but did it change me? Not that I was looking to be changed as such, but yes I did come back a new me. It was nothing massive or like I had a personality transplant, but more subtle differences in the way I behaved or made decisions. I was more clear about what I wanted and I even went on to live and work in Australia.
Looking back now, I think it was a wonderful thing to do and would have no qualms about doing it again. I still look back on that trip and think ‘go on girl’!