If you’ve read Who’s this Wanderer, you would know how I fell in love with traveling: By traveling alone.
When traveling solo, I can be completely free, and can get mingled with local people and fellow travelers more easily. After cutting the ribbon in Canada, I traveled to Australia, Norway, Thailand, USA, and Denmark by myself, and even though I stayed at my friends’ places in France, Japan and Hong Kong, I often traveled alone. I really enjoy it.
But today’s NYTimes article, Single in the Caribbean, reminded me of one of few moments that I wasn’t happy about traveling alone: When I was on the beautiful beach of Koh Nangyuan, Thailand.
It was November of 2008 when I finally crossed off Koh Nangyuan from my to-visit list. For years, I’d longed for visiting the island, where three islets are connected with sand beaches. When I had a long-enough vacation, I chose the island for the destination without a second thought. I didn’t mind such a long trip only to get there: Flew from Seoul to Bangkok; stayed overnight at the Bangkok airport (spent an hour or so getting massage); flew to Koh Samui the following morning; stayed overnight (in fact two nights) at a local accommodation; and took a two-hour boat to Koh Nangyuan.
It was afternoon when I got to the island, and it was quiet, which I loved. Only a handful people were staying at the resort (the only resort in the island). I was very excited to be there finally and was ready to enjoy the serenity. But the following morning, I woke up only to find dozens of couples flocking into the island. Apparently, it was a popular day-trip destination among honeymooners, who’re staying in Koh Samui or Koh Phangan. All of sudden, the resort was packed with hearts.
I found a spot, distant from the crowd. I enjoyed napping, reading, and sunbathing on the beautiful beach, but at a corner. I couldn’t help feeling driven to the corner because I was all by myself. And I have to admit, I felt extremely lonely. (Even the resort’s scuba diving trainers were an item!)
It wasn’t just the beach time that made me feel like a third wheel. The lunch time! Eating alone among all love-full couples at a resort seemed, umm, pathetic. It felt like everyone was glimpsing at me thinking ‘what is she doing here alone?’ (I doubt anyone has actually paid any attention to me, but you know, you become timid in such surroundings.)
So, to hide my sort-of embarrassment or to pretend that I was cool with being alone, I scribbled something in my journal, almost staring at my notepad, while eating. Then, one of the waiters, who knew I was the resort customer and nearly the only one I talked with during the entire three days of staying, came to me and asked.
“Are you a writer?”
Well, I was a newspaper reporter, so it’s not wrong.
“Sort of,” I said.
“What do you write? Novel?”
“No. I’m a journalist. But now I’m just writing about my trip.”
“Oh I thought you’re a novelist or a poet as you came here ALONE, and you seem to write ALL the time.”
At that moment, I really wished I were one. It seemed like that’s the only way to make my being alone at a beach resort made sense, at least to the waiter from Indonesia.
I’ve been to beaches alone a few other times: several beaches in Australia, including the Airlie and the Herbie, and in the states, including one in St. Augustine, FL. And I was completely fine with it. I didn’t feel lonely at all.
But a beach resort? It’s a completely different story, for sure. Since then, I’ve been determined to not go to a resort by myself. Never again.
Perhaps I should try the Club Med?