I was due to go to Vietnam and Cambodia with my ex-boyfriend but we broke up a month before the trip. We’d been together for almost three years in a long distance relationship so it was a hard. Our vacation was all booked, including flights; it was a bit messy trying to figure out all the logistics of a cancellation during a split.
I wanted to make the original trip my own and turn it from a bad memory into a good one. I took some time to myself and a year later, in 2019, when I was finally able to commit to it, I decided to book the same destinations but with Flash Pack. I’d been intrigued by an Instagram ad I kept seeing pop up. When I looked into it and saw they offered small group trips for travellers in their 30s and 40s, I imagined there would be a lot of like-minded people closer to my age.
I admit I was tentative about going to Asia by myself
I was excited but also nervous, knowing that others can make or break a vacation. I had traveled well with my ex – in fact that was probably the best part of our relationship. However, traveling alone, you don’t have to worry about how the other person is feeling or if they are happy; you just have to think about yourself. Luckily, my group was wonderful. I really liked that we were all from different countries; it meant there were a lot of different perspectives. We had people like me from the US, some from the UK, Australia, Switzerland and Ireland. Our guide introduced himself as Lucky Le; he was great too.
I admit I was tentative about going to Asia by myself. I have a friend who lives in Vietnam so I flew to Ho Chi Minh City to spend a week together before the Flash Pack trip began. I kept worrying about silly things, such as not knowing how to ride a bicycle. I also remember trying to cross a busy street by myself thinking “I can’t do it as there’s too many cars.” By the end of the week, that had changed to “I can do this, it’s fine”.
We took an overnight train north to Sa Pa which was really fun
The group met in person in Hanoi where we did a walking food tour. This was followed the next day by a city bus tour in the morning, and some did a bicycle ride in the afternoon through banana groves. Then we took an overnight train north to Sa Pa which was really fun. We had shared cabins but most of us didn’t get too much sleep. Instead we sat up, looking out of the windows and chatting, moving between the rooms. There was someone doing a palm reading, too. He didn’t read mine but he did say I was going to do great things.
In Sa Pa, we did a really long hike; it was beautiful through the mountains and rice paddies. On one long stretch, I had a wonderful conversation with my friend Erin. It was fun getting to know each other like that.
It’s very inspiring being around people who’ve traveled so much
We then went to Cambodia. We kayaked in Halong Bay. I love being on or around water as it brings such peace. Later, we boarded a junk boat cruise. Our friend Claire dropped her phone into the muddy water. She was flailing around trying to get it back when someone who worked on the boat jumped in and retrieved it. She had to put it in a bowl of rice and go somewhere the next day to get it fixed, which she did. We were all belly laughing.
It was so sad leaving everyone at the end of the trip. Just being away from these beautiful people that I’d got so close to and had done all these amazing experiences with. It’s very inspiring being around others who’ve traveled so much and love gaining new experiences, too. It was mind-opening. We were all messaging as we were traveling back to our respective homes saying ‘I miss you’.
I had a better time than I would have on the original trip
During Covid we would get together on Zoom and talk for hours. I wasn’t sure I was going to make deep connections on the trip or that they’d become something meaningful in that time. I thought it would be more of an “Okay, that was fun. Goodbye.” Instead, I’ve seen half the people since. In fact, I recently saw one of the group, Dave, in London and got to meet his fiancee. It was lovely.
Traveling is a gift you can give to yourself. I feel like I had a better time than I would have on the original trip: it’s a growing experience when you do it by yourself. It’s important to move out of your comfort zone, to challenge yourself and build confidence. This trip helped me do just that and also led to me making some big life decisions; I quit drinking and got into nursing school when I got back.
After a big adventure your life has changed in some way
During the trip, I was still hurt. I needed time to heal from the past events and being away aided that. I always feel after a big adventure your life has changed in some way: I definitely felt that after this one. I’ve gained wisdom, appreciation and new perspectives. And, I’ve made lifelong friendships with some incredible people.
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Images: Courtesy of Tara Moylan & Flash Pack