Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Why I Travel Alone?

“Why do you travel alone?” “Don’t you find it boring?” These are the questions I have been asked many times. I live in Malaysia, not the United States of America. Americans are individualists. Malaysians, and especially ethnic Chinese, are group-oriented. I am considered a ‘freak’ in my society for traveling solo.

Imagine this: what I would do if I didn’t travel? I might watch soap operas or “re-read” The Da Vinci Code. Aren’t those more boring! Some may think I should have traveled with a few companions. Well, apparently, I can’t point a gun at someone – preferably a woman – and say, “Let’s go to Bali.”

So you get the answer.

Many people can’t live without friends. They would cancel their recreation activities, such as shopping, if not joined by their ‘gang members’. To me, not having company is no excuse for not going to the destination I yearn for.

I have backpacked to Thailand and Bali. In my business trips to Vietnam, I also took time off to tour around Ho Chi Minh City and Mekong Delta. In these places, I have met many people who, like me, traveled without any companion. I came to this realization:

I may be a lone traveler, but I am not alone!

(Confused? Chew on the words.)

To be sure, there are some benefits of traveling alone. During my Northern Thailand trip in January 2007, I had chance to talked to four other solo tourists – one British woman, one Italian man and two Japanese retirees. I also chat with a Thai woman who traveled with her farang boyfriend as well as hosts/hostesses of several guesthouses. Had I traveled with my friends, I would be less inclined to interact with other people. One thing which surprised me was, I saw many Japanese who either travel alone or in pairs. We often view Japan as a group-oriented society. If Japanese can break from their groups, there is no reason I can’t.

As a lone traveler, I have maximum freedom. I hardly book accommodation in advance, and usually search for it only after I arrive at my destination. I also have the convenience to change my plan. In one instance, I decided to extend my stay in Thailand, and simply e-mailed my boss to apply for additional leave. In contrast, a large group of tourists need a well-defined itinerary prior to departure. Since some people are impatient, accommodation and transport are also best arranged in advance. A group of more than 10 tourists may even need to charter a bus rather than relying on public transport. (So, no chance for riding tuk-tuk in Thailand.)

That said, I have to admit that I do sometimes feel lonely, especially at night. I also have to bear with higher transportation costs – e.g. tuk-tuk fare – since I cannot share them with partners.

None of these drawbacks, of course, will deter me from traveling. After several memorable solo trips, I am starting to be proud as a lone traveler.


  1. you are a brave soul! which places have you been to?

  2. Brave soul? That's funny. I went to Bali and Thailand, not Iraq.
    Bali was bombed in early Oct, 2005. I went there in late Oct, 2005, but the island was still relatively safe.

  3. I never really did travel alone. But just go to some occasion alone lah...Still ok!!!

  4. kai,
    Some people likes to have moments when they can be alone. Some can't live without friends. That's fine.

    But since you are a Buddhist, being alone sometimes can be beneficial.

  5. are quite lovely^^