About the Author: Sally is a writer, teacher, performer, photographer, traveller, eater and all-around scaredy cat. In February, she left her full-time job in Japan and has been travelling throughout Asia ever since, one odd job at a time. She is currently volunteer teaching in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Find out what else she’s up to on her blog: www.unbravegirl.com
When I tell people that I travel solo, they often ask me if I’m afraid. Of course, I’m afraid. The world can be scary. People can be scary. But the world can also be pretty amazing. And, people, well, they can be pretty amazing, too.
On my blog, I write a lot about my thoughts on fear and bravery. I suppose this is a given with a name like Unbrave Girl. It’s not just a catchy blog title, though — I truly believe that I am not a brave person. But I also believe that you don’t need to be brave to travel the world alone. You just need to trust in yourself and others. You need to believe that not everyone is out to do you harm. You need to believe that most people are good. You need to believe that help will come when you need it.
I can’t say I’ve always been so trustworthy. When I first came to Thailand, over three years ago for a month-long backpacking trip, I was convinced everyone who so much as talked to me was out to get me. I had read the Internet warnings about jewel scams and passport pickpockets and swindling tuk-tuk drivers. I spent the month walking around with my arms thrown protectively around my purse and a permanent scowl affixed to my face. If a stranger smiled at me, I would suspiciously glower back, even if that stranger was another tourist like me. Hey, I had seen Brokedown Palace, and I wasn’t about to let any sweet-talking traveller dupe me into becoming his drug mule!
Over the past ten months, I have been travelling solo and volunteering throughout Southeast Asia. About three months ago, I came back to Thailand to volunteer to teach with a program that helps migrant students. Since I started travelling, I’ve tried to become more trusting. Sure, if someone seems shady or a situation is giving me the creeps, I go with my gut. I try not to do anything stupid. (Try being the operative word here; I still manage a whole bunch of stupid, but not on purpose, I assure you.) However, I also try to believe that the world is good and people, for the most part, are good.
Earlier this week, the back tire on my mountain bike went flat. In order to get it fixed, I needed to haul the bike across town to the bike shop, where I had originally rented it three months ago. Sure, I could have probably had the tire fixed at any bike shop in town (like one that wasn’t five miles from my apartment) but the shop where I had rented it promised me free maintenance. I would not exactly call myself a thrifty person. (Unless I’m mistaken and ‘thrifty’ actually means ‘willing to spend three month’s rent on a spur-of-the-moment plane ticket.’) But, hey, free is free, right? (Besides, the more money I save on bike tire repairs, the more money I have for last minute airfare purchases!)
As I was dragging myself and my bike across town, I got more than a few odd looks from people passing by me. A couple people even stopped me. After first inspecting my tire, they would try to inform me where I could get it fixed nearby. As I don’t speak any Thai, I would respond by shaking my head, pointing five miles off into the distance and exclaiming ‘Free!’ (To which they would respond by shaking their head, pointing at me and saying something in Thai which I was probably, ‘Crazy white girl.’)
Travelling alone can be scary. But you’ d be surprised at how helpful strangers can be when they see a girl on her own, especially if that girl happens to be dragging a defunct mountain bike behind her.