(I did a random Macau solo travel and this was part of my story. I promise to do an article about “Instagram-Worthy Places in Macau” real soon!)
A lot of travel blogs, vlogs, TV shows, and friends would tell you that one beautiful thing about traveling is meeting people coming from different backgrounds, getting to know their stories, their cultures, and even being friends with them. Sure, it’s great. In fact, the whole time I was traveling (whether for work or for vacation), I was able to meet amazing people, and people I wish I never met as well (no, I’m not gonna sugarcoat things for you here, honey, sometimes traveling really sucks). This is where you will either develop either trust in people or trust issues in people. That’s right.
Most of the time during my travels, I would meet people either in the hostels I stayed in, or randomly in tourist spots. During the first few times I did solo travel, the experience of meeting new people was very exciting. I get to meet people from so many countries, some of them are still my (online) friends up to this day, but most of them I meet only at that particular instance.
I once took my German and American hostelmates to taste the Cebu Lechon, I met fellow Filipino backpackers who went to a high school where my high school principal used to serve, and I met British backpackers whom I was able to go island hopping with in Palawan.
It was fun, but as I get to more destinations and do the same thing over and over again, it eventually gets boring and pointless.
I’m tired of being asked, “Where are you from?”, “Until when you will stay here?”, Where did you go so far?”, among others. These people will just casually talk to you then you’ll most likely never see them again. It’s not the superficiality that frustrates me, but are we really required to pressure ourselves into socializing and talking to people who just come and go?
My (Random) Decision to Do a Macau Solo Travel
I had a very busy term and I want to reward myself another solo travel (a legit vacation, btw) during the term break in Macau. With only less than a month to decide for the destination and prepare for the trip, I considered two criteria: Which (1) nearby country is (2) visa-free for Filipinos (3) I haven’t been to? I realized I haven’t been to Macau (I did a solo travel to Hong Kong before though), so I randomly chose the said destination. I booked my tickets and the next thing I have to decide is the accommodation.
Since I am very used to staying in hostels, I thought of looking for one, but apparently, Macau does not have a lot of accommodations of this kind, since it’s a small territory and most tourists (like those on a solo travel) are entering Hong Kong and just going on a day tour to Macau.
Now my only option is to stay in a hotel, which I did not mind since this trip is a gift to myself. The introvert in me found an excuse to splurge some money in a hotel and not talk to people. Yay! Upon doing a little research, I ended up choosing Macau Hotel S because of its beautiful interior and the presence of a lot of street art around the vicinity.
Macau Solo Travel: The Plan
So this is the plan: I will travel solo to Macau with the least interaction as possible with people. I will make this trip as peaceful as possible to forgive the introvert in me.
This included little to know interaction with people and shutting down all my messaging and social media apps.
Adventures (and Misadventures) in Macau
I know for a fact that Hong Kong has a lot of Filipino residents, but when I went there, for some reason, I was only able to see a few of them there. I also heard that Macau has a lot of Filipinos, and to my surprise, I did not expect that I will see Filipinos almost every 30 seconds. I’m definitely gonna survive my solo week-long travel in Macau. Well, I could talk to people, and I could also not talk to people.
As much as I try my best to talk to random people all the time (usually to ask for directions or information), there were times that the introvert in me was just not in the mood, or was scared, or was arrogant enough to think I can manage everything on my own.
Upon arriving at Macau Airport, I asked a Filipino airport staff I saw how to use the public transportation. He advised me to change my bills to coins since I’ll be needing to pay the bus fares in coins. He pointed me to a counter with another Filipino who changed my bills to coins.
As I was waiting for the bus, I saw a group of Filipinos guiding another group of Filipinos about the bus routes, and I’ve been dying to ask them how to get to my hotel, but I was just tired and intimidated at the same time. I just Googled my way to the right bus number, only to find out I took the bus going to the opposite direction. And it’s 12 midnight.
There are a lot of Filipinos in the bus and I overheard two of them arguing about whether they took the right bus. It turns out, they were in the exact same situation as me. I took the courage to ask them if the bus we are in will pass by my hotel, but they also seem confused. They told me they’re gonna alight and take another bus and I could go with them. Yay!
If I did not ask, I might still be on the road figuring out my life. I don’t usually do that since I can always Google everything, but I want to get to my hotel as quick as possible because I was so tired, and having a lot of Filipinos around made me instantly comfortable about the place.
I checked in at my hotel and the staff were talking to me in Tagalog. Awesome! In which case, I would usually initiate some small talk, but I’m just so tired from the flight and getting in the wrong bus, so I just went straight to my room and slept. No, I did not sleep. I watched some international news. Then I sipped some tea. Then slept.
Where’s the misadventure in this trip? There’s a typhoon signal number 3.
The typhoon basically ruined my whole trip schedule, but at the same time I’m a little happy because I have an excuse to just stay in the hotel the whole day, in which case I read some articles for a paper I’ve been writing for a conference I’m attending in Bangkok. I also have an excuse not to talk to people.
The next few days were still a series of clouds and rains, but I was lucky to have sunny days. I did a little shopping, sightseeing, and eating.
I was about to go to an alley with some street art to take photos when I realized my GoPro was about to die. I planned to stop somewhere and charge my GoPro for a while when I passed by a noodle restaurant and I overheard the staff speaking in Kapampangan (a Filipino dialect spoken in my Mom’s hometown, Pampanga). I was appalled and I decided to eat at the restaurant while charging my GoPro.
I initiated a small talk with the staff and found out that the lady has been working there for ten years while the guy staff was just on his third day in Macau. We had a small chit chat but I realized they can’t talk that much because they’re working. Oh yeah that made me a little frustrated again, so I just silently ate my noodles and left.
See, I’ve been teaching since 2011 (that means I’m speaking in front of 40-ish college students on a daily basis delivering lectures) but I still get anxious in moments like these.
I went to Museu de Macau and as I was walking through the artifacts, the museum guys were talking to each other in Tagalog and trying to guess my nationality (btw they never guessed I’m a Filipino, they thought I’m Malaysian or Indonesian until I spoke to them in Tagalog). I asked the usual small talk questions like how long they’ve been working there, how was it working there, among others.
I eventually realized I’m chatting with them while they’re on duty, which was not a good idea (again). I appreciate them asking me questions, though. I also got the “You went here for the first time alone? You’re lucky you did not get offloaded.”
I want to get offended and want to tell them I have a clean overseas travel record, but I realized it’s a common threat to Filipinos going to Macau. Some Filipinos apparently would go there as tourists to find a job. I don’t wanna elaborate about this, but I should say I can’t blame them and would even support their decision to look for a job outside the Philippines.
There were countless number of times I could just ask someone to take photos of me or ask for directions to fellow Filipinos, but since I want to test my independence and travel skills, I chose not to. After all, I have my ever-so-reliable GoPro and tripod and Google Maps.
Oh, btw, you can’t download an offline Google Maps in Macau. You just can’t.
How to Travel Solo as an Introvert?
First of all, there’s nobody pressuring you or anyone to talk to people when traveling. Indeed it’s exhausting to ask and answer the same questions, but I could attest you can still learn something about the place at your own peaceful way.
When I visit an alley, a museum, or stare at a Portuguese period building, I read as much as I can at the internet on the spot so that I can still be virtually guided and fed with information about a specific spot. Regarding asking for directions, we all know that Google Maps (both online and offline) has made our sightseeing as convenient as possible, and the thrill of getting to a destination while just following the map was amazing.
To be honest, most of the time whenever I ask people for directions, either I don’t trust their instructions, or I just don’t get it at all (Take this example: So you turn left there, take three blocks, then turn right, and you’ll see a white building, and your destination is across that building. I would not freaking process this instruction very quick.)
Some long-term travellers would miss the idea of being home or at least being surrounded by people they already know so that they need not to start from scratch when doing conversations. Long-term traveling could indeed give you this feeling, but it does not necessarily mean you’ll just stop talking to people. Men are social creatures. Sure, some of us are ‘wired’ to be introverts, but we still need other people from time to time.
I was able to survive my solo travel to Macau all by myself, relying on the internet, and not talking to people like I used to. It wasn’t as exciting as my other travels, but it’s more peaceful and I felt legitimately relaxed and I was able to emotionally and mentally prepare myself to get back to work. Macau is small and busy, but beautiful at the same time. They say Macau only deserves to be a side trip destination from Hong Kong, but I say, please consider spending a week or two in Macau alone, you will be surprised.
Two things I am proud of myself from this solo travel to Macau: I can survive traveling to more countries alone, and I was able to discipline myself into accomplishing some tasks, be as zen as possible the whole time, and had a one week social media detox.
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