Solo. But not alone.
Sitting in the airport, waiting for a plane to catch, the words of a friend cross my mind: ‘I would not like to travel solo, as I like to share the travel experience. And, it’s pretty scary not to know which kind of people you meet if you leave alone’.
I had always wanted to travel but my partner did not really, so I didn’t travel either. When you’re young… 😉 We broke up after several years and with a month of holiday left at the end of that year, I craved a travel experience. None of my friends were having enough vacation to be able to join. My desire to explore new destinations won from my fear to leave solo, not to be able to share the experiences. I booked a ticket destination Thailand, which sounded like an easy country to discover on my own.
The nights before leaving, little monsters entered my bedroom, keeping me awake ‘Don’t go alone!’. A song they kept repeating on and on. I started singing my own mantra ‘I will be fine on my own!’. It frightened the monsters, they ran off. No surprise for the ones that have heard me singing… 🙂
And so I stepped on the aircraft, facing my biggest fear, to be alone. ‘I will be fine on my own!’.
To make the trip even more challenging, I had only booked my first two nights in Bangkok. Reading a travel guide had made me confused. There were so many places I wanted to see and things to do, I realised I would not have enough time for them all. So I had decided my first solo trip would become a day-to-day-see-how-I-feel trip.
While I am sitting here in the airport today, many people pass me by. But all I can see are the faces of all those beautiful persons I met while travelling.
On the first evening I heard people talking in Dutch and I thought ‘What the***. I have travelled this far to bump immediately on guys from West-Vlaanderen?’ I saw the guys looking at me and I realised I had spoken the words loud. We went for drinks and they shared their Bangkok experience with me.
On the next morning I woke up early, ready to visit some temples and monuments. I felt a bit lonely, but then two Thai students started talking to me. They asked me if I was travelling solo, and then why. We had a nice chat and they offered to take me on a sightseeing tour through Bangkok. It turned out to be a wonderful tour – showing me each and every possible side of Bangkok, ending with a dinner with a view. One magic day and night in Bangkok.
The day after I decided to leave for Sukhothai, an old temple village, Unesco heritage. The receptionist in the hostel explained me which bus I should take. I was alone again, until the bus stopped in Ayutthaya to pick up some more people. A girl from Switzerland was on her first solotrip too. We got along very well and spent the next days together, enjoying the beautiful place we were visiting.
Then she was moving on to visit another temple village. I felt more like heading North to Chiang Mai, hoping I could do a nature trekking from there. So we had to say goodbye, with the promise to keep in touch and to visit each other when being back in Europe.
Waiting in the bus station, I met a Dutch guy and two American girls. They got to know each other just a few days before. We all headed to the same hotel. I soon found out the Dutch guy also wanted to go on a trekking, and we planned to do it together a few days later. On that trekking, we got along well with some Canadian students. They were on a world tour and would visit Europe later-on. When saying goodbye I told them they were always welcome at my place in Erps-Kwerps.
Together with the Dutch guy and one of the American girls, we headed for Pai, a small hippee village. We spent a few relaxing days together. There I found out the Dutch guy is a skydiver. I’ve always wanted to skydive. He invited me to visit when his club would be on their summercamp. Then it was time to say goodbye, time for me to fly back home.
‘A whole new World’, the tune from the song out of the Aladdin movie was playing in the airport. I did feel like having entered a whole new world. One of confidence and friendship without bounderies.
The Swiss girl had a workmeeting in Brussels. I invited her to stay at my place. She knew I wanted to work in the world of events, and got me in touch with the organiser of her event. I got the job.
The Canadian students hopped by for a two-day visit at my place. Erps-Kwerps, they learned to pronounce it well… It were two amazing days, for them but also for me.
During summer, I drove to the North of France, to visit the ‘flying Dutchmen’. Who would have thought that thanks to an encounter at the other end of the world, I would be able to realise my dream of jumping out of an aircraft?
I got infected with the travelvirus and there is no cure for that. I have seen many more parts of the world since then. I have been travelling with friends and shared great experiences with them. But if none of them were able to take leave, I never hesitated to travel on my own. I have shared wonderful moments together with the most beautiful people. They all have left a kiss on my heart, a footprint on my soul.
“Last and final call for Ms. Van Loock travelling on flight…”
How embarassing is this, I have worked in the airport for so many years and now I am the one whom they have to make a final call for. “My apologies, I was dreaming and did not hear the boarding call”, I tell the gate agent when handing over my boarding pass. “Seeing the smile on your face, it must ‘ve been a beautiful dream”, she replies. A beautiful dream and yet so real: I am travelling solo. But I know I am not alone.