Play me first.
One of the most feared words in human history. I bet you cringed when you read that.
Alone. Yea you cringed again too.
We live in a world where shows, movies, magazines, television sets tell you that being alone is bad. They tell you that you need to have a man or woman to be somewhat content with your life. That you constantly need people to go anywhere, from the bathroom to a different country alone. Because if you’re alone just sitting there, eating at a restaurant, traveling somewhere, well apparently you’re a loser. An undateable loner, a socially awkward freak of nature, you might as well be a mutant with eight arms and one eye. That’s close to the image portrayed right?
I’ve had my qualms with being alone. From being alone romantically, to being alone in my bed, to being alone in a restaurant, to being alone just, anywhere. I was too scared to face myself. I was too scared to be with myself, I couldn’t stand it. And this ultimately stemmed from not loving myself, not being happy with who I was, and constantly relying on others for happiness. That’s why I was so terrified of being alone. Traveling alone anywhere wasn’t even an option. It was my biggest fear and it held me back from pursuing everything I’ve ever dreamt of.
That was a few years back, everything has changed for me then. I’ve learned to love myself, and still learning. I’m happy with the person I’ve become and will continue to grow into the person I want myself to be. I no longer rely solely on others for happiness, because I found it within myself. And last year I embarked on my first journey alone in a foreign country. The truth is, there is boundless freedom in traveling alone and it’s not as dangerous as you perceive it to be. Everything that people warned you about will do nothing but hinder you. You just need to be smart with your decisions, trust your instincts, and be careful when traveling alone. The dangers out there are on the same degree as in your own city, so don’t let the illusions society has create on traveling alone fool you.
Everything is in perception. You get what you give out and if you’re giving our a lot of fear, you’ll attract the worst. If you come into a place with a sunny disposition, a humbling attitude, and high spirits, the universe will guide you and lead you to happy circumstances.
1. Pai, Thailand
Take a 5-hour minibus ride from Chiang Mai. Step into an alternate universe. A hippie town nestled in the mountains of Northern Thailand. It’s where you’ll find dreads, hippie pants, Thai Jack Sparrow, artists, musicians, people with peace in their hearts, and a kind of gravity that will keep a part of your heart in, no matter where you go. There’s something about this town that will turn you into a free spirit, if you weren’t already one to begin with. Find a home in Spicy Pai, a hostel made of huts sitting in a rice field. I met the perfect people at the perfect time in that place. Find freedom in riding a motorbike or scooter, or at least ride on the back of one. It’ll take you to the most beautiful sceneries you’ll ever see. Discover infinity in the valleys and mountains, explore caves, jump and slide down waterfalls. Find yourself in the the land crack, where you can sit down and eat delicious potatoes, tamarind, banana chips, hibiscus fruit drinks, and passion fruit in exchange for a small donation towards people with kind hearts and beautiful smiles. Melt your bodies into the hot springs. Get intoxicated with your new friends from all walks of life and all corners of the worlds, and go out to the bars with them. Meet more awesome people and hula hoop your way through the streets. I’m warning you, once you set foot onto this place you’ll find it very hard to leave. And when you do leave, you’ll leave your heart somewhere in the land cracks, the waterfalls, the valleys, the motorbike rides, the rice fields, everything that this town is made of, seen and unseen, including the people you’ve come to love.
2. Thai Islands
It’s notorious for partying, but there’s so much more. There’s always so much more. Go to Koh Tao and spend lazy days on the beach and float in the turquoise waters. Or live on the edge and swim with sharks in Shark Bay (something I wish I did but didn’t have enough time left to do, or the courage yet, so I took the raincheck). Spend a couple days in Koh Phi Phi to go island hopping. No matter how cliche and touristy it is, see Maya Beach. Despite all the tourists, it’s still unreal. Spend most of your time in Railay Beach. Accommodations here are more expensive, stay at pricey bungalows if you have to, but it’s worth it. Rockclimb as often as you can, as high as you can. Go to Phranang Cave Beach early morning, before the influx of tourists come. Set yourself afloat and look up at the caves above you. Close your eyes and pretend you’re the sea itself. Swim inside the caves, climb to the top of the cliff and be careful. Then jump off. Do it over and over again until the fear goes away and freedom seeps in completely.
3. Palawan, Philippines
Get lost in as many islands possible. You can’t go wrong with either El Nido or Coron. But please, go to Palawan. The islands are so beautiful you’ll forget that you’re human. Swim through lagoons, swim inside a cave and live that childhood dream of becoming a mermaid. Kayak across the sea to the nearest island. Jump into the ocean, lay out in the sand, and climb the trees on the beach after. Eat as much seafood and slimy sea weed as you can. Swim through Kayangan Lake, one of the clearest lakes in the world. Find the soul connection in the magic vibrating all around you.
4. La Fortuna, Costa Rica
I was actually with a friend when I went here, but Costa Rica is one of the best places in the world for solo travel. Take a bus from San Jose to the town of La Fortuna, where you’ll find the Arenal Volcano. Go zip lining across the rainforest, hovering over waterfalls and trees with monkeys and sloths. Yell as loud as you can, conquer your fear. Go hiking across the jungle, around the volcano, into the wild where the snakes, jaguars, and ocelots roam freely. Jump in the waterfalls. Go in the hot springs at night and stargaze while floating in the water. Drink with your hostel mates, connect with people from all over the world, ones who you’ll build strong friendships with. Walk around town, play with the local children, kill the language barrier with kindness, laughter, and gratitude.
5. Bocas Del Toro, Panama
Cross the bridge from Costa Rica to Panama. Take a boat to Bocas Del Toro. Stay at a waterfront hostel. Ride a bike around town. Go to Red Frog Beach and dig your feet into one of the best sands you will ever set foot on. Go to Zapatillo Key Island and snorkel its vibrant reefs. Lay out in the sand, let the waves kiss your body. Watch dolphins from your boat, snorkel around the reefs some more. Ride water taxis, be in the moment, smile when you say your rode a water taxi, you don’t say those kind of things often. At night, mix apple juice with vodka and lime, share with hostel mates, go out and dance the night away. Preferably with a good Latin dancer, if not, dance anyway.
Revel in all of it.
Be brave. Be alone. Be happy, feel it inside, radiate it out. And use those eight arms and that one eye wisely.