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Not long ago I went on my first solo trip overseas. I’d been overseas before, but always as part of family holidays. I decided my rite of passage would be to spend a month backpacking through China. My mother and grandmother were horrified. ‘But it’s so unsafe to travel on your own’, they said. ‘You could get mugged. Or scammed. Or raped! Or lost. Their signs aren’t in English, you know.’
I went anyway.
In Shanghai I shared a dorm with a German-polish chick. We explored Shanghai together, and got lost looking for the markets. It was great. The next day while wondering through some different markets I fell for one of the most common scams. Some local students and I went to a tea ceremony. At the end they pretended not to have enough money to pay. I offered to make up the difference.
In every city I went to, I sat in teashops drinking. Often I was asked by locals on their own to join them at their table. I had some amazing conversations with very interesting people. This wouldn’t have happened if I’d been travelling with a group.
In Hangzhou I went to a tiny village on the top of a hill. I couldn’t find a way back. Some Chinese students travelling by bicycle offered to help and lent me one of their bikes, escorting me down the slopes through the traffic to get to a taxi. Now that was terrifying… and exhilarating.
I boosted my confidence and my independence, gained a new perspective on life and had some amazing opportunities I wouldn’t have had travelling in a group.
Obviously caution is required, but it’s also required when crossing the road at home. All it takes is a bit of common sense.
So seriously, go.