Published on September 30th, 2012


Travelin’ Solo? Yup, Sometimes It’s Scary…

Lately I’ve been receiving quite a few notes from folks who question how I can be so upbeat all the time, and so brave to be bouncing ’round the globe all by myself.  The truth is, I HAVE long cultivated a positive perspective – it ain’t always easy, but after all, we ever DO have a choice, yes?  And brave?  I prefer to think of it as simply taking calculated risks.  And/or… weighing the risks against the sublime rewards of experiencing things many folks only ever dream of.

Besides, it’s not as if I’ve not had a bit of practice at this traveling thing – starting with bitty baby-steps more than 30 years ago.  I mean, I didn’t start by jumping whole-hog off the comfy cliff of the U.S. to live on the the other side of the Planet (where I don’t know a soul, nor speak but a smidge of the language).  Nope, I started with short little backpack trips with a pal to neighboring Mexico, then solo (w/ my two young daughters) to the (tres tourist-friendly) lands of Europe, and later fully solo to the sweet little (English-speaking) land of Belize (like a bazillion trips!)

In short, little-by-little I built up the confidence to explore the world ever further afield on my own.  Each new step forward a test of my travelin’ mettle.  And oh my – the exquisite feeling of satisfaction when I discovered that I CAN… figure out that gibberish train schedule, negotiate the price of a tuk-tuk down from the stratosphere, find my way to the blessed hostel down that dark Moroccan alley (uh, I could go on and on…)

Furthermore, as it turns out – why who knew?  People all over the Planet are kind and helpful uh, just like our neighbors back in our hometown!  Not everybody of course, but no more nasties in the jungles of Central America, in Africa, Asia, or Egypt than back in the warm-fuzzy town of Happy Days, U.S.A.

And with each new exploration, I learned how to tell the difference between the good guys and the bad guys (just as we do as children in our own hometowns).  Indeed, it further turns out that – the “bad guys” in the rest of the world would seem tame (i.e. merely after your wallet) compared to the drive-by/schoolyard shootings, rapes, muggings and murders we enjoy amid the “safety” of America.  Ah but I digress (all of the above, much fodder for several other posts).

But back to this “brave” thing.  Yes, I suppose a traveling solo lass is a bit bold, but that’s only because solo travelers are presently fewer than those who travel w/ a pal constantly by their side.  And solo traveling LASSES are sadly, even fewer.  There’s really nothing more “brave” – nor the implied flip-side, more “dangerous” about traveling on your own.  Just a matter of personal choice (and in my mind – there’s TONS of advantages to solo travel, not the least of which is – you don’t have to wait til a pal is available to take off for some exotic land, for starters).

Nonetheless, I won’t lie – even for a veteran solo travelin’ lass like me…

Sometimes it’s downright SCARY out here.

Towit (i.e. finally, we get to the heart of this post):  Take me, here today, for example.  So I’m honestly still drifting a foot off the ground with happiness at my decision to move here to dear, sweet, cool, green, flowery Dalat.  And even more thrilled to have (I swear it’s a miracle!) found this wondrous little French B&B to call home (did I mention the profusion of flowers, and my view of the bitty lake?)  Yes, yes, each and every day continues to be an exercise in utter enchantment.  But…

It’s been two weeks now.  And though much of that time I’ve been occupied with the not inconsiderable chores of simply settling into a new home – especially a home amid an entire nation that insists on speaking THEIR language, rather than mine (geez, what’s with THAT?)

(seriously, it’s jolly-well about time I got serious about learning Vietnamese, yes?  YES!)

But meanwhile, there’s yet another – even more critical chore that I desperately need to tackle:

The T.E.R.R.I.F.Y.I.N.G prospect of learning to drive my own motorbike!

O.k. no doubt some might think it easy-peasy.  And I DID once hop on my own bike (thanks to a kindly lad in Sumatra) leastwise for an hour.  Oh, and did I mention – in a grassy playfield?

But now we’re talkin’ whizzing in TRAFFIC.  In VIETNAMESE traffic.  Vietnamese traffic where they whiz to ‘n fro like… veritable BEES.  Uh, make that YELLOW-JACKETS – whizzing around hell-bent on KILLING ME!

Well o.k. maybe not DELIBERATELY maim me.  And granted, here in Dalat – far fewer motorized yellow-jackets than the *4 MILLION* motorbikes in Saigon.  But still…


Yep, that’s me – a “scaredy-cat”

The truth is, it’s not the silly motorbike, nor the crazy traffic that scares me so.  But rather, as you might imagine – being a dodderin’ 60-something lass poses a smidge more risk than for youngsters who’s bones are more nimble.  In short, the only thing that REALLY scares me is – breaking a leg, or heaven-forbid a SKULL – especially here in this (did I mention, F.O.R.E.I.G.N. country where I don’t speak the language?)

So here’s the thing.  Even I can get mighty scared sometimes.  And put off taking that next new leap of faith.  That next new scarey challenge.   And after two weeks puttsing around my lovely new home, exploring my new neighborhood on foot, or waving down a xe om (motorbike taxi) to whiz me up to Dalat’s central market, etc. it finally dawned on me that I could put off the inevitable no longer.  No more procrastinating.  Time to bite-the-bullet, and face-the-music.  For if I am to ever truly call this wondrous country “home”, then I jolly-well best learn how to drive my own Vietnamese motorbike, already!

So there it is.  My greatest fear, laid bare.  Nothin’ left to do but practice what I so tiresomely preach here:  “This ain’t a dress rehearsal, Dy – just DO IT!

Thus – with my (usual) own private cheerleading squad ringing in my ears – I pushed past my fears, hied myself up to the town center and…

Long story short?  I hired a young Vietnamese lad that speaks fairly good English (so as to be able to understand me when I scream “OMG how do I STOP this thing!“) to teach me how to drive the g-awful motorized contraption known as a simple motorbike.  Oh, and make that an “automatic” while yer at it, kay?

So tune in manana to see how it goes.  I’ll either have A. a bunch of pics (maybe even a bit of video) to share, plus a HUGE grin of satisfaction for pushing past my fears and taming yet another dragon, else B…

I’ll be texting a grim report from a Vietnamese hospital bed (with the fingers of my left – and only functioning, hand).
P.S.  Next day’s update: I did it! I DID IT!!!! (And here’s the VIDEO to prove it!)


About the Author

Off-the-beaten-path travel is my passion,and I’ve always lived life “like-a-kid-in-a-candy-store” – eager to sample as many flavors as I can. Indeed, my life motto has long been: This ain’t a dress rehearsal, folks!

12 Responses to Travelin’ Solo? Yup, Sometimes It’s Scary…

  1. Anita says:

    Wonderful, interesting post. There is nothing like the buzz of fear and knowing deep inside that it IS a conquerable fear with great rewards once accomplished. So GO GO GO Girl and IF (fingers crossed) you have any injury that takes you to a hospital athen you must look at the silver lining in the cloud….it will add more knowledge to your pot of worldly adventures and provide good material for another post…the view of the medical system first hand from the inside. :))))

    • TravelnLass says:

      Thanks for the pep talk, Anita – g-knows I need all the support I can get with this “Lass Against Motorized Yellow-jacket” thing. And you’re so right, if these challenges were easy-peasy, they’d not be nearly as satisfying once we conquer them, yes?

      But finding the silver lining in breaking my neck and ending up in an Asian hospital? Uh, not so much. Good fodder for a blog post or nay, I’m not sure I want to see the inside of the Vietnamese medical system. 😉

  2. I’ve found travel a veritable crucible of friendship. You’ll either be better friends or bitter enemies afterwards. Personality flaws that seemed innocuous enough at home tend to be catalysts for travel rage on the road… I waffle between the joys of traveling solo (because I always make myself laugh) to joys of traveling with my clingy local Vietnamese friends who always want to to do EVERYTHING as a group. Have a few small trips coming up this month with some old friends. We’ll see if we’re still friends afterwards!

    • TravelnLass says:

      Hey there James – the “joys(?) of…clingy…”? Uh, that’s my most loathsome trait in a travel pal. Short forays with a friend or two can be fun, but only if we all agree that we don’t have to be glued to one another every blessed moment.

      Besides, traveling solo – if I want company, I can always find it in spades. At a hostel, on a short tour, a local bus, etc. I’ve meet some great travelers that way, and have spent a few fun days hanging out together. Then we happily went our own separate solo ways once more.

  3. Anonymous says:

    OK. Anonymous is really Mary Moss and I’m reading each and every post. I think Google has decided that the captchas I’ve entered are robotic and never lets me post (and I’ve tried many times). Anyway, congrats on your move to Dalat. I’m still moving forward with my plan & I’m leaning toward Chiang Mai. From your perspective, do you think jobs are as easy to get as in HCMC and are the hourly rates of pay about the same. I would be taking either the CELTA in HCMC or Chiang Mai. Thanks!

    • TravelnLass says:

      Well hey there Mary – sorry Google’s giving you grief. But the good news is… just the other day I turned OFF the stupid “captcha” here at TL. So hopefully you won’t have to wrestle with it for future comments. Do let me know privately if you have further trouble.

      Yes, yes, (as evidenced by my several posts wrestling with the dilemma of choosing between CM and Dalat), clearly Chiang Mai has much to offer.

      And though I don’t know how easy it is to get a teach job there (I never tried, but only talked to some of the private schools briefly), I can tell you this: Nope – the pay is NOT the same. Vietnam pay will likely be quite a lot more than anywhere in Thailand.

      Of course I do hope you choose HCMC, as I KNOW from personal experience that ILA is great school to work for. Not to mention – you could easily come visit me here in the wondrous fairytale land of Dalat! 😉

  4. I can really related to the traffic in Vietnam – it’s off the charts insane at times 🙂 Good luck with your solo trip! I’ve done many before and it’s been the best experience of my life.

    • TravelnLass says:

      Thanks for the support Sam! And yes, the nutso traffic of Saigon is legendary. I lived in HCMC for 9 months and no way was I ever going to try driving my own bike there. But happily, here in Dalat it’s much more doable.

  5. Paul says:

    Have fun, but be careful!

    Oh, and please don’t shoot that video while you’re riding that motorbike through Vietnamese traffic. 😉

    • TravelnLass says:

      LOL Paul – trust that I’m not THAT crazy! Stay tuned – I wisely had my motorbike teach take some video of me wobbling ’round a parking lot today.

    • TravelnLass says:

      Youbetcha, Larry – indeed, that’s precisely what I did today. I just jolly-well hopped on that monster and DROVE it! Stay tuned for the hilarious video… 😉

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