The first thing people tell you about travelling is “you’ll meet so many people” especially going solo. I have to admit I was worried that I wouldn’t, I mean how do you even get a conversation going with a complete stranger?
I was especially worried about how to handle having anxiety, panicking or just having a down day in front people I barely know. You can’t predict how they’ll react and probably will have a negative association with mental illness so just end up distancing themselves from me. I was fully aware that there would be no privacy in hostels for me to escape to either which concerned me because I didn’t want to have to bottle up my emotions so no one would see.
It was difficult initially. The first people I spoke to was a group of 3 Irish girls on holiday and then another girl from Switzerland who started chatting to me on the way to Koh Tao from Bangkok. It was a nice surprise to have someone come and talk to me, even more so that a group of girls would bother going out of their way when they already had each other.
Once getting to the first hostel, which was is Koh Tao, I found that a lot of the people there were travelling alone too which made everyone happy to talk. After a couple of days I found that I was surrounded by a big group of people, yet I felt oddly lonely because no one really knew me. I definitely felt unsettled thinking the whole of my travels would be me bouncing from conversation to conversation with loads of new people without getting to know anyone and make real friends.
I obviously worried too soon because a week on I’ve had a blast with several people who I’ve traveled with from Koh Tao to Koh Phangan! I’ve been on so many nights out not even drinking heavily just dancing and having fun with the Irish lasses, Livia from Switzerland, Sofie from Germany and Carlos from Colombia. It’s crazy the mixture of people you meet, but even crazier how you can get so close to some people in such a short amount of time.
On two particular occasions I was pleasantly surprised by how people came through to me:
1. I told Sofie a that I had PTSD which was really nerve wrecking to do because it was the first time I’d told someone new on my travels, I don’t think she knew much about the disorder but she seemed to take it well (though I’m not sure how I was expecting her to react). Anyway I had a really bad case of derealisation one night in Koh Tao, my body kept feeling like it was floating away from me in my bed. Obviously I didn’t like it at all, I got zero sleep that night and consequently I was very tired and emotional the next day. Sofie picked up on it immediately and when my emotions did get the better of me she didn’t push me for an explanation, just gave me a big big hug and a shoulder to lean on. Such a simple gesture did me the world of good and showed that she might not understand but she cared.
2. I hadn’t really mentioned PTSD to Livia when I got upset next. We were in Koh Phangan at the “Jungle Experience” party which turned out to be a druggy rave which was something I used to enjoy before I got PTSD but now I have a negative association anything like that because I’m scared the lights and trippy patterns will make my derealisation blow up into a panic attack. I was really uncomfortable and quite frightened being there which Livia noticed. Again, without demanding much of an explanation, she held my hand the entire time and didn’t leave my side so I could try and relax. I actually ended up enjoying myself after a while even though the music was rubbish and I only had 1 beer the entire night!
The three of us have gotten to know each other really well on a deeper personal level and it really was the best of luck that I stumbled across these two lovely girls in the first part of my adventure, they made me feel like I wasn’t travelling solo but with friends. We’ve done all sorts together from diving to trekking.
I was actually really sad to say goodbye to them, Livia returns to Switzerland and Sofie is going to a different Thai island, although we may see each other again in Koh Phi Phi (my next destination) where I will be meeting the Irish girls and Carlos.
As I said, I feel incredibly lucky. I know not everyone will be as accepting or even as fun to be with but it’s awesome to know that I wasn’t judged and going forward there will hopefully be others who “get me” too.
The whole reason why I went travelling alone was to prove a point – if I can do it then literally anyone can, having a mental illness or even just doubting yourself should not mean that you hold back. If you have any questions or are considering going yourself do get it touch.
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