It is quite different traveling alone as an Asian guy. People always talk about the exciting people you’re going to meet and how much fun you’re going to have, but the truth is that things don’t always fall into place. We are not as exotic as Asian women, not perceived to be as fun as Caucasian guys, and definitely not as outgoing as the African dudes. Of course I am generalizing but the point is that people won’t naturally warm up to us that quickly.
That doesn’t mean we are doomed to despair and loneliness though. Here are some tips I’ve learned from my travels alone.
1. Expect nothing
Nothing is really certain when you are traveling. Even with the best planning, we’ll never know what to expect, the kind of people we’ll meet and how we’ll feel at the start of every adventure. It is good to hear what others say and read up a little to avoid a complete surprise but as I’ve learnt, expectations are often the biggest trip killers. Expect nothing and every little thing that comes up will be an interesting encounter.
2. Smile and make the first move
It’s natural for others to be comfortable in their own little groups and avoid contact. It’s not that the World hates you, it’s just nobody likes getting into awkward situations. What if you’re that creepy guy who smiles awkwardly and don’t speak their language, or worse that crazy Asian martial arts pugilist that beats the shit out of anyone who looks into his eyes. I exaggerate, but people generally resist change.
So the next time you don’t feel like being ignored, smile and make the first move. Ask about their travels so far, where’s the best place to go, find out their travel story and get to know them. Better still, speak to the locals, learn about their culture and their views on their country. The best insights and reviews often come from these random encounters instead of your guidebook!
3. Don’t take things to heart
The World is a big place and not everyone is as well informed. Don’t be upset if someone insists that Singapore is a part of China, or if they are surprised at your ability to speak English. Cultures are different and they may also do things that are considered offensive to you. Have a big heart, laugh it off and move on. The beauty of travel is that we get to meet all sorts of people.
4. Take small risks
Do this because we can. I’m not asking you to jump off a cliff, but as a guy, we have significantly less things to worry about when it comes it personal safety. Take the usual precautions but be more adventurous. Try the third class trains or go out with people you’re just met. The best experiences often come from stepping out of our comfort zone, even if it’s ever so slightly.
5. Stay in hostels, air bnb or couchsurf
Unless you are on the meditation part of your eat pray love journey, no one enjoys being alone all the time. Hostels are great for meeting other travelers and is a great place to start if you are not comfortable staying in a stranger’s house. Hang out at the common area during breakfast or dinner cause that’s the time most people are around so it’s easy to hook up with other travelers to do stuff together. For a more local experience, try couchsurfing and take in the hospitality of your hosts.