STRAYING SOLO IN SAIGON
I knew I had to do it. I could not find a more perfect timing to do my first solo travel than I could possibly have like this one. Having read from a lot of stories of solo travel to countries that are quite foreign to them, explaining about its reality and challenges, it barely daunted me. Yet. Despite not being daunted about what may come and challenges to expect, I chose one of the most fairly cushy places to do your first solo travel, Ho Chi Minh City or formerly known as Saigon.
Over the last couple years, I’ve realized that I feel more content being alone rather than while in group. It is the time where you can reflect on certain personal things and be at your most comfortable self and that is very important in this day and age. Travelling solo has the absolute cure to that. I view it as an opportunity to provide me with a fresh perspective on life, myself, and the world around me. As it can do to you too.
When you choose to travel solo, you’re the one who controls the itinerary, and accompanying that freedom is the necessity of personal responsibility. You choose your own direction. To go to that one particular place right now or this evening or even tomorrow, you own the decision. To go to the same exotic alley to take a better photo because the photo you had the day before wasn’t exceptional, you just go. To walk, to ride on a bike, or to hop on a bus, you have the first and final words. There’s absolutely nobody to hold you back. The world is yours for the taking.
(walking by the pedestrian walkway in Saigon is not entirely harmless because most of the times it will turn into alternative bike lane)
In addition to that, there are no limits to what you can and can’t do. You can try out any new place to live, eat, and visit. There will be no clash of opinion on what you want to do or where you want to eat or where to go next. You can be as free as you like, have no responsibility towards anyone but yourself, not have to worry about waiting for the other person or being on the same page with them, and absolute freedom to do whatever you want. Doing things at your preferred pace and especially to your heart’s content. You’ll cherish every second of the whole experience.
Travelling alone makes me notice and appreciate every single thing and detail that happen around me. In Saigon, we can observe its people’s daily routine on the streets. A mother doing a typical morning errand on a scooter with her little girl in the front casually resting her head on the dashboard. An old vendor auntie that goes on pushing her trolley that is full of containers of noodles, soup, and freshly looking ingredients to her selling spot. Looking at how Saigonese crossing the notoriously busy streets swarmed with motorcycles every day and learning to follow their footsteps (literally) when there is nobody except you in a road crossing situation. They are tons of videos on Youtube made specific to show people how to cross the road in Vietnam and they are like cooking show. For many people, it is (crossing the road) definitely a highlight of visiting any Vietnamese city. Observing the world, the culture, and the other people around us makes our travel experience fuller and richer.
On a different note, being alone in a completely foreign place where not many speak the same language as you for several days made me pay better attention to direction. I can proudly say after two days here, I can navigate myself around center city without any help of online maps. But the downside of having a total freedom and being completely on your own is there’s nobody to hold onto you when you’re making the wrong turn and choice. If this happens, learn to accept it and it is the way how you manage to get out of this situation that will broaden your experience.
There are many little situations that you will have to overcome when you are traveling alone. From figuring out how to communicate with a restaurant waiter in a completely different language to fearing if your actions will offend the culture and anyone around. When you have no choice but to figure everything out for yourself, you will build confidence, gain wisdom, and become a better traveller.
When you’re traveling solo, you’re free to be whoever you want. You don’t have to invent a whole new persona, but you’re free to get wild, eat with your hands, and have adventures if you want to — or to just sit and relax in your room and scroll all of your social media platforms rather than trudging to keep up with more active companions.
Solo travel can be exhausting, but it can also be incredibly rewarding in other unexpected ways. You might make a few errors when traveling alone but owning them and seeing the challenges through will make the experience even more rewarding. And lastly, among all the challenges while travelling solo, the biggest one that got me worried is most probably there is no one you can trust to take a photo of you.