Chapter Wanderlust: Thoughts on Travelling Solo & Couchsurfing

All good things comes to an end, including my amazing trip around Europe. It was sort of a bittersweet feeling. 44 days of my life and many more spend on planning this trip itself. I felt like it was a milestone of my life personally. The first time I travelled alone, The first time I travelled out of my comfort zone, to pursue my adventures and my lusting for travel feels! Speaking about this, I have no idea where I found the courage to do so, I have not travelled alone before, not even to Johor Bahru which is just across the causeway and yet, I found the courage to just fly 10,000 KM away alone and for 44 days. Heck, that was a little brave for the scary cat me. It is something that I have never regret. Which brings me to this post, I felt like I should do a little reflection, a little sharing, to sum up this milestone of my life and share with you guys my experience that I encountered. All I knew in the lined up to this trip was my need for a break, the feeling of being free, exploring and seeing the world after my National Service. Then I also had the dream of the flying SQ Suites. With everything planned, I flew off a week after finishing up my service in search of the next chapter of my life, Chapter Wanderlust!

img_7709

With the intention to just explore and check off some of my Bucketlist, I was travelling light, with just a backpack and a cabin size luggage. Speaking of it. After this trip, I have found my new love of traveling with just a backpack, it is so fussless and easy! If you have been following this trip of mine, you will know the highlights of my trip. Here is a little summary of this trip of mine. I went to 6 countries and 21 Cities around Europe in 44 Days covering a total of 18,609 KM. The countries that I went to are Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Austria, Czech Republic and Italy. I can proudly say that I have check off all the places that I want to go in Czech Republic and Austria. I am almost 80% done with Italy. Below is the top 3 places of this trip.

  1. Hallstatt
  2. Cinque Terre
  3. Brussels

Number 3 on the list is a close one. While Hallstatt and Cinque Terre are a no brainer, I could not really put my mind on number 3 since there are a couple of good ones, like Amsterdam, Rome, Cesky Krumlov. I decided on Brussels since I really miss the time during my stay over there. The week could be said as one of the most memorable time in my life. I will share a little more on it later on!

Always have the courage to do something you never thought that you are able to do so! In fact, when I told my friends and colleagues about this trip of mine, most of them were probably shocked and told me things like. Wah, such a long trip! Wah, alone, dangerous leh! Why never get a friend to go with! Up till today, I am still unsure whether it is a blessing in disguise? Not being able to get a companion for this trip of mine, in fact it allows me to be more open, more engaging and have a broader perspective towards this trip. I am actually thankful that I did it alone!

Apart from the couple times that I went overseas with my friends, once to Spain and the other to Saigon, most of the time I travelled with my family. This is the first time that I went away alone. Be brave and be careful. That is what I told myself. If so many other people could do it, why couldn’t you! This was a couple of first time in my life! First time flying alone! First time sleeping abroad alone! First time sleeping in strangers houses! First time sleeping in an airport! First time walking around with strangers! And the list continues! Keep up the constant asking for pictures!

In fact some of my thoughts from travelling solo is the ability to strike up conversation with strangers easily. Be it with other solo travellers or group of travellers it seems much more natural and easy. Being an Asian, we are natural introverts, we are neither as outgoing or adventures as our western counterparts. Be open! That is my tip when you try travelling solo! Be engaging! Apart from my couchsurfing experience which I will share later on. I met many nice people during this trip of mine! Here are some of the more memorable ones. Travelling in trains intra europe is also a great place to engage with some of the locals there. A boring 2 hours train ride from Cologne to Brussels flew by as I had an engaging chat with my seat partner, A French guy who works drives a Renault and was in Cologne for a conference.

img_7358

Being a Singaporean, here are some convo starter that will sure get you on your way. Car Prices, National Service and Cleanliness. Besides that, I made friends with a German lady that once work in Singapore? Her love for my home and yet saying it is expensive. An Austrian lady while I was on the train to Hallstatt. Telling me to take a picture of the mountain outside the window and telling me that was her favourite!

My daily dose of “Hi, I am sorry, can you help me take a picture?” helped in me making some friends along the way. Here are some of the unforgettable ones! I was in Hallstatt, visiting the Dachstein Alps, while waiting to enter the Ice Caves, I asked someone to help me take a picture. We ended up being photographer for each other and walk around the alps. She turned out to be Alice, a taiwanese exchange student. We even met up in Vienna a week later for dinner!

If you think my trip was long, I met a teacher who quit her job to travel from South Korea in Ceske Budejovice, two wanderluster from Australia who have been travelling around the world in Manarola. We are friends now, simply for being in the same place at the same time. Here is something even more crazy that I have done. While in Rome, visiting the Colosseum, I strike up a conversation with another solo traveller from Seattle and we walk around the city with each other for the whole day. At the end of it, we realise how crazy it had been and how did we even do it in the first place. At last we just laugh and hug it off!

img_4172

Something even more humorous during my travels was meeting Singaporeans and being ask if I am a Singaporean. It happened in Amsterdam, Florence and even twice in front of the Trevi Fountain in Rome. I guess our “accent” is really distinct! Here are some tips to take note while travelling alone! Never tell other where you stay! Don’t walk around clueless. Have a cover story, let people feel that you are experienced and not alone. Say your girlfriend is meeting you here and there. You are visiting, but your friend is at work! Let people know if you are gone, someone will notice. And also the usual precautions. Never leave your things out of your sights. Sleeping in trains is a no no. Know who to ask for help and stuff. Even asking someone to help you take a photographer has its technique! Offline google maps are your best bet! A side downside is having to eat alone, but you can do it in style too! Oh a perk, a table for one is definitely much easier to get!

Couchsurfing

Here comes the second part of my post! My Couchsurfing experience! If staying in Airbnb and homestays are the thing! Couchsurfing are a level above it! First of all I will recommend couchsurfing to only solo travellers. Not only is it easier to get a host, I find it also fairer to your host, if you are travelling with a friend, chances of you just talking and spending time with your friend are much more higher. Couchsurfing is just not to wing a free stay, but an experience of you travelling with a local! That is what that is so precious from Couchsurfing! It is something that money and time couldn’t buy! If you click with your host, trust me! It will be the most memorable stay you will ever had.

Couchsurfing, practically means to surf on a couch. It is a platform where you meet like minded travellers, where they offer you a place to stay. While it actually refers to an empty couch in the host house, it can ranges from a bed, floor or even a private room. While you do not have to pay your host, it will be nice to buy them a meal or a drink! In fact, host are looking for the experience and adventure as well. It is also a platform for you to meet people. Sometimes it can be just for drinks at the place you are travelling in. I love my sleeping place in Brussels, it was so warm and felt like home!

It is important that both you and your host are looking to spend time together and I am very glad that all three of my stay were with very nice people that want to spend time together. It will be very aimless if it is just a place for you to sleep on in the night. Day trip with my host? Checked. Drinks at the best view in town with my host? Checked. A historical tour around the city with my host? Checked. A family dinner cooked by my host? Checked.

In fact! I am very lucky to have met really nice people from my couchsurfing adventures. The first was in Brussels. Where I stayed with Chloe, funny, she is also a Singaporean studying in Brussels. We had the most amazing time together, we pig out with mussels, ribs, drinking tons of belgium beer. My favourite was this Cherry flavoured beer! She even brought me out for a nights out with her friends and show me her best place in town. We even went on a day trip to Ghent during the weekend! What a lovely time I had! Thank you so much! Love you Chloe!

My second stay was in Brno, this was a little of an adventure. I was staying with Peter and Marie. While I was a little skeptical since it is a flat out of the city centre, I really didn’t know what I was getting into. However after that I was almost left in tears. They really treat me so well. In fact I was so touched. I can actually say that staying with a local Czech Family is a milestone in my life. Not only did Marie gave me her room, all for me. They really treated me like an esteemed guest! Peter cooked Goulash with bread dumpling for me and also potato pancakes. Never have I felt so welcomed. That meal was so delicious! I never knew that I was able to taste home cooked food while travelling abroad! Love ya Peter and Marie! All the best! Thanks for showing me around as well.

The last one that I did was in Munich. This is a little underwhelming compared to the rest since there was a little storm in Northern Europe at that time and my host had to work. So I did not really managed to spend much time together. We did still managed to squeeze in a dinner and also a walk around town before I left. My host was a history student, so that is one of the best tour I ever had in my life!

Here are some tips or things that I will look out for in Couchsurfing! I am skeptical and afraid since I have not done it before! Start my looking at the profile and the reference that people have left before! Reference are your trusted bet. I try to look for host with similar interest so I can better engage them! I will sent them a request and tell them about my trip! Be nice! Usually I do try to find host in advance but many host do not like to plan in advance! So that is one bad side for couchsurfing! Being skeptical, I will usually exchange phone numbers and facebook with my host, so we can get to know each other. I am also sure that the host is who he or she says they are. Here is a friend that I made on Couchsurfing while back home in Singapore!

Be nice to your host and be a good guest. I will always cater some time for my host and try to spend time together! Buying them a drink or dinner will also be nice! Of course, clean up after yourself and ask before helping yourself to their stuff!

Whoa! This has turned out to be quite a lengthy post! Here are my thoughts on travelling solo and also doing couchsurfing! Yes! I enjoyed myself so much and I would love to travel alone again soon! Of course I will also do couchsurfing again in the near future!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s