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Hello, everyone! I’m back! This time, I’m writing about something that is very unrelated to university — going on a solo trip! I had my first solo trip to Taiwan very recently, in December 2022. And man, what a great time I had! During my journey, I made my way to the famous “hot springs capital” of Beitou, went to the Taipei Zoo and sat in the Maokong glass cable car, ate the famous beef noodles or niu rou mian and drank bubble tea from the store that allegedly created the popular drink. I even managed to go out of Taipei, taking a bus by myself to Jiufen, the place with red lanterns that create a ‘Spirited Away’ atmosphere.
And so, after going on my solo trip, I am here to advocate for you, dear reader, to go on one at least once in your lifetime. Now, I know some of you might be younger than university age, and might not be allowed to go overseas by yourself. Or even if you are university age, you might be a bit cautious. However, I hope this article convinces you to take a bold step and try it yourself! And if you’re younger, you can use this article to pick up some tips on how to plan for a trip in the future.
And so, I would like to start the article by giving three reasons as to why you should consider a solo trip!
1. Train Your Skills
When going overseas by yourself, you are completely alone. There is no one there to assist you whenever you are confused about something. This means that you need to learn to be independent. You are responsible for your itinerary, you determine your wake-up time, and your actions decide whether or not you actually explore the country or stay in your room playing video games all day.
This pushes you to train several skills that will help you throughout this lifetime, such as planning, communication, and wisdom. Going on a solo trip requires you to not only plan your itinerary but also what to bring. The amount of clothes you need, the luggage, and the important documents are all your responsibility. Additionally, the booking of the hotel, flight and arranging transportation are all on you.
Not only that, you are responsible for communicating with your parents or guardians back home. You need to train your communication skills so that they are not anxious or worried about where you are. You also need to communicate with the locals, especially if you are lost.
Finally, you need wisdom. You need to know how to hide your passport, protect your wallet and be careful with your luggage. You also need to ensure your own safety, especially at night when the streets are dark. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you this, but it is not wise to walk in an abandoned alley by yourself at 12am.
2. Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone!
Going on a solo trip definitely challenges your comfort zone, especially if you’re an introvert! There are times when you need to ask someone for help, or you’re just casually sitting in a hot spring bath with another local and need to strike up a conversation because they are being friendly to you (true story). All of this pushes you to talk to strangers whom you have never spoken to before.
This can be a challenge, especially for introverts. It can also be a challenge if you are not as good at the language as the locals (i.e. me in Taiwan — I can speak Chinese, but man, they are in a different league!) However, think of it as a good challenge: you need to learn to be a professional extrovert at some point, and by speaking the language more you become better at it! From personal experience, I learnt some new terms in Chinese that I would never have learnt just by studying the language in school.
3. For Fun!
I think we can all agree that Singapore is extremely small, and after just a year or two there’s really nothing left to do. Going overseas is definitely preferable to sitting at home — there’s just something about a new country that excites me! And I know that people like to go with friends or family, because the familiarity provides comfort. And don’t get me wrong, there is fun to be had when you fly overseas with the people closest to you.
However, I sometimes think that going by yourself is so much more fun. There are no restrictions — you don’t have to follow someone else’s agenda, you can set your own timing to wake up, you don’t need to coordinate movement, you can go where you want and do the things you like instead of compromising…To me, there are so many positives of going alone, and I think it’s definitely worth it! Just try it once in your life, and if you prefer to go back to traveling with others, that’s fine — but at least give it a shot!
I hope you’re convinced by now that going on a solo trip is absolutely worth it! Now that that’s done, you need to start thinking about where to go and when to book the flight, and wow that’s a lot of logistical headache. Not to worry — I’m here to give you three simple pieces of advice on how to plan!
1. Pick an Easy Location
If this is your first solo trip, and especially if this is your first solo trip, I recommend picking an easy country. And by ‘easy’ I mean: it is known to be safe, and you can speak the language there. I personally advocate for places within Asia, such as Taiwan, China or Hong Kong if you know Chinese, for example. These places either speak Mandarin Chinese or have some knowledge of English, which would be great in case you get lost. They are also known to be safe, and tend to have friendly locals who are willing to help you. Of course, America is an option in terms of language, but given the recent media and the crime rates, I would strongly recommend that you do not go there as a first try.
Additionally, the countries within Asia tend to be much cheaper as compared to the West. Our currency is stronger than Taiwan, China and Hong Kong, and I can speak from personal experience that Taiwan is extremely cheap — there are local stores that sell breakfast for approximately 2 SGD, and even when dining at high-end restaurants, the price is great relative to the quality of food provided.
2. Plan When
This should be relatively obvious, especially if you are in university. For university students, there are only two breaks, and the summer break is often used for internships. But even if you’re not a university student, in general Singaporean educational institutions should have a similar break schedule.
After deciding on when you wish to go, the next thing is to decide the exact month and date. From my experience, if you’re going during the November-December period, it’s best to avoid the crowd and book it before Christmas, so either November or early December is good.
I also recommend that you decide on the dates ASAP, so that you can book it very early in advance. The earlier you book the flight, the cheaper it will be. But if none of the options are very good (i.e. all the flights have a stop in-between), it can be helpful to wait for a little longer, especially since more airlines might come out with more options. From my experience, when I went to book the Taiwan flight the best option was China Airlines. However, my flight back to Singapore was at 8am, which meant that I woke up at 5am to travel to the airport. Unfortunately, Scoot later added more flights to Taiwan that offered better timings at a similar price. Sometimes it’s good to wait.
3. Book Where to Stay
Now that you’ve booked the flight, you need to find accommodation. If you’re looking for cheap places, I would recommend using the Airbnb website or app over a hotel. Most cheap hotels are likely low-rated, and cleanliness is not something that is guaranteed. Of course, you can pay for a higher rated hotel, but as a university student I wanted the cheapest option possible without it being too bad.
I used the Airbnb app and found a hostel that was near the Taipei Metro Station — an extremely good location, considering it was the main city station that connected to a lot of different places, including the hotel. Additionally, it was extremely cheap — I paid only 29 SGD per night. And while the toilet was shared, I had my own room. The place even provided me with a towel, soap and shampoo, and free water and tea downstairs.
The Airbnb app also allows the host to list the facilities, so I knew what they had before going. Additionally, I could read the reviews made on the website to see if there were any downsides — the only negative thing people mentioned was that the room was quite small if you had a large luggage. Given that I was a solo traveler, I didn’t mind it, especially considering the price and the quality.
Overall, for anyone looking for a place to stay for holidays, I would definitely recommend Airbnb. This isn’t even a sponsored opinion — I genuinely think it’s extremely useful.
And that’s it! Those are my three main tips. One final thing I would mention is to have a general idea of what to pack, especially considering the seasons. If you’re going during winter, make sure you have suitable winter clothes to bring. But other than that, you’re all set! Good luck on your trip, adventurer! And don’t forget to have fun!