I’m no travel virgin I’ve traveled in Africa but it has always been part of a volunteer project or organised like when I climbed Kilimanjaro it was never with a “I have no real plans” kind of solo travel there was always an itinerary, people to meet along the way, a goal in mind.
To be perfectly honest the idea freaked me out a bit. Partly because I have no sense of direction, a thick Cornish accent that means no matter how hard I try few locals ever understand what I’m trying to say in their native language, sometimes they don’t even understand my English!
I am also accident prone, incapable of packing light and don’t have a great run of luck when it comes to finding myself in absurd situations that no normal traveller ever would…. It’s no secret that my dads hair started turning white around the time I started to travel… Sorry dad!
So all in all I had absolutely no intention of travelling solo after I had finished my TEFL internship in Thailand…. Travel with people (ideally people with a good sense of direction) and see more of south east Asia that way love to, see it by myself, i don’t think so!
So what changed that led me to write this whilst all by myself in Cambodia?
I’d love to say that it was something profound, a near death experience or a sudden display of direction/confidence but that would be a lie…
The truth is I’ve wanted to travel Cambodia for years, and when my travel plans changed with the people I was going to travel Cambodia with I was left with two choices. Admit defeat and fly back to the UK from Thailand or bite the bullet and travel by myself…
Well my flight was booked from Cambodia back home. That played a big part in it. The second part was for all my fancy and somehow legitimate excuses the real reason I’d stopped travelling solo since 2012 was fear.
Fear of being lonely, fear of getting lost, of getting hurt, of getting scared…. Unknowingly fear had been ruling my travels for years.
Did I really want to miss travelling around Cambodia because I was scared? Like hell I did.
So that first intimidating afternoon in Siem reap I made myself go and explore the local town.
I discovered that it was a lot of fun. Going where I wanted to go, stopping when I wanted to, haggling in the market, drinking coffee in a cafe, getting a moto (half motorcycle, half tuk tuk) and then finding my sense of direction.
From waking up at 4am to watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat in Siem Reap;
To seeing the carved faces of Bayon Temple (Wat Thom)
To then travelling down to the south coast and the paradise that is Otres Beach (Sihanoukville) where I shared my room with a variety of wildlife including this poor fellow I found swimming in my toilet….
As for being lonely, I found I loved my own company, hell no one finds me funnier than I do and there was always people to chat to. Even making friends with a Cambodian guy nicknamed Beyoncé who kept giving me free things for having a big bum like her….
Not to mention the ability to spend as much time lazing on the beach as i wanted… Getting up when i wanted, going to sleep when i wanted and being un-apologetically vain with my photos.
then travelling to the capital Phnom Penh and finding my way around all by myself for the first time ever. Before heading to Tuol Sleng and the Killing Fields which frankly deserves a blog all of his own…
Don’t get me wrong there has been points when I’ve wanted a friend near me to experience it. Like the beautiful sunsets/sunrises or to fish the rat out of my toilet so I didn’t have to but I’ve gained more than I’ve lost.
Life is an adventure. Somewhere along the line I forgot that, my fear took over….
But if you are the kind of person who craves the road less traveled and you want to increase your confidence and get to know yourself better then in all honesty it really is the road best traveled alone….