Why everyone should travel independently at some point in life.
Standing at the base of 1,237 stairs, I gazed upward at the mountain. It was my last morning in Krabi; the blue sky was obscured by early morning haze and the air was cool. The stairs above snaked up the forested mountain, leading to the place of worship far above and out of sight. I could see the top of the Wat Tham Suea, or Tiger Temple, from the back window at my home stay in Krabi Town. I pressed play on my iPod and lifted my foot up the first step. Here we go. Half an hour later, I was pouring sweat, breathing heavy and pumping endorphins at the mountain’s peak. I had made it to the top. Because it was so early in the day, I was the first person to ascend the steps — the temple became my own private sanctuary. I removed my shoes, an obligatory sign of respect in Buddhist temples, and padded along the cold tiled platform, circling the giant Buddha statue. From the viewpoint, Krabi town was dwarfed into doll house-sized buildings and the forests seemed to stretch endlessly in every direction.
Throughout my trip, there were only a few times I explored Thailand when I was truly alone. After all, I loved traveling with friends (it’s also of course safer to be with others) and the occasional tour guide proved helpful and informative. There is something to be said, however, about taking a moment to meander independently, to embrace the quiet, and to figure things out for yourself. Whether it is the language barrier or getting around, countless challenges present themselves to those navigating a foreign country. The moment I returned from my trip to Tiger Temple I felt an overwhelming sense of accomplishment, and not just for prevailing over that final 1,237th step. I had made the decision to go, found the temple base 20 minutes outside the city, and climbed it, all on my own.
The concept “all on my own” seemed to be foreign to my friends back in the States. When I initially decided to go to Thailand this summer, my friends often asked me, “Who are you going with,” or “Are you going alone,” as though there were something wrong or strange about it. To me, the way to foster a profoundly and genuinely independent spirit is to travel by yourself and within the boundaries of sound judgment regarding safety. These rare times when I would sightsee solo is when I learned most about myself: where my outer limits lay, what inspired me. When no one else is dictating your adventure, it is up to you to find the free, prudent, brave, and motivated traveler in yourself.
Article written by Anna Carey.