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My First Time

January 15, 2013, 10:37 am Tatyana Leonov Yahoo!7

The Savvy Globe Trotter, Tatyana Leonov, talks about her first solo travel experience to Thailand.

Savvy Globe Trotter: My First Time - Koh Phi Phi

The Savvy Globe Trotter, Tatyana Leonov, talks about her first solo travel experience to Thailand.

Beautiful Koh Phi Phi

I was 19, at uni, and had a bit of money saved from my part-time job. So one night while out at the pub, a friend and I decided we should go to Thailand. We booked our flights the next morning.

As any avid traveller would know, it’s best to travel with a person you know well or someone you think you’ll get along with, considering you’re together almost all the time. Scott and I soon learnt that we weren’t the perfect travel partners.

After the initial excitement of a rickety tuk tuk ride through chaotic Bangkok, gorging on colourful fruit shakes served in plastic bags and seeing how many temples we could visit in one day, we’d both come to the realisation that we wanted different things. Fortunately (or unfortunately), we both came to this conclusion as we arrived at Koh Phangan for the infamous Full Moon Party. Deciding to split ways after a bucket of Red Bull and vodka was not the smartest idea. I think Scott met a girl. My photos from the night confirm that I met and made friends with loads of people…

Koh Phangan's famed Full Moon Party

I never expected to find myself travelling alone on my first trip overseas at 19. That said, it’s still one of my travel highlights to date. When you’re by yourself, the highs are higher, the lows are lower, and you’re forced to be social. I became a pro at talking to anyone and everyone, and quickly began to feel comfortable in my newfound position – the solo traveller.

At Koh Phi Phi, I ran out of money but quickly solved that dilemma. Many tourists, like myself, fell absolutely head over heels in love with the beauty and tranquility of this island and didn’t want to leave, so I did what they did – got a “job”. The whole trip was only a few weeks long, but I worked very hard that week at Koh Phi Phi. Hired as a flyer girl at TinTin’s Bar (this is pre-tsunami; I’m told the bar today is nothing like the old one), I’d start at 9pm and finish around 1am. Then I’d go to TinTin’s and dance, and then, finally, I’d sleep at TinTin’s (in return for flyering for the club I got a mattress on the ground in a small room, with a fan that occasionally worked).

With a new friend at Ma Ya Bay. Credit: Tatyana Leonov

I made friends with all the energetic flyer kids working for the other bars. Though technically we were competitors, we all secretly loved our jobs and lives that week.

Most good things come to an end, and I had to get back to my uni degree. Scott made the flight home too, with his own tales to tell. Though we’re both much wiser these days (and would never consume alcohol out of a bucket), it’s one of those holidays neither of us will ever forget; it’s the holiday I learnt that my best travel partner is… me.

Savvy Globe Trotter's Hot Tips For Doing It Solo

- Book travel insurance well in advance. If something (like an ash cloud or tsunami) happens before you book and prevents you from traveling, you won’t be covered for anything you’ve already paid for.

- Travel with a friend you trust. If you are traveling alone, be sensible and let family and close friends know of your whereabouts. Even better, register your travel plans with before you go.

- Pack both money and cards. Local cash, a couple of credit cards kept in different spots, plus a hidden emergency stash.

- Don’t drink out of a bucket. No matter how old you are, it’s not good for your health.

- If you hire a motorbike, ask for a helmet (and check your insurance policy to see if you’re covered).

- Scams are a way of life in Thailand. Learn to laugh.

- Prices are always flexible. Learn to barter and accept that you’re likely to see whatever you buy down the road for half the price you paid.

- Talk to other travellers, even if their dreadlocks/tie-dyed fisherman pants/lack of shoes and shirt scare you. Sometimes they’ll have invaluable recommendations.

- Get to know the locals. The best advice you’ll receive is usually from the people who live there.

About the Savvy Globe Trotter

Tatyana Leonov is a writer, editor, avid traveller and determined dreamer. She’s mastered (beginners’) yoga in Goa, partied with Russia’s elite in a Moscow club, sampled local delicacies all around the world (including a camel burger in Morocco and guinea pig in Peru), trekked to Nepal’s Annapurna Base Camp in Havaianas and had a short-lived career as a Bollywood star.

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