Vietnam Solo Trip- Overcoming First Day Fears

One early January 2018 evening I arrived in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, to kick start my 3 week solo adventure trip across Vietnam and Cambodia.

That first evening after checking-in to my hostel dorm, I remember walking up to the bar on the hostel terrace, looking at the menu painted on the wall for longer than is required to read everything on it, scanning the room and watching the small groups of foreign travellers deep in conversation with glasses of beer in hand, and leaving the place within a couple of minutes feeling absolutely out-of-place.

Posing with the Sepoys, Tomb of Khai Dinh, Hue, Vietnam

For the last two months all I had thought about was this trip and how epic it was going to be. My first real foreign trip and my first solo trip- a deadly combination. I had researched things way too well and so wasn’t really worried about finding myself lost in a foreign land. I knew I would love the places, the scenery and the nature. The only thing I was worried about was- would I just see everything and come back home or would I meet some new people, have some real conversations to get to know them and their cultures and have a good time?

As I climbed down the stairs, checking the non-existent social media notifications on my phone, I knew I couldn’t let it remain this way. The introvert in me wasn’t ready to accept this as the default situation for the 3 weeks to come. The comfort zone had to be stumbled over.

A few moments later I climbed back up to the bar, noticed a guy who I had earlier met in my dorm and said ‘Hi’. This was immediately followed by ‘Hey’ from the two other guys and the girl sitting on the table playing some variant of Jenga.

‘Hey, where are you from?’ I asked them. I don’t remember what they said about where they were from. It’s not important. What was important here was the fact that I had just successfully approached some strangers and initiated a conversation with a simple ‘Hi’. I felt a sense of confidence. Things were going to get easier with each passing moment from now on. The next 3 weeks of my first solo trip were not going to be as solo after all. All it required to start a conversation was to say ‘Hey, where are you from?’ and lines of conversations started flowing in.

As I joined them on their table, one of them asked, ‘Where’s your free beer?’ and reached over to the counter to get a poured glass.

It was less than 3 hours since I arrived in this new country. It was less than an hour since I checked-in to my first international hostel stay. It was less than 3 minutes since I entered this bar. I was already being offered a drink.

A game of ‘Beer Pong’ began soon after. It was a simple game with two teams standing on opposite ends of a table and throwing small plastic balls into neatly arranged glasses of beer kept on the other end. A lot of shouting and cheering ensued as the two teams fought to win.

It had been a long travel day and I knew I wanted to see more of this new country than just the interiors of the hostel bar before I went to bed. It was seven in the evening and I headed out to explore the streets of Hanoi and get something to eat. If the lane my hostel was located in looked anything different from Delhi’s Hauz Khas Village sans the Vietnamese signage and flags, the shops on the street side and the major streets reminded me of India, just a little too clean.

I tried the Banh Mi that evening- the Vietnamese sandwich that was soon to become my favourite dish in the country. I tried Pho- the popular noodle soup that I didn’t find very appealing after the first try. I walked along the lake- a full circle- and a local guy, who got too fascinated watching me talking to the camera (I was vlogging!), started a conversation about how beautiful his city was, asked if I wanted him to show me around the best places to see and eat out and if Vietnamese women were more beautiful or Indian ones. This definitely was starting to become an interesting start to my trip.

Early next morning I left for an overnight cruise to Halong Bay with 16 other travelers from around the world and a local guide who took pride in showcasing the best of his country to us. I was in the company of a nurse, a construction worker, a chef, a barista, an engineer and many more interesting souls. We had a crazy time fishing watermelons and talking till the wee hours of the night. But that’s a story for another day.

Watch this episode from my Vietnam vlogs to check out my first impressions of Vietnam:

The first day fears of arriving in an unknown land, initiating a conversation with strangers, staying safe from the local tourist scams, and travelling by myself had all been overcome in those few initial hours. I didn’t know yet that over the next 20 days I would be part of some epic adventures, conversations and experiences that would remain instilled in my heart for all times to come.

Have you ever been on a solo trip? Were you nervous or scared about it? How did you overcome the first day fears?

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  1. Wow. As I read it felt as if I am reading what my apprehensions would be on a trip like this. Same pinch Bud, in every sense. And very well written. Kudon😊


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