Ever thought about going on a solo trip? I definitely have. Inspired by other’s experiences, I wanted one of my own. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that I’ve always wanted, but never thought could actually happen. Funny how things fall into place when you least expect it.
Last August, I quit my job with no backup plan. Irresponsible? Possibly. My mundane 9-to-5 job left me unhappy, unmotivated, and dissatisfied. With words of encouragement from my fellow co-workers, I mustered up the courage to quit. For the first time in a while I had control of my time. It was freeing, yet scary — I wasn’t sure what to do with all the extra time on my hands. Then I thought, ‘this is the perfect opportunity to take that solo trip I’ve always wanted.’ I had the two things that made it possible: time and money (not a lot, but enough). So I looked up the cheapest flights, booked my tickets, packed my bags, and flew off to Hong Kong and Taiwan for a month. I chose Taiwan because I wanted to learn more about my parents’ culture, heritage and lifestyle. Hong Kong on the other hand, was decided in the spur of the moment. It was just under 2 hours away from Taiwan, so why not?
The Places I Visited
Taiwan (2.5 weeks):
- Taipei – Delicious food, cultural centers, skyscrapers, a national park, and hot springs. Taipei has it all.
- Jiufen – Many people flock here to see the sunset. Unfortunately, when I came it was rainy and cloudy. But the city lights here was worth a trip. This is the place that inspired Miyazaki’s famous movie, Spirited Away.
- Tamsui – This is a great place for a romantic date by the water. Grab some snacks by the harbor and enjoy the image of the sun glistening on the water as it sets on the sea.
- Hualien – This is one of my favorite cities. The easiest way to get around is with a bike, which you can rent. You can ride along the coast to the beautiful beaches or to the lush green mountains. Hualien also houses one of the most popular national parks of Taiwan, Toroko National Park.
- Alishan – If you love being in a forest, this is the place to be. The trees were so tall and green, it was incredible. If you can, I would stay for the sunrise or sunset. The view is extra special because you can see clouds roll in as the sun rises or sets.
- Sun Moon Lake – Here lies Taiwan’s largest body of water. I was blown away by how big and blue the water was.You can get a closer view of the lake by biking around it too.
- Tainan – This city is best known for its street food and snacks (i.e. shrimp chips, fried shrimp rolls, and tofu pudding). So naturally, I ate the most here. I stuffed my stomach like there was no tomorrow. It was great.
- Kenting National Park – I had the opportunity to visit the southernmost point of Taiwan and see the unique rock formations along the coast. There’s a rock that looks like a cat’s head and Richard Nixon’s head. Just look closely!
Hong Kong (1.5 weeks):
- Hong Kong Island – It has one of the best museums I’ve ever been to — the Hong Kong History Museum. Each exhibit was interactive and was displayed so vividly. I was immersed in each part of Hong Kong’s cultural era. Ah, it was amazing!
- Hong Kong Trail – A great trail to see the natural greenery of the main island. This was my escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.
- Lantau Island – Out of all the more touristy attractions, I recommend a visit to Tai O fishing village. I loved the atmosphere here. You get to talk to the locals, eat delicious food, and see the traditional houses that sit on stilts by the water.
- Cheng Chau Island – If you love mango mochi, this is the island to go to. Hands down the best mango mochi I’ve had so far!
- Lamma Island – Walk along the narrow ridges of the green mountains and be rewarded of the coastal views.
Final Thoughts On My Solo Experience
This trip was a dream come true, but I’m not going to lie and say that it was all sunshine and rainbows. There were days when I felt lonely and days when nothing went according to plan. I got lost more times than I wanted. My patience was tested. I missed my family, friends, and home. Just hours before flying out, I was so nervous and anxious, I let out a big cry. Surprisingly, once I landed in Taiwan, most of my worries were quickly replaced with excitement and glee.
One of my favorite memories in Taiwan was actually my last day there. I was forced to change hostels and met two awesome dudes in my room. Even though there was a language barrier we shared a common interest — we drank beers, shared stories, and laughed our butts off. It’s these simple moments that make traveling alone worthwhile.
In Hong Kong, I was very overwhelmed by the city environment. There were so many people, buildings, sounds, and traffic. To manage, I escaped into nature and the outlying islands. Though Hong Kong is known much for its city life, people tend to forget that it’s mostly made up of mountains and greenery. I hiked so much, it was ridiculous. I didn’t know I could fall more in love with nature. One thing I did love about the city was the nightlife. I loved how the city came alive once the sun set. All the building lights were on, all the restaurants were open, people were everywhere — it was so lively. It was as if the city was reenergized again.
To Go or Not To Go — Solo?
Being alone on a trip can be refreshing and eye opening. You learn so so much about yourself and the world around you — especially on a long trip like mine. You’re forced to depend on yourself and trust your raw instincts. You don’t have a friend to lean on or ask for opinions — it’s just you. So you learn to navigate the city and ask for help when help is needed (which will be quite often). You’re challenged to step outside of your comfort zone. For me, it was asking strangers’ for help, either for directions or to take photos.
When I was alone, I put a lot of my trust in people. We live in a world where we’re constantly being told that the world is a scary place. And although there are terrible things out there, there definitely still is a lot of good. I’ll never forget the time I got lost for hours in a national park while in Taiwan. Long story short, I wandered aimlessly, not knowing if I would make it out by dark. I forced myself to remain calm and eventually stumbled upon an old couple snacking by the road. I told them my situation and they were kind enough to give me a ride back to where I needed to be. Somehow I ended up spending my entire day with them. They showed me around the park, paid for my meals, explored the neighboring cities with me, and even took me back to my hostel. It’s definitely an experience I’ll remember forever.
The best part about going solo? The freedom to do whatever you want and whenever you want. You have full control of the places you want to see and eat. I loved having the freedom to invest myself fully in the cultures of Taiwan and Hong Kong. It was fun to see the different cultural differences and it allowed me to reflect on my own culture and how I grew up.
Despite all the adversity I faced, I wouldn’t trade this trip for anything in the world. Everyone’s solo adventure will be different and that’s the beauty of it. No one will have the same experience as you do. It’s something that you can call your own. It’s going to be challenging and uncomfortable at times, but the results are worthwhile. Who knows, you may come back as a different person than when you left.
Tips For Your Next Solo Trip:
- Nothing will go according to plan. When that happens, just go with the flow. Your trip will be more fun that way.
- Google Maps will be your best friend, but always be sure to carry a paper map as backup just incase your phone dies. Better safe than sorry!
- The weather will be unpredictable, but don’t let that get you down. Switch up your plans and just go. There’s no time to waste when you’re in a new city.
- Traveling is exciting, but it can also be exhausting. Allow yourself time to rest and relax. It’s okay to take a day or two to chill. You’ll have more energy and more fun in the long run.
- Don’t be afraid to ask people to take photos for you. Be aware not everyone is a professional photographer and won’t always get that perfect angle. I ended up with some funky photos that makes me laugh to this day.
- Facebook is a great way to keep in touch with everyone you meet long after your trip is over.
- Selfie sticks are a norm. Though it may be annoying, your trip will go a lot smoother (and happier) once you learn to ignore them. Remember, those people are just as excited as you are.
- Public transportation is amazing in Taiwan and Hong Kong. It’s a great way to explore the countries and to avoid traffic.
- Don’t book your hostels too early in advance. After talking to locals and being in the country for a bit, you’ll find hidden gems unknown to the internet, making you possibly deviate from your plans. Book the first couple of nights and then see where your plans take you.
- You will meet some of the kindest people or some of the meanest. It’ll help you appreciate the little things people do for you and learn to get along with all different types of characters out there.
- Eat your heart out.
- Ask yourself “when is the next time I’ll be here” constantly. It will make you do things you never thought you would do. Take advantage of the opportunity, go out, and have fun!
So my friends, I challenge you to plan your next trip as a solo adventure. Feel free to email us if you have any questions!