I didn't intend to be a solo traveler. It was my second year into teaching and I was searching for some winter sun. I'll admit I went on to the Air Asia website with the mindset of, 'where is the cheapest place I can go for 10 days to escape the winter.' It turns out it was Malaysia, which wasn't half bad, as it was somewhere I had always wanted to visit.
Thinking a girl's trip might be nice, I asked a friend if she would be keen and before I knew it we were all booked in for a trip to Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Langkawi, staying at some seriously luxe resorts with the plan to take some tours and drink cocktails by the pool.
When I booked the trip I was in a relationship and expecting to go on a girl's trip, but by the time it came to depart, I was single and travelling alone. Despite some reservations about traveling alone, I felt I would have a safe trip in Malaysia, and a real urge to set out anyway. This is how I became an accidental solo traveler and realised there are many reasons to love solo travel.
Up, up and away
I don't remember any tears on departing Aus. (subsequent trips have caused a few nervous outbursts!) I had transfers booked and I was going to nice hotels, so I was hardly going to be 'roughing' it. I had traveled to Asia before, but I wasn't sure what to expect of Malaysia and wondered if I would be ok exploring by myself. Upon arrival my fears were abated and I realised that Malaysia is actually a fantastic place to have a safe trip. I was beginning to get excited.
My first full day in the capital was spent on a day trip to Malacca. Located a couple of hours south of KL we spent quite a lot of time on the bus, punctuated by the odd stop. The tour itself was quite mediocre (I wouldn't recommend it!) but this was somewhat advantages as the mediocrity of the tour helped us to bond and we spent the bus trip chatting and getting to know each other. It was here I met another solo female traveller from Poland.
It all starts with hello...
Feeling a little like a new kid at school asking if I could 'play' I suggested to this girl that perhaps we could have dinner together. She was more than happy to spend some time together and upon our return we set off to explore the markets. She was much more used to solo travel than I was and had already been in the city for a week. I explored places with her that I would have been worried to by myself and we had a great time having a meal and then viewing the twin towers by night. We are still friends on Facebook and I still appreciate her company to this day.
My time in KL flew by and before I knew it, it was time to board another flight to Penang. Just a quick hop in the plane, before I knew it I was being driven by a lovely driver (who like many Malaysians has been to Australia, or have children studying there) to my resort in Batu Ferringhi.
The Lone Pine resort was amazing. My room was huge with two double beds, a walk in shower, large balcony with a day bed and an outdoor bath with pool and beach views to boot. I was seriously feeling spoilt. The hotel itself was lovely, however it definitely had a couples vibe and I was starting to feel a little lonely. Because my friend had become ill at the last minute, everywhere I checked in to asked me where she was. This meant constantly explaining why I was alone and even going on a solo tour of Penang as we were the only two booked! I was loving Malaysia, but I was definitely ready for some company.
After three days in Penang I was really missing conversation and when I heard two Aussie accents at the table next to me, I couldn't help but blurt out "I'm traveling by myself and I'm a bit lonely, can I join you?' Luckily for me, they'd been traveling as a duo for 3 weeks and were also up for some company! Whilst I did feel a bit awkward revealing my position, it paid off and we had a lovely evening drinking Thai beer shandies and chatting about our lives. I was starting to feel that this journey was one where I needed to spend some time alone with myself, but when I really needed someone they would pop up. This also proved to be true in Langkawi.
I must have been feeling more relaxed at this point, because I fell asleep for nearly the whole ferry ride from Penang to Langkawi. The nicest resorts are out of the city, so I headed off to the Meritus Pelangi resort about an hour out of town. I settled into my spacious room with lake views and spent the afternoon relaxing and deciding how I would spend my time. We had originally left Langkawi open for relaxing, but being by myself I figured I might get a bit bored, so I worked out how to get myself to the Sky Cab and set off.
The Sky Cab is the worlds steepest cable car, ascending 708 metres above the ground. It is very often shut down due to poor weather and on this particular day I rode alone with a large tub of water for company to ease the sway of the wind. I had bought a cheap Malaysian sim card, so I shared the moment with my sister by sending her a picture and a happy birthday wish. It was too spectacular to keep to myself!
In addition to the Sky Cab excursion, I also booked ajungle walk, evening dinner cruise on a yacht and a mangrove safari. The tours were so reasonably priced and it also allowed me to get to meet new people. The resort wasn't particularly full, and I had finished reading all of my books and magazines, so I felt getting out and about was the best option. I had a great time on all of the trips, but memorably on the yacht cruise where one of the waiters took a shine to me and kept on calling me 'teacher Laura'. I also got stung by a jelly fish and had to be doused in vinegar - glamorous!
Are you thinking of travelling solo?
Whilst my first solo trip was by accident, it ended up being just what I needed. It forced me to have time by myself post a difficult separation and it also taught me that things work out how they are meant to. If you are a bit nervous about a solo trip, here are some things that I have learnt that may help you.
Lastly, enjoy yourself. Live in the moment and remember that sometimes the most disastrous travel experiences turn into the best travel stories!
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