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Thoughts and Reviews

Things I Learned From My First Overseas Trip

Posted: September 23, 2015 at 2:00 am   /   by   /   comments (12)

“If you can imagine it you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it.”
–William Arthur Ward

In 2013, I decided to make some of the items in my bucket list a reality – see Ha Long Bay and the beautiful temples of Angkor Wat. But a few months before ticking these off, a fire incident took away most of the things that we have including my passport.

With a partly burned home and a few assets left, I decided to postpone the trip. Besides, it will take me months to recover my documents.

Despite the postponement of the trip, the curiosity on how people in other countries live didn’t leave me. So when I found very cheap return tickets to Bangkok earlier this year, I didn’t hesitate to book it (I got them for just PhP2,600+ all in!).

As the travel date drew nearer, I became more nervous with my first solo overseas trip. I’ve never gone out of the country before so everything will be my first time (I actually find it hard to tell if I’m nervous or excited).

Just like most first timers, I was filled with fears and doubts.

What if something goes wrong?
What if I won’t be able to make friends (yes, this has been a huge concern)?
What if I run out of money?

But you know what, I realize that there’s only one way to find out if these things would happen. And that’s through pushing through with this trip.

Putting my faith in the universe and myself, I went on a 9-day solo adventure in Thailand. I met so many amazing people, ate a lot of street food, and learned tons of lessons from this trip. Some of the best ones I learned are the following:

Lesson #1: Don’t be afraid to ask questions!

Maybe it’s pride or probably shyness but in most situations, I prefer not to ask questions. But this trip changed that.

Situation #1:  This is my first solo trip and I can’t ask anyone from my immediate family on how is it or what the process is like because neither my parents nor my brothers have gone out of the country. So yeah, I’m the first person in the family to do it.

Because of the horror stories I read of travelers getting offloaded, I asked several people online on some concerns I have. These people, mostly strangers, have been utterly helpful in my trip (thank you Adylin of Island Girl Traveller and Rojae of The Adventures of Adventuroj!).

Situation #2: While in the airport and while waiting for my turn in the check-in counter, I observed that people in the line were holding what seems to be a receipt. Out of curiosity, I asked the lady in front of me who kindly told me that it’s a travel tax receipt and I better pay that first.

If I didn’t ask, I’ll probably be wasting time queuing only to be led back to the travel tax counter (I’m not sure though if one really needs to pay the travel tax first; I guess it’s just for convenience).

Thanks to a couchsurfer, I found a place to stay in Bangkok for a night.

Thanks to a Couchsurfer, I found a place to stay in Bangkok for a night.

Situation #3: Navigation is my weakness (I struggle in reading maps). So what did I do to get where I want to go? I asked the people around. It’s quite a challenge though because of the language barrier.

What I realized from these situations is this: asking is easy; what makes it hard for many of us is the fear of what other people may think.

Lesson #2: Fear is just in our head

“Wow, you’re brave.”

I often hear this from people who learned that I’m traveling on my own overseas. I’m not writing this because I think I’m special or what because the truth is, I’m not. Anyone can do it.

Royal Palace Project - was able to get here because of another Couchsurfer :)

Royal Palace Project – was able to get here because of another Couchsurfer 🙂

Fear is a powerful emotion and the only way to overcome that is action.

This applies not just to traveling but even to some areas of our lives like career and even relationships. So if you feel like doing it but not sure if you can, just do it!

Lesson #3: Almost all things we want in life lies outside our comfort zone

I’m an introvert so taking solo trips is both a bliss and a challenge. Since the solo trip in Sagada where I had the worst case of loneliness (my fault anyway), I vowed to make friends on the road. And I’ve only thought of one way to do it — couchsurfing!

Couchsurfing has become my lifesaver for the entire duration of this trip. It helped me find a place to stay in Bangkok and led me to some of the most amazing people I met. If you haven’t tried it yet, then I suggest you do!

It’s actually the people that I met that made this trip truly remarkable. And I wouldn’t have met them if I didn’t decide to use couchsurfing and approach people, things that I don’t normally do.

Pai - just 3 hours away from the city of Chiang Mai

Pai – just 3 hours away from the city of Chiang Mai

So yes, I encourage you to step outside your comfort zone. It’s not easy at first but it’s definitely worth it.

Do you have similar experience in the past?
How was it and what were the lessons you learned?

  • Mia

    So true. I was really nervous on my first solo trip as well, but I tried my best to ignore all of those fears. Everything will eventually work out in the end anyway. You’re right that fear is just in our heads.

  • Kim-Ling Richardson (Travel-Li

    Lovely post. Sorry to hear about the struggles you had to face prior to travelling! Great lessons though. Especially #2 with fear being just in our heads. I learnt that one myself when travelling solo around Spain. So many people commented on how brave I was, but really, it is all about your approach and attitude!

  • Great tips. I’m still bad at number one. I hate having to ask people for things when I just need to get over that!

  • That’s right Mia. The trip was really an eye opener for me 🙂

  • So true Kim! How’s your solo trip in Spain?

  • Hi Hannah! It actually took me some time to get over that (I don’t like bothering people).

  • Kim-Ling Richardson (Travel-Li

    It was good thanks Joann! I was solo for about 2 months before my husband came over to join me. I love both solo and couples travel 🙂

  • And so do I!! Number 1 is so terrible!! I prefer to try and make mistake rather than ask before… shame on me!!

  • Teacaketravels

    I am so happy for you! I am always on a mission to encourage women to ‘go for it’ and travel solo and you totally did it girl! You learnt a lot too and I hope you’re planning your next trip already 😀 Can’t wait to see what you get up to next.

  • Thank you 🙂 It’s definitely an empowering experience and can’t wait for a big trip next year!

  • I also used to be like that but this trip changed that. 😀

  • Wow. That sounds good Kim!