Disclaimer: This post is my entry to win 250,000 Velocity Points at the Virgin Australia competition for Problogger Event I’m attending in two weeks. If you love reading it, I’d appreciate you leaving a comment and sharing with your friends, please pretty.
So you just spent a month travelling solo and came home to a party where you met a dozen of people who was curious about what it’s like to conquer foreign places all by yourself. Oh, and of course, that annoying question of ‘why didn’t you travel with someone?‘.
To be honest, for an introverted soul like me, it can be fairly stressful to tackle all these inquisitive conversations with an extended circle of friends. Ta-dah – here’s exactly how the mighty emojis come to rescue like the most wonderful invention of the last decade (it seriously is!). With a not-so-precise statistical approach, I looked into my most used emojis while I trekked solo through Europe earlier this year. I’ve discovered these 7 smileys and ideograms I seem to have used frequently on the road. I reckon they must help to tell a story of my solo adventure. Without more ado, here I’m presenting these 7 emojis that show what it’s really like to travel solo and my top solo travel tips.
Face with OK Gesture
TIPS: Travel with an open mind and a big OK gesture and you’ll gain hundred times more than those who don’t (source: Lace n Ruffles). Savouring chicken feet stew in China and paragliding over the Iguazu Falls are all once-in-a-lifetime experiences. When you don’t have a travel buddy who keeps shooting down these adrenaline-pumping ideas, it naturally becomes much easier to just say OK as no one is there to pull you back. Be prepared to release your inner daredevils twin and have a ball! But of course, learning when to say no is absolutely vital too when you’re on your own to ensure fun times won’t turn into disasters or dangers.
TIPS: Toughen up, ladies! You’d probably want to consider building your muscle strength pre-take off. Carrying my bulky 25kg suitcase up and down the stairs at train stations in Japan made me regret skipping my body strength sessions at the gym. Of course, those stairs at the historical left bank hotel in Paris didn’t help. Stuck in a small public toilet in Europe where you don’t feel safe leaving your bags outside the door and have no one to mend them for you? Sadly there’s no other option than to carry them on your back while trying to maintain your balance doing your business – it’s a tough gig! What can you do to tackle situations like these that arise frequently when you travel solo? Well, it’s all about turning my weaknesses into strengths (literally). With 3-times-a-week yoga practice these days, I don’t get sore back as easily as I used to when I travel. Although I’d still avoid staying on the 5th floor at a hotel with no lift (I’d email the hotel to check if it isn’t specified on their websites). Getting a super lightweight and durable luggage is also a must invest item that won’t regret. Not sure how to start training those biceps? Luckily, you can count on me with my Lady’s Guide To Building Muscle Mass I previously published here – I promise I’ll be gentle on you.
TIPS: Who else thinks that you can get away with an embarrassing situation much easier when you have a partner-in-crime? I certainly feel that way too often. But when you travel solo, you simply can’t hide behind anyone’s back. Also, the reality is that when you’re on your own, you tend to make more embarrassing mistakes as no one’s there to stop you. I called a Uber in Paris and somehow I managed to get into a wrong car. I hopped in and closed the door before realising that the gentleman wasn’t expecting me. Even worse, he had a lady walking towards his car and staring at him looking fairly puzzled about seeing me get off – oops. I have to confess that the flushed face is probably my all-time most frequently used emojis in my chat when I travel solo. So remember, be prepared for a few ‘flushed face’ moments. Most importantly, have a laugh, shake it off and send your flushed face emoji when needed!
Face with Medical Mask
TIPS: You mum has probably reminded you for so many times that you should never leave home without your medication. But it’s only until you travel solo when you truly understand the pain of not listening to her. Falling sick while overseas really sucks a whole lot, and the worst part is having no one to get you fed and keep you warm while you’re dying on a train! I went through two incidents, one in Belgium and one and France, before I remember to always pack my medication kit. Both times I arrived on a Sunday feeling sick as a dog yet there were no pharmacies opened on Sundays in the vicinity. You surely don’t want to repeat my stupidity.
TIPS: “Hello, does anyone here understand me?”. #ThatGaijinFeeling. Caucasian expats in Japan will surely understand what I’m talking about. Cultural shock and feeling like an alien are both pretty common when you travel to an exotic destination where you don’t speak their language. When you’re on your own, that feeling just escalates so much more. My girlfriend who’s blonde and 6 foot tall told me she felt like a character straight from Star Trek when staying in a Japanese ryokan with the way locals stared at her. In fact, It’s totally okay to feel like an alien in a foreign land. Embrace it and turn their attention to an opportunity to make new friends. Most of the time, they’re interested in knowing about you and where you’re from as much as you’re too. Nothing works better to break the ice than a warm and genuine smile (from an alien face).
TIPS: Yes, it’s the humble fried dough ring. Seriously, it’s hands down the best damn thing of travelling solo ever. Let’s face it, how many times you’ve wanted a 2nd piece of doughnut so badly but refrained from ordering as you worried that your travel buddy would fat shame you on Snapchat? When you go solo, you’re the boss of the journey. Feel like skipping breakfast and stuffing yourself with Pavlova doughnuts at Candid Bakery for brunch (if you insist to know, they’re at 1A Hudsons Road, Spotswood, Melbourne)? No one’s there to judge you. Want to challenge yourself to eat ten pieces of eclairs from L’éclair de Génie in Paris? Do as you please – just hang the #DoughnutDisturb sign out the front door. But of course, you should still be mindful of those extra calories that you accumulate by staying active on the road such as practising yoga in hotel rooms when you can. Pack your workout gear and your swimmers and hit the hotel fitness centre or take a walk in the local parks. Those who master solo travel know the fine art of balancing delightful self-indulgent and self-discipline.
Hear No Evil Monkey
TIPS: The second best thing of taking it solo after doughnuts? Come meet my buddy, the Hear No Evil Monkey. Don’t get me wrong, I do like people (most of the time) and enjoy travelling with like-minded companions. The problem arises when you travel in a large group and there’s always that one person who whines about almost everything without being helpful or constructive. Things like the hotel bed isn’t soft enough, the people on the train are too stinky, or that ‘where are my bacon and eggs’ attitude. Having travel companions like those teach us that it’s worth your energy to travel solo than being stuck with people whom you don’t agree with. When you plan your own journey, you’re responsible for all the good and bad that happen. You’re the one who’s entirely accountable and there’s no one else to blame, or no one you have to put up with for weeks of whinging. Now that’s the true bliss of travel. The trick though is to read reviews of the places you plan to visit or stay to make sure you don’t end up disappointing yourself too much.
Are you struck by wanderlust and obsessed with emojis too? I’ve put together this little quiz to test your knowledge of emojis and the world’s cities (note: there’s also one historical site in there)!
Hint: Where the world’s tallest ferries wheel sets to open in late 2015
Hint: Where Jazz music was born
Hint: The local monkeys certainly know how to live well
Hint: An UNESCO-listed historical site
Hint: His hometown
2. New Orleans
3. Jigokudani Monkey Park
4. Angkor Wat
Got all of them right? Yipee hooray! Here’s my gift for you!
So tell me dear fellow adventurous souls, can you describe what it’s really like to travel solo in 10 emojis or less? What are the best lessons, tips and tricks you learned through spending time on the road with your own beautiful soul? Is there one new emoji which you think we need to best show off about our solo adventure? Be sure to spread the emoji love in the comments below!
Till next time. Stay adventurous.