Travelling solo can be a scary yet eye opening experience. You’re basically all alone in a foreign country with no friends or family to rely on and you call the shots for everything.
The experience literally forces you to learn how to manage your own expenses and plan your own trip. It definitely takes guts to travel alone and these 10 Malaysians who have traveled solo share their experience with us, as well as some pro tips.
- Yukey Ho, 20
“I’ve travelled twice alone this year and they were both one of my many firsts. I decided to drop everything and fly to Europe for a month for a break from everything back at home. My parents were very much against my plan, especially my dad. He thinks that a girl should never travel alone because it’s not safe”.
The hardest challenge for Yukey was not being able to speak Portuguese in Portugal and Spanish in Barcelona. She did not have data to Google her way back to the hotel and at one point she felt so hopeless. “Thankfully, I met another tourist that knew the way back to the hotel that I was staying in and he spoke English fluently. What a lifesaver honestly!”
Yukey happened to travel to London 3 days after the London attacks. She said, “Sainsbury (a supermarket in London) had a minute of silence to remember the victims of the attack. Staffs and customers gathered together in the supermarket at midday to remember those who lost their lives during the attack. That minute felt like a lifetime, I felt so overwhelmed by how people from different backgrounds, beliefs and religion stood together for that minute and prayed for the victims. It made me realise that if we stand as one, those who try to divide us by race and religious beliefs will not prevail.”
Pro Tip: “Always check the weather forecast of the area you plan to visit before you leave the hotel. The weather in the UK can be very unpredictable. Always bring small change and a credit card that can be used internationally in case of an emergency. Bring a copy of your passport everywhere you go and make sure to keep the original passport in a safe place. Buy a phone card that has data the minute you land, you will realise how much of a lifesaver it is!”
- Alvynna Joanna, 21
Alvynna has traveled solo for 3 times now. Her first time travelling abroad alone was in 2016 and it was to Taiwan. “It has always been a dream of mine to travel the world and the thought of me travelling alone was never a problem. When I decided to drop everything and fly to Taiwan, I was going through a bad breakup and needed some time to take a breather,” Alvynna said.
When asked if anyone was against her plans, she casually replied that no one did because she simply didn’t let anyone know about it. “Travelling alone is definitely an eye opening experience but there are some challenges to it. For instance, I got lost trying to find my way to the train station to go to the airport to catch my flight back home. Thankfully, the locals in Taiwan were kind enough to guide the way.”
Alvynna believes that the hardest part of travelling alone is when you have to solve every problem you face along the way on your own. Although challenging, she sees that as a means of growing as a person. Travelling alone made Alvynna realise that she actually enjoyed making new friends. “I made so many new friends with locals and other travellers, it was such a unique experience because you’re kind of forced to open up and that honestly isn’t so bad at all.”
Pro Tip: “Don’t think twice, just do it! Book your stay in hostels and not a hotel as you tend to make more new friends there. As a female travelling alone, always take safety precautions. Bring a can of pepper spray everywhere you go and dress modestly as you might just catch unwanted attention. Last but not least, make sure you do a ton of research before you go and don’t be afraid to stop and ask for help as well.”
- Camilla Lim, 21
“I’ve only travelled alone once and it was in May 2017 to Bali, Indonesia. It’s funny how the thought of it even came to my mind. I had just watched Eat Pray Love and Bali appealed to me so much more than before after that. Not to mention, it was also really hard to round up friends to go with me because of our clashing schedules and budgets. I just felt like plans with friends just never fall through so I thought to myself, “If I’m going to have to wait for everyone I’m never gonna go” so I just dropped everything on hand and booked my flight on the spot.”
When asked if anyone was against her plans, she mentioned how her parents were upset about it. “I have a bad habit of just doing things spontaneously and telling them about it later. Although it took a while, they were accepting of my plans after I gave them a thorough itinerary along with the contacts of the places I was staying at,” she said.
Camilla mentioned that transportation was one of the biggest problems she faced. “When you want to get from the nightlife area to the zen, soul searching areas in Bali, drivers wont want to take you for less than RM150 although it’s only about a 45-minute drive. In KL, Uber would only cost around RM50 for that distance and time. Aside from that, Bali was a pretty interesting place with amazing locals who are more than willing to help.”
“Through the trip, I learned to be more confident. I started conversations with strangers and developed friendships that surpass distance. On my first day in the hostel, I was pretty nervous about making friends but you just really have to take the first step and learn how to say hi to a complete stranger. From that trip, I learned to take chances and not just follow the crowd. Nowadays, if my friends are keen on doing something that I’m not really interested in, I’d be more than happy to pass it and go somewhere else on my own. In the end you only have to please yourself anyway.”
Pro Tip: “Always research and read reviews of the places you’re staying at. Hostels are great for meeting new friends and not to mention, super affordable! Always write down the addresses and any important contact numbers in case you can’t get internet on your phone.”
- Chrvyn Goh, 18
At such a young age, Chrvyn has already travelled alone twice. “I travelled to New Zealand when I was about 12 to study for 6 months. My parents thought it would be a good idea for me to learn how to be independent and travel alone since they weren’t able to travel with me either.
Although her first time traveling solo was at the tender age of 12, no one was against it as it was after all, with her parents’ consent. Even so, Chrvyn herself found it a little nerve wrecking.
Chrvyn mentioned that the most difficult part was trying to explain to the customs officer why she was travelling alone at such a young age. “Another struggle I faced when travelling alone for the first time would be finding my way around a large airport, especially when I was so small and young.”
Of her experience, Chervyn mentioned how she was pretty surprised at the fact that she found it simple. “It really helped me gain a new sense of responsibility as you’ve got to really be aware of your surroundings when you’re all on your own,” she said.
Pro Tip: “Don’t be hesitant to get out there and try things out. Travelling alone isn’t all that bad and as nerve wrecking as it sounds, there’ll always be that sense of excitement and achievement.”
- Tham Onn Rei, 28
“I’ve travelled alone twice, from Europe to Singapore. The first time I went travelling around Europe was in 2013. I went to the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Italy and France. It’s funny how it was supposed to be a couple’s trip but we broke up before that and I decided to go ahead with the trip alone,” Onn Rei shared.
Onn Rei said that many disagreed when he mentioned to them how he wanted to travel alone. “Friends and family disagreed as Europe was huge and my budget was tight.” Onn Rei mentioned that you’re bound to meet some difficulties along the way such as getting fined for going against the law because you were unaware of it or not having a reservation at the place you planned to stay at.
“I realised from the adventure I had that I preferred food trips, sightseeing and cultural experiences more than anything else. I also realised that travelling alone for a short period of time is more preferable for me as opposed to a long period of time abroad and alone.”
Pro Tip: “Stay in the city centre even if it costs a little more. You won’t want to spend too much time travelling on public transport back and forth. Have a rough plan that consists of which cities you plan on going to visit and don’t forget to check your travel times between cities.”
- Ian Heng, 20
“I travelled twice alone and the first time was to Santa Cruz, California. I was already residing in the United States to pursue my studies but this was the first time I travelled alone across the states. I took a bus there for a house party and then went sightseeing the next day. No one opposed my decision as I was already independent then.”
In Ian’s opinion, the hardest thing about travelling alone is navigating directions and transportation. “The reason I say this is because when you’re going somewhere alone and you are not familiar with the area, there’s a tendency for you to get lost. When I went down to Santa Cruz from San Jose, I had to actively find out what the bus schedule was like and know my stops as well as getting to the bus station on time. It took me about two and a half hours to get to where I needed to go and half an hour just to figure out my directions.”
Through the trip, Ian learned a thing or two about independence and critical thinking. “I learned problem solving because there was no one to help me solve the problems I faced. Also, I learned how friends are really important because it can be really boring travelling alone.”
Pro Tip: “Always pack for a day extra just in case, don’t forget to plan out your trip because time wasted costs money, don’t panic when something doesn’t go according to plan, bring a power bank to make sure your phone is always charged up, bring enough money (half in cash and the other in credit) because just in case you lose your card, you still have cash, and vice versa. Lastly, don’t forget to have fun!”
- Aaliya Mokhtar, 22
“I’ve only travelled alone once, but I definitely wouldn’t mind doing it all over again,” said Aaliya. Her first time traveling alone was in 2015, when she was 20 and her destination was New York City. Aaliya decided to travel alone because her friends couldn’t make it and she didn’t want to wait on their schedule.
“It was the Big Apple so I didn’t want to miss out on such a big opportunity. I was already studying in the United States so getting a bus to NYC was just a matter of choice. I hopped onto a commercial bus from Penn State University an hour after my friends made their decision on missing this round to NYC. It was pretty impulsive.”
When she got to New York, she was clueless on where to go and what to do. She walked around blindly with the help of only Google Maps. When asked if anyone went against her spontaneous plan to NYC, she mentioned that no one did and that was the best part. “I had nobody telling me yes or no or what to do. Everything was solely my say.”
“Honestly, traveling in the US is actually really convenient and completely safe. They have buses and trains everywhere at any given time and it’s pretty cheap too. The hardest part about traveling alone would probably be not having anyone to help me take photos… Haha! Aside from that, I learned that I don’t need anyone else’s company to enjoy all the greater things in life. I’ve always wanted company wherever I went and whatever I did, but after that solo trip I realised my own company is good enough. I saw everything clearer and I didn’t have any background noise disrupting me. For the first time, I made decisions on my own. They were impulsive, yes, but there were no regrets.”
Pro Tip: “Take a leap of faith. Don’t think twice. Just go for it. If you’re too scared and too worried about everything, nothing is gonna work. This world is safe if you believe in it. Traveling alone is honestly the best time to find yourself and you see life in a whole different point of view. It’s a time for self discovery.”
- Neesa Sodirman, 26
Neesa has travelled alone for over 5 times and she’s checked off Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia, Brunei, France, Spain and the Philippines off her bucket list.
“My first time travelling alone was to Indonesia, Jakarta. After I finished my Diploma, I went there to visit my Indonesian cousins. I decided to travel alone for the first time because I missed my favourite cousin and I wanted to visit her. I was anxious and nervous as that was my first time leaving Malaysia alone,” Neesa said.
Her mom was also hesitant at first to let her travel on her own but Neesa convinced her that her cousins would be in Indonesia to look after her and made sure she was safe. After this trip, travelling alone didn’t become a problem for Neesa anymore.
Since then, Neesa has traveled to Bangkok and Paris on her own and while she did not encounter any problems during her solo trip to Indonesia, she unfortunately did during her Bangkok-Paris trip. “For starters, a week before my trip I got super sick due to stress from my exams. I went twice to the clinic and was still not well. I had planned this trip for months so I wasn’t about to just drop it so I just brought a ton of medicine for precaution. Sadly, when I landed in Bangkok, my fever got worse and I was vomiting and purging non-stop but even so, I decided to carry on with my travel plans to Kanchanaburi from Bangkok.”
Thankfully, on her last day in Bangkok, her fever subsided and she felt much better when she was heading to the airport to catch her flight to Paris. “When I landed in Paris, all was well until my phone got stolen in Bastille. Honestly, it was the worst feeling ever! Challenges keep appearing but you have to overcome it to truly gain independence through travelling alone,” said Neesa.
Pro Tip: “Always have travel insurance! Also, always carry around your ID, passport, insurance card and anything necessary. Who knows? Anything can happen. Always be alert with any of your belongings and bring extra cash and credit cards in case of an emergency. Also, always do your research to learn more about the country you will be visiting. The dont’s, the language and the culture, etc. Start your adventure in a neighbouring country first to gain confidence and slowly expand across the oceans.”
- Chew Kai Wen, 21
“I’ve travelled solo around 2-3 times in my life and my first time was to Manila in 2015,” Kai Wen said. Though he would normally get ‘lectures’ from his parents about safety and money, they’ve become more supportive after seeing how he can manage things on his own. When asked about the difficulties he faced along the way, Kai mentioned that besides the currency exchange rates and conversion, there’re practically none.
“Through travelling alone, I’ve learned so much. I learned that you can truly absorb the local culture of a foreign land if you take your time with things. Instead of rushing from A to B for sightseeing and attractions, take a step back, and enjoy the surroundings. This way, instead of just watching the culture from the sidelines of another country, you get to be momentarily part of the culture. And that, is the most refreshing thing a soul can experience. A change of scenery, a change of culture, a change of faces. It’s almost as if you get to have a fresh start, leaving behind everything for a while.”
Pro Tip: “Be smart with your money, be smart with your company, and be smart with your safety. In a land where you do not call home, anything can go wrong, and when it does, you have no one to help you except the Embassy (which might not be within reach if you’re unlucky). Prioritise your safety and wellbeing. That is more important than connecting with the locals, more important than being at beautiful spots and taking tons of flattering selfies, more important than having fun. But once you can assure yourself that it is safe, go nuts! Chase whatever that makes you happy, and remember that every second you spend there will be immortalised in your life’s memories—you would have written a whole chapter in your book. Make every moment count, for you will cherish the moments more than anything else in the world.”
- Daniel Adams, 21
Daniel is a seasoned traveller who has been out of the country by himself countless times. “I usually travel alone completely or I travel alone to visit a friend in another country,” said Daniel. Daniel’s first time was in August last year when he left for Laos and Vietnam.
“I decided to travel alone because my plans with a friend had gotten mixed up and I decided to carry on and just go ahead with what I had planned,” said Daniel. When asked if anyone was against the idea of him travelling alone, he mentioned his mum, but he just kept updating her until she was fine with it eventually.
“The hardest part about traveling alone was definitely the beginning. Especially when you’re not used to it, it can be rather daunting to go somewhere by yourself. After a few days though, you kind of get used to it and it’s honestly so much fun because you don’t have to play along with anyone else’s plans and you can be extremely spontaneous with your decisions,” said Daniel.
Through solo travelling, Daniel mentioned he learned to finally be at peace with being by himself. “I never enjoyed my own company, I felt overwhelmed by it. By traveling alone I learnt to deal with that and fully appreciate me as a person. It also has helped me mentally and by some means physically—it’s given me an extended feeling of freedom to discover endless possibilities.”
Pro Tip: “If you’re traveling by yourself, definitely make sure you tell people where you are or be in constant contact with someone throughout your trip whether it’s a family member or a friend, just in case anything happens, but most of all be open minded to trying new things and experiences.”