After the cold and grey weather of the North, I was beyond happy to board my Vietjet plane in Hanoi Airport, bound for the island of Phu Quoc. Phu Quoc is located in the Gulf of Thailand 15 km south of the coast of Cambodia and 2 hours flight from Hanoi. It seems crazy to me that a 2 hour flight got me from 12 degrees celcius to over 30! But it did and arriving slightly delayed at 3 pm, I was met by a driver, and taken to Green Bay Phu Quoc, some 30 mins drive from the airport. I had decided to splurge on a bungalow by the beach in a resort that was slightly over my budget… 😉 as I was in dire need of some luxurious relaxing in the sun! I was not disappointed! My bungalow was beautifully decorated and the resort itself was everything I could have wished for in a tropical retreat.
After unpacking I promptly changed into a bikini and threw myself on a lounge chair by the pool with a vanilla milkshake and my trusty Kindle. In the 32 degrees heat I trotted back and forth between my chair and the refreshingly cool water of the pool. It was absolute bliss and much needed after my polar expedition to Halong Bay! ;-p
After a short while however, a few realities of my situation hit me. First of all the resort was extremely secluded and it would mean a 30 min taxiride to get to town, something that the receptionist had strongly advised against, due to the scarcity of taxis in the area. Secondly I seemed to have arrived in the land of the honeymooners…the only other people I had seen at the resort were young couples…all kissing in the pool, laughing over drinks and holding hands on the pathways. Now, while I am in full acceptance of my singlehood, it still felt a little depressing to be surrounded by all this twosomeness! This feeling was not abated by the otherwise wonderful staff constantly asking if I needed a table for ONE, ONE lounger, ONE towel etc and then looking surprised when I answered affirmatively.
I had booked 5 days at the resort and that suddenly felt like quite a long time…even surrounded by beautiful sandy beaches and the most amazing sunsets I have ever seen! But I decided not to wallow in self-pity and instead resigned myself to using the solitude and the quiet to spend some time being introspective and musing on the ups and downs of solo travel as I have experienced them on this trip.
The first thing many people have asked me since I started traveling alone 8 months ago is: Won’t you be lonely?
It’s a valid question and one I asked myself many, many times before each trip. These past 5 weeks have however proved to me once and for all, that being alone does not equate to being lonely. Sure I have had moments, even days of loneliness, but I can honestly say that I have felt more lonely at home than I ever have on my travels. While traveling through Vietnam I have missed my loved ones (especially my son!) immensely. I have longed to share my experiences with them and I have thought of them all often. But I know they are all well and happy, doing their own things and I know that I will see them again soon. That knowledge has let me explore and exist freely as an individual, but always with a strong sense of where I come from and who I love.
Another aspect of solo travel I have come to accept as a given, is the constant risk assessment that seems to become second nature after a while. After my bad experience on the sleeper train from Saigon, I opted to book a daytime ticket when traveling to Hanoi. When going out at night I was conscious not to drink too much and always made sure to take an uber when moving about after dark. During the last half of my trip I resorted to saying I was married whenever asked and found that it made things a lot easier for me in general. I also found myself becoming a little more reserved in interactions with strangers and learnt once and for all to say NO and not give a sh*t about being polite!
The necessity of having to think defensively and change how I act really, really pisses me off. I think that it is fundamentally unfair that I as a woman have a plethora of extra safety concerns, compared to my male counterparts. I am angry that the fact that I feel empowered enough to travel alone, is taken by some men as an invitation. I am saddened that my positive and curious outlook on life and cultures is sometimes used against me. But with that said, I will not let any of that hold me back from traveling and exploring and if I have to take some defensive measures to be or feel safe, so be it.
I do feel however, that I should stress that in general I have felt exceedingly safe in Vietnam and luckily the majority of people (and animals) I have met here have been absolutely wonderful!
Another challenge I have faced on all my solo trips is self-discipline. Without anyone to spur me on, I have sometimes had a hard time getting out of my room and committing to trips and adventures along the way. This was most pronounced during my month in Bali so I had promised myself to push harder on this trip. I simply forced myself to say yes to almost everything that was offered to me and that was the best promise I have ever kept! I had so many experiences that I would not have been without. I pushed against my fears (riding a motorcycle for example), my pickiness (eating new foods) and my shyness (approaching strangers and having a chat). While I did sometimes hide in my room, I definitely also got myself out there, in a way I have never done before!
So here I am now. I will be back in Denmark in 6 days, but before that I still have 2 days left in Phu Quoc, before spending my last days in Vietnam in Saigon where I started. I also have a few exciting things planned there, which I look forward to telling you about!