I had my 7-day solo backpacking adventure visiting the northwest portion of Panay Island (Antique, Aklan & Boracay), Philippines. If you’re gonna ask me if I’m still afraid of a solo trip, I will say YES! I usually travel with my friends and family. And the idea alone of solo traveling is a bit intimidating, you will go to a place where no one knows you, a place far from the people that you used to be with. But in the end, I’ve realized that this is something extremely rewarding and nothing makes me feel more capable and confident than conquering the world on my own.
I will tell you my thoughts towards solo traveling, my experience, how will you benefit from it and everything I’ve discovered from simple tips along with the advantages and disadvantages. Whether you’re brokenhearted? Have doubts which career path you want to take? Or maybe you just want to escape your daily routines and get free from the doldrums of the corporate world? Or want to try something different or new that’s out of your comfort zone? If yes, then read along.
I. Do the research
It’s better to do research in advance about the place, people, food, accommodation, transportation and customs/tradition of the place that you’ll go to visit. This is something really helpful in planning your solo trip. What are the famous tourist attractions? Dialects and languages? A place to eat? Where to stay? etc. In terms of transportation, it’s very important to check the prices beforehand (read blogs, join a travel group, ask your friends or workmates) so that you will know if you are being overcharged or not because most of us solo travelers tend to get taken for granted (LOL), I mean “taken for a ride”.
II. Book your flights, accommodations, and activities in advance
If you are on a tight budget these are the things that I can highly suggest to do in advance. I booked my flight three months before the departure date and I got a Round-trip ticket from Manila to Caticlan for only 562.80 pesos (11 USD) which normally range from 1,500 PHP – 6,000 PHP (31 USD – 125 USD) per way, if you can get a lesser price than that, much better. The booking process is the same, just the usual thing. All you need to do is to wait for Airline promos and turn your Fastest Fingers First mode ON because there are also people out there who are desperately waiting like you just to get a cheaper flight (Bawal slow hands).
Flight Itinerary: Manila – Caticlan – Manila
Accommodations: As your travel dates come closer the prices increase, generally those prices do not climb as high as the current rate 3 to 6 weeks in advance. But this rule doesn’t always apply to every location and occasion.
Activity: I got my pub crawl ticket for only 790 PHP (16 USD) which is 20% Off the original price, instead of paying 990 PHP (20 USD), the difference might not that big, but it’s a BIG HELP especially when you’re traveling alone and every penny counts.
Boracay Pub Crawl Ticket
III. Stay Safe
Safety is the most concern for all travelers. In general, There are people that might take advantage of you as a tourist. You are more prone to scammers who con people to make a buck. While this might be a fact in some areas, a few preventive measures can help to reduce possible risks.
IV. Be friendly, blend in and Smile
The most effective advice that I can give you based on my experience is to be friendly; don’t be afraid to talk, initiate a conversation. It might be hard in the beginning, especially when you are an introvert like me, but I can assure, you will go far. Learn how to blend in; don’t wear any flashy/expensive jewelry that can catch the attention of robbers. Keep it low profile. Lastly, learn to SMILE. I’m not the guy who smiles a lot but when I travel I smile. 🙂 Don’t forget to smile especially when talking to the locals, this shows that you are warm, friendly and fun to be around.
V. Low-key Alternatives
I’ll share with you some alternatives that are perfect and useful for budget travelers.
Learn How to Cook: If you already know how that’s better. If there’s nothing special about the local food, just cook on your own. I remember when I was in Boracay, instead of eating outside that will cost me around 100 PHP – 500 PHP (2 USD – 10 USD) for a single-serve food. I went up straight to the public market and bought the ingredients in making a Ginataang Sitaw at Kalabasa (String beans and Squash in coconut milk). It only cost me 84 PHP (1.75 USD) good for my brunch and dinner plus I’ve also shared some with my housemates. If you really don’t know how to cook, I’ll share some of the affordable restaurants and eateries where you can eat in my upcoming articles, so keep in touch.
Homestay / Online Hospitality-exchange Networks: These two are a lot cheaper than staying in hostels or hotels. During my island trip in Antique, I just stayed to one of the local houses there for 150 PHP – 250 PHP (3 USD – 5 USD) per night. While I used this online hospitality-exchange network site for my stay in Boracay that cost me 400 PHP (8 USD) per night.
There’s also another hospitality-exchange network online that I’ve used during this trip which provides a platform for members to stay as the guest to host’s home, join an event or host travelers. It’s helpful and it’s actually my first time to use this app/website for my Kalibo, Aklan trip. Luckily, I’ve found a host and stayed there for 2 nights, for free.
In making a request to your prospect hosts, do it weeks in advance as it may take time for them to reply. I’m not pushing you to use this app just to save money. Again, Safety is still the priority here. If you’re not feeling secure and safe better book a room in hotels, inns or hostels. But on the brighter side, if you want to experience the life of locals this is something that is worth trying for. There are instances as well wherein your host will tour you around the place, like what my host did.
I. Clears your mind
– At some point, all of us have already experienced being rejected, depressed, stressed and exhausted making our goals a bit blurry. Traveling alone might help you clears your mind, you can at least have time for yourself without thinking of any about your future. It disconnects you from reality in a certain period but this one really helps a lot and will fill your soul with the experience you had.
II. At your own pace
-You are the master of your itinerary. Control every activity you have in your mind and do it at your most convenient time. You have nothing to worry about what time are you going to wake up? do it spontaneously. NO RUSH.
III. You become more independent
-As the word implies “SOLO” travel, you have no one to depend on, no one will take care of you when you got sick during the trip, nobody you can lean on; Nobody, nobody but YOU! (LOL!) You will cook on your own, plan the whole trip on your own, get on the road on your own, carry your luggage/bags on your own, build your own tent, and find the directions by yourself. You heard it all right. Yeah, JUST YOU! Handle everything alone. But later on, you will realize that this is something worth treasuring and something you can be proud of.
IV. It empowers you
– This adventure is truly empowering experience, giving me inspirations and motivation to even try other things or field in life that seemed to be unclear. After all, you will feel that you can cope with many things that you could have ever imagined. Start believing first in yourself and everything will fall into place.
-In my opinion, this is the most concern of all solo travelers, the MONEY. If you are a first-timer, there will be a question running through your mind “Is my budget enough for this trip?” Traveling alone is really more expensive than traveling with a group or a partner. With the group, you can have someone to share the cost of your food, activities, transportation and, accommodation. But still, it’s a matter of proper budgeting and having the courage for hitch-hiking. 🙂
“I travel not to find myself, but to remember who I’ve been all along.”
One of my goals is to visit the 81 provinces in the Philippines and this is just the beginning. This journey taught me a lot of things in life; from being dependent to self-sufficient, from being timid to bold, from antisocial to friendly and I can proudly say that this is SOMETHING that I will definitely do again. Traveling alone might be risky and always have drawbacks but for me, the pros far outweigh the cons. I know traveling isn’t for everyone and that’s fine, but I hope this article might influence you or maybe your alter ego to at least give solo traveling a try.
SO START PACKING YOUR BAGS, HIT THE ROAD AND LET’S GO TRAVEL FOR GREAT ADVENTURES!!!
P.S.: This 7-day journey only cost me 5,300 pesos (110 USD) all-inclusive of Airfare, Accommodations, Food, some activities, and pasalubong (treats).