Why travelling alone can be the best decision you ever make

Students love to travel but many don’t want to do so on their own. International students are certainly no different, yet one could also say that they would be more well acclimated to it.

After all, studying overseas is no different from travelling to a foreign country alone: you’re still sorting out accomodation, learning how to get around and making the most out of the city by knowing where to visit for certain needs.

Of course, having to go through that experience all over again on your own isn’t what all students are looking for, yet that doesn’t stop a fair few from embarking on trips of their own.

In travelling on their own, these students relate the experience of travelling along as one of personal growth and haven’t regretted the decision to do so.

In 2016, University of Melbourne student Ivy Sheng bought a ticket to New Zealand. Ivy had previously visited the country three years prior with her parents but this time wanted to take in the beauty of the country all on her own.

“Travelling to another country alone [reminded me] of my first time coming to Australia and the experiences that I had,” said the Bachelor of Commerce student from China.

“I wanted to experience the excitement of living in another country again, that’s why I wanted to pick another country [to visit],” Ivy said.

Skydiving in New Zealand. | Photo supplied by Ivy Sheng.

During her 12 day stay in New Zealand, Ivy adventured as much as she could. She did sky diving in Queenstown and even went canyoning, an activity she hadn’t heard about prior to doing it. Ivy had “never experienced nature like this before” and said that doing so would not have been possible had she not made that first step to travel on her own for herself. 

After coming back from New Zealand, Ivy had a new outlook on life. She became more confident towards international student life.

Although she is already gearing up for another trip with other students doing volunteer work in India later this month, Ivy determinedly vowed to travel alone again.

Louise Feng, meanwhile, is an expert on travelling alone. In the past two years, she has been to New Zealand, Japan, Singapore and United Kingdom all by herself. In December 2016, she flew from her home in China to Europe, celebrating the end of her first year undergraduate studies as an Environments student at the University of Melbourne. She stayed in Europe for a month and did most of the preparation on her own. 

“The visa to France [was] really hard to get. I started to apply for all the visas in September, and I was told that the French visa needed to be applied six months in advance. My ticket to France was for December 1, and I had paid for it already.” As a result, she had to ask a travel agency for help. Nine days before her flight, she got the visa.

But as prepared as she was, even she couldn’t avoid being an easy target for theft.  On her second day in France, Louise had her phone stolen.

“I was surrounded by a group of people as soon as I got off the public transport in the Louvre. One of them handed me some paper and asked me to sign. I knew it was a trick and I refused to sign, but there were so many people that I couldn’t get out of the crowd. I could feel that my phone was taken away when they fled.”

Fortunately, Louise carried a back-up phone, which she could use to stay in touch with her family. Her travel itinerary, journals and other important bits of information however were stored on her other phone. 

This photo of Louise in Furano, Japan, was taken by the Chinese Chinese family she met at the train station. | Photo supplied by Louise Feng

Louise also had someone to lean on as well, another girl she met in her travels. “She stayed with me and made [comforted me] when I nearly cried [over] the stolen phone.”

“That’s one thing why I love travel alone: you never know who you will meet. Sometimes, you will meet someone who will inspire and amaze you,” Louise said.

She then recounted a similar experience of meeting amazing people in Japan.

“I was to take a three-hour train from Sapporo to see lavenders. The person at the information desk [gave] me a wrong direction, therefore I took a wrong train,” she said.

Louise hadn’t realised she was headed the wrong way until about 40 minutes into the trip. When she went back to the original platform to head to her right destination however, an unexpected surprise came to her in the form of a Chinese family also travelling Japan.

They asked me if this was the platform for the Furano train in English, and I replied to them in Chinese. Then we knew that we shared the same destination. Immediately we decided to go together.”

And just like that, her trip became even more amazing. “We even travelled around Hokkaido together for rest two days,” she said.

Being able to speak English and Japanese, Louise became the interpreter of this temporary travel group. Even setbacks can lead to great coincidences.

“I caught a wrong train but I met such a good family,” Louise reflected.

Making your own adventure 

As international students, we move to a new country in pursuit of a good education but also for a new life. The decision to study overseas already is a big step for any international student and presents an opportunity to grow and mature. Traveling alone offers that same benefit to develop too, except without the stress and rigour of passing exams or completing essays.

So why wait on your friends if you want to go on a new adventure and explore the world? Start consulting travel agents, talk to experienced travellers and see what you can do to make your own trip alone possible.

As Louise puts it, “As long as you can study abroad on your own, why can’t you travel alone?”.

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