Travelling solo for the first time gave me mixed feelings. I think it is quite normal to feel anxious and a bit scared as you're stepping onto that first plane to a country you have never been to before. It didn't properly sink in for me until I landed at my first destination, Laos.
I had parted ways from my friend in Vietnam and had the rest of the trip to experience by myself. It was night time when I arrived in Laos and was a very small airport with not much noise around me. Everyone seemed to be with someone and knew where they were going and what they were doing. Luckily, I have been through the airports many times before so I know the process off the back of my hand.
In all honesty, these were probably, if not, the only times I felt properly alone. Most of the time spent at airports is just waiting around until your flight number is called through the tannoy system. If you are alone, this time seems to go insanely slow and, being in a small airport (which most of them were), there isn't much to do apart from shop, eat and get some work done as I had my laptop with me.
Overall, I chose an excellent group of hostels. I'm not that sort of person who would choose a party hostel because I don't drink much whilst travelling, and I like my sleep. I like to be quite active and make the most of my time in the places I'm in (especially if it's only a couple of days), so waking up with a bad hangover with half the day already gone is my worst nightmare.
All my hostels had a relaxed atmosphere whilst still being located in the mix of everything. I obviously didn't spend too much time at the hostels as I was out everyday, but they all had comfortable beds and friendly staff, what else do you need from a hostel?
Unless you are just wanting a completely solo experience and organise every trip alone, then you are guaranteed to meet people. In hostels, on airplanes, on day trips; it will happen somewhere along the way. I seemed to meet the most people in my hostels, in Phnom Penh particularly as I met about 12 other girls. I met a group of people in nearly every city I went to. The only place which I did spend on my own (unless you include the really nice tuk tuk driver which I hired for a day) was Siem Reap. I met two people the day I was leaving, oh how annoying that was! But, I did manage to meet up with my friend from back home, who is also studying in China, for one of the days so I guess I wasn't alone the whole time. I didn't mind this though.
Everywhere else I met a range of people which was very nice, especially when you exchange stories with one another. A lot of the people I met had quit their jobs, left everything behind, saved up and travelled off for a few years, is that a dream or what?! One guy I met in Bali had been travelling for 3 years straight and just finishing his journey and a girl I met in Phnom Penh had started her 3 year trip last August and was about to go to Australia for a year.
Culture shock/local interactions
Experiencing new cultures can be a little shocking, especially if you are alone and haven't done previous research on the country. I was incredibly lucky in some places as I was unaware of the rules and regulations or health and safety issues.
It is VERY important to research into countries before going to them because there may be certain rules you have to stick to to show your respect to the culture and locals. It puts you on edge a little, being along especially, because you don't know what will happen when and where and you may not have anyone around to help you.
TIP: If you are travelling alone, ALWAYS know where you are going, have your phone on you AT ALL TIMES, and make sure you TELL someone where you are going (e.g. the hostel staff/ people you've met at the hostel). You don't know what can go wrong and when it can happen.
Sadly, I had an accident during my trip involving quite a painful injury. It left me shaken up and also a little worried as to how I will handle the rest of the trip. I will have a separate post on this in the near future.
My overall experience
I am already thinking about my next trip alone. Not sure when it will be, but I will definitely do this all over again. Two major factors which have an impact on your solo journey is your age and sex. Being a girl in some countries can be a bit terrifying but also gives you the strength to stand up for yourself in some situations you may find yourself in. Age also has an impact. A lot of people I met travelling alone were age 25+. I think this is a good age to travel solo because at my age, 20, you are still learning how to be an adult (I am anyways) and how to be independent and get around easily. I would have loved my best friend with me on this trip as I know we would have had the best time ever and would have felt a lot more safer in some places, but if you are travelling with someone else, do you meet as many people? What do you think?