Company = Compromise
Being an only child, I am used to being by myself. Therefore, I have no problem traveling solo. I actually prefer it this way as I am able to decide when and where to go, for how long, and what I'll be doing there. It works best for short vacations where I am only able to take 2-3 weeks off from work and cannot afford to waste anytime making compromises with others on my travel plans.
This time however, I will be traveling overseas for 6 months. It is a long time to be away from home without the company of family and friends. What made it even worse was that the first country I visited was China, where Facebook is blocked. If I was at home, not being able to access FB would have been fine because I can just call up my friends and go hang out with them. However, when I am thousand miles away from home, not being to connect with my friends on FB is pretty daunting. I felt cut off and disconnected.
Luckily for me, I made a new friend the first day in Bejing at my hostel. She is a Dutch girl from Holland also traveling for 4-6 months through Asia. She left home 3 weeks before I did and had already traveled through Russia and Mongolia before arriving in China. We got a long fairly well so we ended up sightseeing together for the majority of our time together in Beijing. It was very helpful to have a second pair of eyes to look for directions and help one another find our way in a foreign country where neither of us can understand the written nor spoken language. We were able to figure out how to take the metro to nearby places in Beijing like the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, and The Summer Palace and avoided having to sign up for a tour and be shuffled around like herds of cattle. We also saved a ton of money when we went on our own and took the bus to the Great Wall instead of paying an expensive fee for a tour. Together, we made a pretty good team and therefore decided to continue on our way together to Pingyao and Xi'an, where we also saved alot more money by taking the bus to see the Terra Cotta Warriors instead of paying for a tour.
As helpful and great as it was to have a travel companion, there were compromises to be made. I had to stay in Beijing longer than I planned to and didn't really have enough time to get all the shots and videos I wanted to at the places we visited together because I did not want to keep her waiting for too long. Then there were also minor compromises like what hostel to stay at and where to eat at. Overall, the benefits of having a travel companion outweighed the compromises I had to make. Have a new friend along the way for the first one and a half week made my transition into long term travel all that much more easier and smoother. It was also actually very entertaining as well. Because she is white with blond hair and green eyes, everywhere we went, there were Chinese people asking to take a picture with her or trying to sneak one when she wasn't looking. It was as if Chinese people had never seen a white person before and felt as if I was traveling with a celebrity or something.
As nice as it is to have a new friend along for the ride, our itinerary no longer matched up after Xi'an. At this point, I also felt confident enough to make it on my own through the rest of the China and wasn't willing to make any more compromises regarding my travel plans. So we said our goodbyes earlier at the hostel in Xi'an and I am writing this blog post on my overnight train to Shanghai. I will have a few days there to explore the city on my own before I head to Hong Kong where I will meet up with a friend from Salt Lake City who is also flying in. Where I will head after that is undetermined at this point and who I will meet along the way is unknown to me. And there in lies the beauty of traveling solo with an open itinerary.
I would love to hear your thoughts regarding this post or your own personal travel preference in the comment section below. Also, check out my travel photography and connect with me on your social media of choice to get pictures and blog post updates. Thank you for reading, visiting my website, and sharing it within your social network if you like what you read and see.
I definitely agree with you Amy that making all the decisions yourself can be exhausting at times. It was surely nice to leave the decision making to someone else and just go with the flow. As for meeting interesting people, staying in hostels on this trip has been extremely easy to do so to meet other travellers. It has been great thus far and I am alot more confident now on my own.
You're so right about the pros and cons of traveling with other people, Hung! I think the photography thing is a big issue. People who don't care about taking pictures get bored while you're eager to capture every detail! It's great fun, though, when you can find someone who's also into photography and you can spend lots of time together taking pictures.
For me, one of the things that's tiring about solo travel after a while is having to make every single decision myself, so eventually I find it refreshing to pair up with someone else so I can just follow their lead! Starting your travels with a companion helps ease the transition, I'm sure, and I'm glad you're feeling confident about going forward on your own. No doubt you will meet other interesting people along the way!
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