Honestly, my first solo trip ever in my life is an international trip. The destination is China, more specific it’s Zheng Zhou city. I do it in May 24th Pacific time (specific Seattle time zone 🙂 )
I want to share a little bit about the travel background. I confirm with you and with myself that I am a beginner with tourism.
Since I was a child, (around 7,8 years old) I admired one of my uncle. When my uncle was about 13 years old, my uncle went to travel already. He didn’t go far. He just traveled other cities in Viet Nam because it was the country where he was born anyway.
In the meanwhile, I was sick and stayed at home. Bored… I thought my uncle was cool because he traveled by himself. And that idea had been with me. I didn’t remember when it became my dream job.
Travel from domestic cities to cities, from domestic city to international cities.
How wonderful is it…
As a circumstance emerges, there are a lot of things happen. Until this year 2019, at the age of 25, this is my very first time ever in my life. I travel internationally alone.
It was a hard trip, but it made me learn so many things. (I’m not negative much as before, so) I saw this trip was an opportunity for personal growth. I realized this first hard trip doesn’t discourage me. In fact, it had the opposite effect. It urged me to plan more realistic, think more practically for my next trip no matter domestic or international tourism.
Below is the insight of my trip to China.
- Flashback the hard experiences-> summary-> analyze-> learn the hard lesson-> plan for the next trip -> add some improvement if I could 🙂
- Inform a few tips for younger people who are preparing (or thinking) about their first solo trip. (Even my destination is China, but the basic would stay the same for “first solo trip”, right? and more specific tips for China trips)
Preparation before the trip
What I prepared
- Unlike some people, I like to prepare and plan. Even my plans usually aren’t realistic, having a mental map about what will do, distracts me from worry.
It’s just a personal trait hehe My Sun Sign is Virgo, so it’s natural when I worry. Sometimes, worry doesn’t help me at all, so I change slowly. Until this moment, (after the trip) I know I need to focus on what I can do.
What I can not do-> skip it-> it won’t be the matter at the end because it doesn’t work at the beginning.
2. Like other travelers, I prepared some necessaries:
- My plan for the first solo trip is I will depart from local time on May 24th, 2019. And when I come back to Seattle, it should be May 28th, 2019. -> since it’s 4 days, I prepared 4 sets… -.- in reality, I use less than 4 set clothes >.< I share why in the section “During the trip”
- Some socks
- Money cash:
- I prepared both USD dollars and some Chinese Yuan. Before the trip, I headed to my bank to request the exchange currency. I requested 200 USD dollars and the bank delivered 1260 Yuan. (the bank foreign currency exchange rate is lower than you google it. The bank charges the delivery fee as well.)
- Besides 1260 yuan, I keep around 100 USD somewhere in my carry-on just in case. (And I am glad to follow my worry because later on, it has a little problem with my Travel credit card. Therefore, I need to use some Yuan cash to pay. )
- Bathing essentials: 😛
- I place my bath towels with my set clothes
- Hand wet antibacterial
- Hand Sanitizer travel size
- Soap holder with soap inside 🙂
- A few soft tissues (for sneezing, for wipe the mouth after eating, for wipe out the sweat, etc.)
- One dental travel kit (it has one toothbrush, one toothbrush cap, one toothpaste, and a reusable bag for containing all)
- Here is the photo what I bought (from WalMart Travel Center hihi)
What I learned from it
- The mindset
If your mind doesn’t commit to doing your first solo trip, then do not do it. -> keep your idea in your mind, in your planning paper. You know it’s much easier to say than doing the actions. Let it stay there until it’s dusty and rusty like the Fe2O3
In my case, I started to have the idea of my first solo trip around 2,3 years ago. However, It was the ignition idea only. I didn’t make the general plan or any detail plan for it.
Last year, as the situation gave the opportunity,…once again, I didn’t do my first solo trip because of some reasons. Yeah… It sounded like an excuse.
However, it was not anymore.
On May 24th Seattle time zone, around 10 AM in the morning, I headed to the Sea-Tac Airport with my carry-on. Finally, I did the action: go for my first solo trip ever.
2. You are alone and NOBODY REALLY CARE ABOUT YOU
At the beginning of life until the end, you can count only one person. It’s you.
Even you still have your parents to ask, to comfort, to care, to concern, etc, how long they can do it for you? Your lifespan is longer than your parents. -> it’s unchangeable fact. (unless some bad unexpected things happen, and we all don’t know about it. We just aware of the “unexpectedness”, but we don’t know what will)
What you should consider
If you plan for your first solo trip, write down your idea in the paper-> then stick the paper in somewhere in your room-> every day look at it-> try to imagine what you will do for achieving it.
Another angle of mindset issue: discuss with your love one about your upcoming trip.
It might be your parents or your siblings? Perhaps your girlfriends, your boyfriends?
And then, take a look at your job schedule-> eye on the holidays. One more option is your own one-week-vacation protected by USA Labor Law. Plan ahead your once-a-year vacation. Would you spend the one-week-vacation with your family at your home? Or you take the courage to travel alone?
During the trip
My flight itinerary was
Departure Airport: Sea-Tac International Airport
Departure time: around 12:45 PM (in the afternoon of Seattle local time zone) on May 24th
First flight: from Seattle to Shenzhen ( around 14 hours long staying the aircraft)
Time transit/connect flight: around 2 hours 30 minutes.
Second flight: from Shenzhen to Xiamen ( around one hour long only)
Time transit/connect flight: around 11 hour long (*sigh* I still find it’s a long waiting time for the next flight.)
Third flight: from Xiamen to Zheng Zhou (around 2 hours long)
Arrival destination: Zheng Zhou International Airport (final destination 🙂 )
Arrival time: Zheng Zhou local time 10:35 AM on May 26th
One good thing 🙂
Even I met more problems than my plan, but there was one good thing: Airport customs. All the Airport customs were fast enough for all the airports I visited. They scanned, inspected my carry-on fast enough that I still had a little time waiting for my flight in the gate.
Common reminder: take out your laptop and your portal power bank.
When I was customed in the Sea-Tac Airport, I wasn’t need to to show my power bank. My laptop was always placed in one separate tray for X-ray machine.
Only those airports in China, their customs asked me to take out the power bank because of the lithium battery inside it.
Special reminder for China travel: Every single time you enter the China territory, you need to fill out one form. It’s custom Immigration clearance form. It should look like below.
Usually, the flight attendance will give you this form before the flight landing. You need to fill out the form before you meet the Chinese custom. Before you queue for inspection and immigration, there was one small place for you to print your information to the form.
Small tip: Do not fill out the blue form at that table.
(It was my first time so I filled out the blue form at that table-> then, when I met the Chinese custom, the person said it’s not the correct form. The yellow one from the picture above is the one I need. As a result of that, it delayed my clearance process a little bit. It was not a big problem, so I was clear to move on)
Reality offered opportunities for me to learn
“Everything has their price.”
When I transited at Xiamen International Airport for about 11 hours long, I decided to go outside and looked for a room to stay. However, the situation said I can’t. The reason was that I am the foreigner.
Not every single local Chinese hotels (or motels or apartments or similar-Airbnb service) can accept me.
They need a special permit in order keep foreigner as their guest. (according to Chinese tourism Law. It states in the law, so we can not do anything…)
I had no choice to come back to the airport and stayed there… Booking online gave me the error message. (you know the reason? I’m pretty sure the root error is the hotel I book in Xiamen can’t accept a foreigner).
When I arrived at my destination, Zheng Zhou City, the situation was a little better because I had more time to look for a hotel can “handle me” -.- And I found one. The English name of that hotel is the Civil Aviation International Hotel.
And the Chinese name…. *sigh* until now I still don’t know which Chinese name is the correct for that hotel because there is one more hotel which has a similar name near…
One more red flag for you to know because it’s a hard lesson for me. It’s one more example “everything has their price”…it’s about the different quality of taxi in Zheng Zhou city, in China and in other countries as well.
The situation I met is common for China and for my home country, Viet Nam.
Some taxi drivers over-charge.
The first situation I met in Zheng Zhou city is a fake taxi or I call “unofficial professional taxi”.
Why I call it’s “fake” taxi or “unofficial professional taxi”?
The driver charges me way too much… Do you know the taxi rate is based on the distance? In China, they count on Kilometers. I don’t know it’s the fixed rate taxi, but I see the price is 1.5 yuan for one kilometer. In Xiamen and in Zheng Zhou, I see the rate is the same.
If I convert correctly, 1.5 yuan for one kilometer would be equal 0.2 USD for 0.6 mile.
We have 1.5 yuan for one kilometer, right?-> for 35 kilometers, it’s 52.5 yuan only.
And the fake taxi charges me in a total of 244 yuan for 35 kilometers!!! -> they overcharge me nearly 200 yuan because of my naive and stupidity >.<
And for the official government registered taxi company… sorry but I meet one bad taxi driver…
All the government registered taxi have the odometer right above the car air conditioner. It’s computer setting. The bad driver uses the previous receipts to cover the price of the odometer. He said it’s 50 yuan from the place I stand until the 27 train station.
I know the real price is lower than 50 yuan because I use the Google maps to track on the route (thank ExpressVPN service to allow me to access Google maps)
Therefore, that official taxi is just one minor bad taxi driver. -.-
And for my country, Viet Nam, I see the situation happens before. Some local Vietnamese government registered taxi over – charge the foreigner tourism as well.
Come back safely
The return flight itinerary was shorter.
Departure Airport: Zheng Zhou International airport
Departure time: 8:25 AM Zheng Zhou local time
I flew from Zheng Zhou Airport to Shanghai Pudong -> it took 2 hours flying.
The transit/connect time: about 2 hours long.
It had a little problem with the transition. My aircraft changed the gate in Shanghai Airport. The rest process was smooth enough.
And then from ShangHai, I flew directly back to Seattle with 12 hours long sitting in the aircraft.
Arrival time: around 09:30 AM of Seattle time zone on May 28th.
It was a short trip to China ( about 4 days in total) without the Chinese travel agency, and I learned the hard lessons by doing a solo trip. It costed more, but I was glad that I did it. I did travel alone. I did step out of my comfort zone and tried new things. Those problems did bring me the opportunities to learn and in the future, I would plan again-> do more the solo trips -> improve-> and I hope I could enjoy the future trip.
How about you? Do you remember what is your first solo trip in your life? What do you learn from it?