I've always been a very confident person, anyone who knows me will tell you that, but travelling has brought out a confidence I never knew I had within me. People talk about travelling changing them, particularly solo travelling, they say it makes you more relaxed, more flexible, more open to experiences. I don't agree that it changes you, I think it actually just brings out the true version of yourself - the one that was hiding behind layers of stress and hard work before. While backpacking you are finally free of the rat race, of the pressures of work and society, you can finally be the person you always wanted to be, but never thought you could. It sounds silly and I'm sure those who haven't done it feel like I'm getting all emosh about travelling, but the ones who have experienced it are nodding vigorously at the screen.
I've met so many people who have spoken of the exact same feeling - that feeling of a sudden strength and confidence, that undeniable capability. So where does it come from? Well the fact that so many are heading out on these enormous trips by themselves, carrying their life in a bag and visiting all kinds of places alone, relying completely and totally on themselves is no small thing. It is a huge life-altering experience, particularly if, like me, you've never done anything like this before. I've already learnt so much by relying totally on myself to get from A to B, and then on to C, I've had to find my way home from the middle of nowhere by trying to communicate with those who don't speak English, I've had to look after myself when I'm sick. But I've done it all and done it well.
That is where the confidence comes from, that silent assuredness that I can cope with anything that is thrown at me, that no matter when happens or where I end up, I will manage to find a welcoming hostel, a bar and a good meal. That I can cope with the paperwork - arranging visas and flights on the road, making sure I have permits for national parks and all the rest. It's that knowledge that despite the language barrier, you can communicate your needs and wants to others successfully, that you can get where you need to be and you will be okay. It's that confidence that when you're walking the streets you are not constantly going to be a target of thieves, rapists and all the rest, that people actually just want to meet you and talk to you, unlike what everyone else said before you left!What raises you higher every single day is meeting new people, being that person who puts themselves out there repeatedly, just waiting to see if a new friendship will form or if you will be knocked back. It's so easy when you're in a cosy bubble of friends and family back home who have all known your forever to not realise your value or your worth. But constantly meeting new people, telling them your stories and about your life and seeing their eyes light up, you realise that actually strangers think you're pretty awesome and they want to be friends with you. That actually there are people outside your bubble, from across the globe, who can have so much in common with you. Like when you meet someone and within a day you know you'll be friends for life, like you've been waiting your whole life to meet the other part of yourself. That's the travel soulmate.
All of these things, and so many more, help boost you up as a person and make you realise how amazing you are, and that's why travellers come back with that glow. That glow of self confidence and self assurance, the one the non-travellers can't quite place but put it down to a tan and a happy holiday. It's more than that, it's knowing who you are and who you want to, and can, be. At home it is so easy to be caught up in everyday life, but removing yourself from that busy, stressful environment really helps fast track you to becoming that confident and fabulous human being that takes time to grow. So if you're heading out on a solo trip somewhere, remember to embrace this feeling and to feel proud when you get it, it means you've grown as a person and realised how awesome you really are!
Do you know the feeling I'm talking about? How has travelling changed you as a person? Or has it had no effect on you? Tell me about your experiences - whether a year-long solo trip or a weekend away with friends.
As I write this, I'm about a month into travelling solo and lo and behold, I've managed to pick up some illness. I was waiting for this time to come, I knew it would strike me down at some point, I had just expected it would be an upset tummy that kept me chained to the toilet rather than a cold! Can you believe it? I'm halfway round the world in tropical heat and in suffering from a cold that would strike me down in the middle of winter at home - all thanks to the air conditioning spreading those germs around while we sleep at night. So I've spent a day in bed feeling lousy, watching Netflix and generally feeling sorry for myself - I rarely let myself do this at home and just plough through when I'm ill, but here I know it's my body's way of saying it's tired and needs to rest.
So being ill sucks. It sucks no matter where you are, but we know it's always a lot better when you're at home with your mum or partner to look after you and give you snuggles, feed you chicken soup or ice cream, and to change the TV channel for you when you get bored of Charmed reruns. Being a solo traveller, you get none of that, it's all down to you, and this is when it really gets hard and you can often feel at your loneliest during your travels. This is when it shows what kind of person you really are, whether you're going to wallow and mope, or take care of it all and cope.
Top tips for coping when you're ill as a solo traveller:
Have you been ill while abroad - how did you cope? Any other suggestions for how solo travellers can cope when they're feeling poorly?
It was a hot and sweaty climb down the steep steps with my bag, followed by a breezy longtail boat ride from Railey before I reached Krabi town. I couldn't wait to dump my bags at the hostel and to finally see it after hearing so much about it from other travellers. I was staying at Pak Up Hostel, which Lonely Planet has dubbed as one of the best in Thailand and apparently much of Asia according to those staying there. In fact, as I strolled up the hill towards the hostel, an American guy shouted across the street and invited me to join a group going back to Railey but as I'd just arrived he recommended staying at this very hostel. When I arrived, I was pleased to be shown straight to the English Room, where I stayed in the Leicester Square bunk - making me feel right at home. It was just 250 a night, which was a welcome relief after paying 800 a night in Railey and finding everything so expensive there.
I don't normally focus too much on where I stay, just a passing recommendation for you guys, but this time the hostel was more than worth it. The cleanest, comfiest beds I have slept in, and Pak Up boasted the most welcoming and friendly staff who will help with anything you need, especially saving you money and time. I was touched to see how they became really fond of us and chatted every time we passed through reception, remembering our names and everything we had told them - little things like that make a really big difference. I was really impressed with how clean not only the dorms but the bathrooms, showers and toilets were as well, with hot showers! My first hot showers since Bangkok!
Minutes after arriving, I became instantly really good mates with everyone in my dorm and from several others along the hall. We made plans to eat dinner together and to have drinks in the evening which was great. I headed out exploring but realised there wasn't much to see in the immediate town, that you did need bikes or a bus, but it was interesting to walk around a town instead of a seaside resort after weeks on the islands. Quite refreshing actually. The town itself has a really nice relaxed atmosphere and is a perfect place to stay if you want to explore the area with cheap travel to Railey, Ao Nang, Koh Phi Phi and a few other places. There are loads of coffee shops and restaurants to sit in and watch the world go by while you catch up with emails or a good book.
After an afternoon exploring, I met up with everyone from the dorms and we went down to the night market which was just at the end of the street and was full of amazing, fresh food being prepared right in front of you. I loved the spring rolls, the coconut balls, the pad Thai, the basil fried rice and the satay chicken. The whole area came alive in the evening as everyone headed down to the dock to feed up and browse the stalls. I particularly enjoyed watching an old Thai man, he must have been around 70 years old and yet he could cook quicker than anyone on the other stalls - he was brilliant to watch. We had a lovely first evening filling up on food, then headed back to the hostel to sit out on the porch chatting and drinking a disgusting rice wine called Siamsato that two of my new friends recommended.
The next day, one of my new friends and I hired a motorcycle and headed out on an adventure to explore a nearby national park. We had wanted to check out the tiger temple, but it was too hot to climb 1300 steps so we went waterfall hunting instead. I trusted him to ride the bike as I knew he had several at home and was good with them, but it was still a nerve-wracking drive to the park. I'm not a very good passenger as I am so used to always being the driver. But we made it in one piece and the park was beautiful, we trekked up a steep climb to the top of the waterfall where we jumped in and stood under the torrent of water. It was a perfect way to cool off and later we wandered around the park, breathing in a bit of nature and spotting amazing trees.
That night, the Pak Up family got together and I was joined by a whole group of new dorm mates - one who brought along a ukulele and sang Jack Johnson songs and classic nineties hits all night for us, plus another awesome doing he had written himself and was due to release soon. We sat out on the porch for a fun night of drinks and singing along, and were joined by a random Thai guy from the street who wanted us all to try his opium cigarettes and was convinced he was Captain Jack Sparrow! We all had so much fun I was convinced to stab another night despite my original plans to move on to Phuket Town the next day. The next day, two of us went on a day trip to Ao Nang on the bike and had a lazy one on the beach and driving around. I was glad I didn't end up staying in Ao Nang like I had planned beforehand, it was way too touristy for my tastes and the high numbers of older German gentlemen flaunting themselves in tiny speedos was not something I want to wake up to each morning.
Our final night together was a celebration - we were all heading off either the next day, or shortly after to our next destinations, so it was good to have a final send off for the travelling family. I was surprised, considering how little time I was in Krabi, how attached I became to the place, and to the people. For a place that has only a small amount of attractions and sights to offer the traveller, it is well worth stopping off for a while. If only to meet some of the most amazing and interesting travellers I have met yet. Plus a chance to stay in this fantastic hostel can never be passed up for that price! I was sad to say goodbye to my friends, but excited to start my journey to Phuket Town for a completely different experience.
Have you stayed at Pak Up Hostel - what did you think? Did you love Krabi like I did?