I had never done any solo-traveling in China, so I was a bit nervous about flying out to Hangzhou alone. It turned out to be a rewarding experience. People were more inclined to strike up a conversation with me. They would be surprised to realize I’m actually not Chinese, but excited to discover that I was still able to hold a conversation. I learned all about various people’s perspectives on China’s changes and plenty of places to go in Hangzhou. On my own, I did quite a bit of journaling at teashops, explored the old part of town on foot, and felt my confidence grow with each step. And by the time I started feeling a bit lonely, my friend Sean joined me from Shanghai.
“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world.” -Freya Stark
If you’re traveling alone:
Expect unexpected opportunities. People may invite you to a meal with their family and friends, or take you to a village feast. It’s really nice to eat a home cooked meal when you’ve been away from home.
Accept the extra kindness. People go out of their way to help you. Even a grumpy taxi driver will tell you all about different neighborhoods, and make sure you won’t get lost.
Treat yourself. Bring along some reading/writing material and treat yourself to a nice meal. Massages are popular and affordable in Thailand and China, and a great way to wrap up a tiring day.
Talk to strangers. Don’t be afraid to talk to people during your journey. Just follow your intuitions, because people usually mean well. I met another solo traveler while walking around the Kinkakuji temple in Kyoto. We ended up getting some soba noodles together before going our separate ways.
Search out group activities. There are different ways of getting involved in a new city, and meeting other travelers or locals. You can check on CouchSurfing or other hospitality websites for group gatherings or activities. City magazines will have listings for activities, like evening bike rides or creative workshops that you can join.
Enjoy solitude. I think we rarely set aside enough time alone to get to know ourselves, and pay careful attention to our own desires and needs. Traveling alone can give you the opportunity to find out what you enjoy doing on your own when there aren’t others to influence your decisions.
“In order to be open to creativity, one must have the capacity for contructive use of solitude. One must overcome the fear of being alone.” –Rollo May