I don’t accept guest posts often, but this time, I’m very happy to. The guest blogger, Kiara Mijares, is a fellow Filipina and also a solo traveler.
Being a solo female traveler living in the Philippines isn’t easy. There’s always a lot of pressure from the family (and society in general) to conform, and traveling (by yourself, to boot), is definitely out of the expected behaviors of Filipinas.
Here’s what Kiara has to say about why Filipinas should travel solo at least once.
If I had a penny for every time someone told me “No,” I would probably be as rich as Karl Lagerfeld. And if I had a penny for every time I wasn’t encouraged to gallivant around the Philippines (or any country, for that matter), I’d double my shares.
Growing up in a country where solo travel isn’t only uncommon, but unheard of, it’s going to be tough telling your parents why you want to do what you’re about to do.
They will also probably relay the message to your aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, second-cousins, and even the security guard at the company they’re working at.
But man, it’s going to be worth it. Beyond #WTNadventure or #travelph, you’ll discover a world so different from your own. Even if you’re only traveling within the Philippines.
You’ll be greeted with sights, people, and experiences you would not have otherwise thought about. Traveling alone will be your most eye-opening experience, one that goes beyond Philippine societal convention and what you understand while growing up. Traveling as a female, now, that’s where you truly challenge everything you’ve come to know face first.
And in case you’re scared or confused along the winding road, let me take you through a time when I felt the same, how I overcame it, and, well, 12 good reasons to take a leap of faith and travel solo.
1. It’s going to be an adventure
“Whether you’re traveling locally or abroad, you’ll be having an adventure of a lifetime.”
Those were words I told myself the first time I boarded a plane to Manila from my hometown in Davao, Philippines without knowing that a few years later, I would not have only moved there for college but also traveled to many countries in Asia.
To this day, having gone to several other cities and have been constantly moving, I still tell myself the exact same words before boarding a plane. They are constant reminders that you don’t have to travel far to find adventure.
Often, adventures are found in your own backyard. All you need is courage and a change in perspective to make it one.
2. Traveling solo will be the best self-care you can do for yourself
Growing up in a conservative Filipino family, you’re always faced with the pressure of choosing career paths that will make you money, give you long-term employment, and ensure your children receive better benefits than you ever did.
However, to place this all in context, I use the term ‘conservative’ loosely when describing my own. I grew up being highly encouraged to start my own business venture rather than find a job. I also learned at an early age — through inspiring travel quotes, among others — the benefits of traveling.
But I was never left alone. I wasn’t awarded the opportunity to seek adventures or new places on my own.
This is where it gets tricky: many women who grew up in these type of families, will have difficulty removing themselves from it. And in many cases, they don’t.
But hear me out — if you could, travel solo that is, do it. Whether it’s in the Philippines or abroad, traveling solo will teach you more about yourself and your goals than any office job can ever do.
It’s going to cut the shackles of life you’ve grown to know, and allow you the chance to see things from a different perspective. That’s the best self-care medicine you can ever give yourself.
3. Your family means well. But sometimes it’s best to listen to yourself.
In relation to growing up in a ‘conservative’ Filipino family, don’t be surprised if you’ll be highly discouraged to do it. Actually, don’t be surprised if your relatives will constantly tell you not to do it, how dangerous it can be, and make you second guess your own decision.
They did that to me at 17 when I traveled to Manila alone for the first time. They’re doing that to me now at 22 when I’ve booked a solo flight for Sydney in March.
The thing is, if I continued listening to my relatives (though they mean well, I know), I would never have done it.
You’re going to need courage to not only book that flight, that hotel room, and that walking tour. You’re also going to need courage to tell your parents, grandparents, cousins, uncles, aunts, your neighbors, and maybe even your neighborhood’s police officer on duty.
But that small amount of courage (or maybe big, depends at how you look at it) will literally take you places. It’s going to change your life in the best way possible.
And later, you’ll learn, courage is all you really need.
4. You’ll be challenged by circumstances and situations you never grew up learning
Coming from Davao, I didn’t know how to ride the MRT or LRT around Metro Manila.
But going around in Cagayan de Oro, on my own, when I was in high school taught me how to ride tricycles and jeepneys. Going to Paris taught me how to pick up basic French words, the same way I picked up German and Spanish when I visited Vienna and Barcelona, respectively.
I learned how to hike, the first time I decided to wake up at 5am with my friends on a spontaneous adventure to Rizal in Luzon. The first time I endured a 4-hour bus drive on rocky roads was from Dipolog to Ozamis, so I could visit family.
All these instances happened while on the road. My parents, relatives, or even Davao, never taught me how to adapt to my circumstances and make the most out of them when by myself.
Instead, I learned to speak languages because I sought them out. I learned how to ride tricycles, buses, and trains since I couldn’t stay in one place.
I learned. I grew.
You’re never going to learn how to adapt by reading them in a friendly article (hi, by the way!) or have someone else relay the experience to you. You’ll have to muster up all your courage in the middle of the night and learn from them.
5. You’re going to challenge the norm
By normal Filipino standards, your life is supposed to go like: study hard, go to one of the best universities in the country, work at the best companies, and then retire after having a great career run.
That’s really great. As long as that’s how you envisioned your life 5, 10, or even 50 years from now, I’m happy for you.
But what if it isn’t?
What if in the middle of your blossoming career, you decide to quit? What then?
They say you need to have a career first before finding yourself. They even tell you to stop traveling so much or else it will hurt what you’ve worked for your entire life.
Going around the world isn’t the norm. Not by Filipino society standards, at least.
But that’s why I’m encouraging you to take a giant leap of faith, look society in the eye, and challenge them.
You’re going to understand many things, cultures, and expectations when you’re on your own. You’ll have stories to tell, and jokes to laugh at. You’re going to be one amazing person after challenging the norm, packing your bags, and just going.
That’s all it takes. Just go.
6. You’ll find comfort in knowing even though only a few people have done it within your circle, they still exist
I don’t know about you, but I find comfort in knowing there are many women around the world who choose to travel solo. Heck, I have joined many Facebook groups dedicated to women who travel, want to meet up with each other, and have life-long supporters for when they’re in a foreign country alone.
Although it’s very few and far in-between for women in the Philippines, it’s slowly gaining traction.
By engaging in this type of atmosphere and continually encouraging other women to do it, you’re also creating a shared momentum for future solo female travelers and explorers of the world.
And if you ever think you’re lost or need some help, there are so many women who are willing to help you along your journey.
7. And no, you’re not really soul searching — just chasing the thrill
Ignore going to the USA because you have family there. Don’t bother with Australia if you know close friends who have immigrated over.
You’re not traveling alone if the point of your journey was to spend time with people you already know. No offense.
The entire reason of why we choose to travel alone, and why it’s being done by hundred others, is because of the thrill.
It’s when you’ve landed in Beijing without knowing Mandarin. It’s when you’re gallivanting around South America, picking up a bit of Spanish here and there. It’s when you’re alone in a foreign, non-English speaking country and for the first time in your life, you feel more alive than you ever did before.
Despite what others claim, going on a solo adventure doesn’t necessarily mean you’re off “soul searching.” To an extent, it’s true. But it’s so much more than that.
It’s testing your limits, and figuring out your flaws. You’re not soul searching when you’re stuck at a hospital bed in Bangkok, or playing with monkeys in Bali. It’s simply is.
You are not lost. You’re simply trying to find out who you are.
And that’s the thrill of it all.
8. Traveling solo will teach you to be more patient and resilient when figuring out your next step
If there’s one thing you have to take after traveling solo, it’s learning how to be more patient with yourself and others. You’re going to experience bad flights, grumpy drivers, and not-so-friendly locals along the way.
You won’t have the opportunity to rant to your best friend straight away or even have the chance to tell someone you know. But that’s okay, because you’ll learn how to take things in stride, fight your way through the crowd, and be optimistic for your trip ahead.
9. You’ll see the world differently when you fly solo as opposed to traveling with others
The first time you get off that bus or plane for your solo adventure, and when you’ve started looking out the windows of your airport service/bus, you’ll quickly find how different you look at things when alone. Maybe because you won’t have anyone to talk to by yourself or make jokes with while on the road.
That’s the beauty of going solo — you’ll experience more of your environment than with a group of people. You’ll start noticing how others dress, see how they take their snacks, and you’ll even realize how you’re slowly adapting.
It’s going to be easier to learn why you don’t like French fries or pineapples on your pizza. You’ll find it easy to figure out why you prefer coffee over tea, and then you’ll understand why the world is so much more different when you’re alone with yourself than other people.
10. You’ll actually meet more people than traveling with a group
In relation, you’ll also find out how ironic life can be. Traveling solo will give you the opportunity to throw ‘being shy’ out of the window, and trying to make pleasant conversation with locals and travelers-alike. You’ll be pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, meeting foodies, artists, and musicians who all share the same the interests as you.
When you’re traveling solo, you’ll be awakened with this sense of adventure to meet others, interact with them, and learn about a world so different from yours. It pushes you out of your comfort zone and thrusts you into circumstances that turn into the best experiences.
11. Regroup, recharge
Aside from the constant thrill you’ll get from traveling, you’ll also have the chance to regroup and recharge from the last weeks or months. In fact, it’s highly encouraged to travel solely because it’s time for you to start thinking about other matters in your life.
This can come in the form of career prospects, relationships, or personal growth. Whatever it is, traveling won’t fix that. But it will give you the chance to see things from a different perspective. Hopefully for the better.
12. You’re never going to be the same again
You won’t realize how much traveling solo has changed you and your perspective in life until you’ve lain down on your bed, slept under your comforters, and drifting off to sleep.
When you’ve seen your family after a week or a few months of being on the road, you’ll find a lot of things have stayed the same. But you’re not the same person that left. You’re so different, and maybe that’s why it’s difficult to adapt again.
However, you shouldn’t look at changing in a bad light. Rather, find it in your heart to look beyond what you’re used to, challenge the norm, and take that leap of faith. You’ll forever be changed by that small ounce of courage.
About the Author
Kiara Mijares is the travel blogger behind Via Isabelle, a blog dedicated to sharing travel experiences, funny anecdotes, and reflections while on the road. Follow her solo adventures on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.