Solo travelers said going out into the world alone gives them a feeling of independence while helping them get out of their comfort zone.
Jeremy Malaluan, a senior majoring in computer science and information technology from the Philippines, travelled alone to Los Angeles and said he was more excited than scared because he wanted to explore the area. “I’m used to living in a third-world country, and Hawaii is kind of similar to the Philippines. There are a lot of beautiful places to explore in the world, and that motivated me to go somewhere different from where I came from.”
He described his trip as rejuvenating and fun because he was able to reinvent his social skills. “I stayed in a hostel. Living in one room with other people who have the same goal as you has made me confident to talk to them. During breakfast, I got to meet new sets of people from other rooms too.”
One of the reasons Malaluan said he decided to travel alone was the freedom to manage his own time. He said, “I can go from one place to another by myself. When I get tired, I can just take a rest without asking someone. And I don’t have to argue with anyone.”
According to SmarterTravel.com, one of the pros of traveling alone is the freedom to change plans quickly. The site reports, “When traveling in a group, changing plans can be rife with interpersonal, financial and other concerns. When traveling alone, you can simply make a decision and move on. This can apply to decisions both small and large, from deciding where to eat to choosing whether to rent a car and leave town.”
Malaluan agreed with this description and said while laughing, “You don’t have to wait for someone to get out of the shower.”
Lama Fesola’i, an accounting senior from New Zealand, spent one month of his summer traveling from the East Coast to the West Coast including: San Francisco, Utah, Orlando, Miami, New York, and Seattle. Fesola’i said he was scared at first but “got excited knowing that I will get to see places I want and eat food I’ve never tried before.”
Fesola’i said he decided to travel by himself because he might not be able to when he is married and has children. The highlight of traveling alone was meeting strangers traveling by themselves, he added, which was fun because they were on the same page. He said, “We got to connect, talk about our experiences, and share tips as solo travelers.”
Fesola’i recommended students try traveling alone because “it helps you gain experience and it puts you out of your comfort zone. You get to learn from other people, and it makes you independent.”
Esther Xavier, an exercise and sports science senior from Malaysia, said her first big trip traveling alone was on her way to Hawaii from Malaysia. She described her experience as “traumatic” because during her transit in South Korea, her luggage keys were stolen. “I was freaking out in the airport, but no one understood me because no one speaks English in Korea. It was so hard to explain that I lost my keys. Everyone was like ‘Ke, ke.’
“On the same trip, I got lost too. Me and another person in a tour group who speaks English went out together for an hour and we were instructed to meet in one of the four buildings, but they all looked exactly the same. We went to every building and missed the meeting place of our group tour because everything was in Korean.”
Xavier said prayer helped her. “God is mindful of us. I didn’t realize I missed locking the most important part of my luggage, which had my travel documents like my passport and visa. Fortunately, I didn’t lose anything.”
As a first-time solo traveler, Malaluan emphasized the importance of having an itinerary. “Be wise in using Google. It’s a skill. And before going to your destination, research about the place like the cost of food, hotels, and tourist destinations. Plan everything to avoid problems. But remember when you encounter something, you’ll get through it.”
Xavier also encouraged travelers to learn basic phrases to survive and make friends before going to a specific country. “My parents still can’t believe I survived in Korea. Always do a little bit of research where you’re going and don’t be too spontaneous.”
Fesola’i also pointed out that individuals traveling alone should tell people where they’re going in case something happens. “That way, they can find you easily.”
Another bit of advice is to have cash on hand. Fesola’i explained, “There are some places that only accept cash, and it is expensive to withdraw from ATM machines. When I travel, I estimate beforehand how much cash I will be needing and I withdraw before I leave.”
One suggestion from Fesola’i is to use Mutual, the LDS dating app. He said, “I used it when I was in Salt Lake. You’ll meet people who would offer you a ride and sometimes tour you around. It’s good because people in the app are members of the church, and sometimes they even pay for your meal.”
One struggle of traveling alone was taking photos, said Malaluan. “There were times in the travel when it was hard to take pictures because I was alone. I can take a photo of the view, but there was no one to take a photo of me in the view. But it is manageable. It’s either you ask a stranger or just take a selfie.
Malaluan said another struggle is not having someone to hang out with. “Sometimes, you just want to talk to someone consistently … but you have no one to talk to.”
Fesola’i disagreed and said, “I think some people will find it lonely, but I don’t mind.”
Another tip from Malaluan is don’t hesitate to ask people where the best place to go to is and what food to try. “Don’t be afraid to ask around. Be friendly and nice so you can have a good time.”
NOTE: This article's online publication was delayed because it was featured in the Jan. 2018 print issue.