Living in Beijing we have access to some of Asia's best travel destinations but between slim holiday allowances and hard-to-pin-down friends, it's easy to get stuck here in town for long periods of time. And we all know those are the times when the "China days" seem to start really piling up. I'm here to say: get out. Pack a bag and go on a solo vacation.
Many people I speak to find the idea of traveling alone daunting or fear they're going to be bored. As someone who has largely traveled alone over the years let me tell you that it is incredibly liberating. Here's why.
No complicated logistics
Endless WeChat groups with 20 people trying to pick a destination and a time that suits everybody? No thanks. When you're traveling alone the only thing you have to worry about is getting the time off work (assuming you do work, I'm not here to judge). Challenge yourself by picking a last minute destination that you don't know anything about – you'll often get better deals and with no-one else tagging along the stress of last minute flights or hotels doesn't seem quite so bad.
Do what you want, when you want
Want to get up before sunrise and trek to the top of a holy mountain? You can. Want to stay by the pool all day and read trashy novels with pink covers about unlikely love triangles? You can do that to. When you're traveling alone, you make the schedule. Indulge a passion or make the leap and try something completely new. Either way, there'll be no-one there to pass judgement when you're falling out of a canoe or failing in an attempt to cook up a local delicacy.
Get to know yourself again
Bit of a cliche this one, but that big decision you've been wavering over? Take the opportunity of all that alone time to get some perspective. Whether that means writing down a list of pros and cons, or simply staring off into the sunset with a large G&T, the problems that seemed so insurmountable back home all of a sudden don't look so daunting after you've stepped away for a week.
Read a good book
Life moves pretty fast these days. Somehow I always have time for Buzzfeed and Instagram but I don't have time to pick up a book. On a recent eight day trip I managed to get through seven novels I'd had queued up for months. Load up your Kindle with classics or bestsellers and lose yourself in the glory of a good book. Maybe even ... whisper it ... turn off your phone and check out of the social whirl for a few days.
Meet new people ... or don't
The great thing about the sheer amount of people traveling nowadays is that wherever you go there will always be people willing to chat with you and share their experiences – you may even find yourself joining up with a new crowd for the rest of your travels. But the other great thing is, you don't have to talk to anyone if you do want to. I stayed in a high-end resort on a recent trip and the staff seemed constantly concerned that I was by myself – the waiters would come over and make awkward conversation with me repeatedly over dinner. Obviously, be polite, but don't feel the need to talk to anyone – a good book can be just as good company.
Now that you've decided to go alone, where should you actually go? I recently traveled alone to central Vietnam (more on that next month) and found the tourist infrastructure there well-developed and easy to navigate. Alternatively, Bali offers plenty of beaches to catch up on that essential reading, as well as pretty good nightlife if you do feel like meeting new people.
For something a little closer to home, why not try a weekend excursion to Beijing's nearest beach resort, Beidaihe. The beaches may not be on a par with Bali, but at this time of year there is plenty of potential for blustery solo walks on the beach. So, take my advice and shun your friends. If nothing else, you'll appreciate them more upon your return.
More stories by this author here.
Photos: Robynne Tindall
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