Backpacking solo – That fear of being alone

Mirko

This one goes out to all those strapping on a backpack for the first time, wondering how the hell they came up with that stroke of genius to go and have a peek at the other side of the world. Alone.

That first time saying goodbye to your family and friends, walking through customs and then sitting down at the gate waiting on boarding your plane. That’s when it really sinks in. Realizing what the hell you are just about to undertake. Your non-traveling friends might find you weird and suicidal and don’t understand why you’re being so daft to set out all alone. Do you even know?
What are you going to do when you arrive, will you be able to maneuver yourself through this new world without speaking the language, will you be safe, what happens if you do get stuck somewhere by yourself and maybe most of all will you be all by yourself for the time to come or find new friends to share amazing moments with?
Well, here’s the answer: Ditch those worries! All of us have been there and ended up having the most amazing times of our lives! (retrospectively 😉 )

Also further down below you will find a little list of tips.

Know thyself

You may be surprised at the amount of people setting out and traveling by themselves.
If you are more of an introvert and enjoy your own company, all fine. If you’re a bombastic sociable person enjoying hanging out with other people 24/7, you can make that happen too. Before you know it you will find yourself surrounded by new like minded people. You will never really be alone. Being by yourself makes you easily approachable by others who are by themselves too, which are loads, everyone becomes everyone’s friend. You’re all alone so in it together. Some of those new people you will find, chances are, you will become absolute closest friends.

Sleep around

There are pretty much two places where you can end up: one with, usually, loads of tourists and one lacking them.
Hitting big cities can be great fun for a change of scenery and are the ideal location to make some new friends in the atmosphere of fun loving hostels. Find yourself a nice social hostel that fits with your personality through websites like hostelworld.com, booking.com etc. But don’t fall for getting sucked into these places. They can be like a death trap, burning through all your precious travel money in exchange for some booze. Before you know it you’re still talking English to some folk from the city next to yours, binge drinking your nights away. You will notice how easy it is to find yourself a new comfort zone (can you remember those fears sitting at that airport gate?), challenging yourself and dropping this will absolutely result in continuously new and crazy experiences.
If you want to help your success with the locals in bigger cities try your luck on couchsurfing.org for example, but even better is Facebook. Drop some locals a line and ask if they feel like being your tour guide in exchange for a dinner. This way chances are you find yourself submerged in between the locals within minutes.
When you decide to be a little more adventurous, grab a bus off the beaten track to find some amazing places. That is fine and all doable by yourself. Having some basic language skills is enough to get around.

Create distress

Do create your own distress! Kick yourself out of your new-found comfort zone again. When you put yourself in weird unfamiliar situations you will have to learn how to deal with them. You might have to knock on a local’s door to spend the night, ask for a ride in the back of a local’s cattle truck. It’s scary but man, those are the craziest experiences you will look back on.

That loner loser at the bar

At times it can be very confronting to be by yourself in say a bar or restaurant. That are places where you might feel very vulnerable. Best is to quickly stuff your face and get the hell out, is what you may think. The most important thing is to not wind yourself up. Stop what you are doing and thinking, just enjoy the moment, remember where you are!!
That way it is super easy, slightly depending on the establishment, to just walk up to someone sitting by themselves too and ask them if “they mind you sitting with them, as you are new to the city. Maybe they have some tips for you?” and BOOM! 9 out of 10 times you’re in. Being told about that little gem in the city no one knows about, but you should definitely visit.

Give your day a goal

It can happen fairly quickly that you become scared of setting out by yourself again, especially when you know you are heading to places where you won’t find other tourists. Most times you will find people heading the same way as you and can have yourself a travel buddy. But don’t have not having one stop you going places. It is a good idea to give your day a goal by having something with you like a camera, a little notebook to draw or write or, say, challenge yourself to some funky goal like finding indigenous fruit, vegetables and meat to cook yourself a dinner. But most of all, it can be absolutely calming and soothing to just be with yourself at times.

Get robbed

You will probably be all fine, but do prepare for the worst. That too gives you some peace of mind.
A few tips to be safe and in control are:
– Be missed. When you set out into an area by yourself do communicate with home where you are and you will be out of contact for a few days.
– Keep two bank cards and spare cash (dollars) in different locations. One in your backpack, the other in your wallet.
– Find out beforehand the numbers of your country’s embassy and write down addresses and phone numbers.
– If you know you’re arriving somewhere at night, pre-booking can be a good idea when alone in bigger cities.
– Keep a copy of your passport on you too in some other place.
– Write down all the information like the IMEI code etc. of your mobile phone. I can guarantee between a 75% to a 100% chance something will get stolen along the way.
– Buy yourself a crappy phone and a local simcard, you will probably be only contacting your local new found friends anyway, and leave your iPhone in the hostel locker.
– Make backups of your pictures, or use automatic upload features like Apples cloud or Dropbox. You don’t want to lose all those precious memories.
– Never walk into empty streets in areas you don’t feel comfortable in.
– Keep a small bag of valuables close with you, bring them on busses. Don’t put them on the floor or in overhead storages.
– Don’t show your valuables. In public transport especially there might be some not so fresh characters eyeing you up.

I was even told by some smarty pants that he always carried a fake wallet with a nice little note inside (try and guess the words on it) in his pocket, and wore his actual passport, cash and card on him. He loved challenging the status quo. He was glad to get robbed that guy.
Again, just think ahead a little bit before you go places so you will be safe wherever you are.

Your trip will end up being that perfect trip that fits exactly with the person you are.
We have all been there; we have all survived and have had the craziest experiences of our lives! Believe us: Do it, Go solo!

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