During my trip in August, I traveled alone. I’d traveled alone during college a number of times for the dance competition I used to work for, but never out of the country. Even when I traveled alone to work weddings in Key West and Mexico, I was flying and meeting up with familiar faces at the resorts. So for this trip- on the flights, trains, buses, metros, and in the hostels- it was just me, my camera bag, and my freakishly huge backpack. Anytime someone heard I’d be going over there by myself, they’d immediately ask “REALLY? Are you nervous?” followed by “IS YOUR MOM FREAKING OUT?”
The answer to both was a big ol’ heck no. Well, my mom did freak out a little in the beginning, but she quickly warmed up to the idea (she didn’t really have a choice). I could have easily talked myself out of the trip- I’m a little bit introverted, I have anxiety, I’m afraid of flying, I’m a 20-something year old girl, and I’m not rich. Lots of reasons to say, “Ehh, maybe another year” or, “I’ll just do it with a friend in the future!” But that’s the problem- I would’ve kept saying that over and over until I got to a point where I was regretting not going earlier.
So, when going alone was the only option, I bit the bullet and booked a ticket. It was the best thing I could have EVER done. Traveling alone is unlike anything you’ll ever do. I decided to make a list to hopefully convince any of you that are on the fence about backpacking alone to do it…like, NOW!
The most obvious reason for traveling alone- you are forced to become independent. From the simple act of just planning and booking that flight alone, you’re already more independent. You have to depend on your own money, connections, and self esteem.
Traveling out of the country is the best way to do this! You’re forced to turn on airplane mode permanently during your trip, and can’t have constant access to networks (Instagram, Facebook, emails) that you unconsciously check hourly (or more). People can’t text you, and you can’t text them. It’s a weird feeling being disconnected from the world that you normally have ties to at all times.
This disconnetion results in a social reconnection. You are forced to read maps, ask for directions, and interact with the people and strangers that surround you, rather than worry about the ones that don’t. No wifi for google maps? Ask a local restaurant waiter how to get to that nearby museum. Wanna find a fun bar to go to? Ask the hostel staff. Can’t text a friend to see what they’re doing tonight? Walk down to the hostel bar during happy hour and go out with all your roommates. It’s basically like your freshman year at college- but five trillion x’s better (and cooler).
Traveling alone allows you to see the world exactly how you want to see it. You can do as you please in every city- you can sleep in, wake up early, stay up late, go to a museum, people watch, or just eat a ton of food. You can literally do anything you want to do because YOU are the only person that needs to stick to the schedule you set for yourself.
Not only this, but you are more aware of your surroundings because you’re alone in them. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE traveling with friends, but being alone keeps you way more focused on the sites, sounds, and smells around you.
Finally, you begin to find the full value of things when traveling alone. You grow to really appreciate the company of your family, friends, and loved ones. You appreciate English being the native language, the ease of traveling with your own car, the cost of buying cheap food anywhere. You gain more of an appreciation for the insane beauty of this world.
Obviously traveling alone is not as safe as traveling in a group- so make sure you do lots of things to prepare yourself for a safe trip! Be sure at least one or two people at home know your itinerary. While you won’t be able to check in at home regularly, it’s important that someone has an idea of where you are during your trip. Print, write down, and screen shot all of your travel information. You want to make sure you’re covering all bases so that you can eventually make it home should anything happen to your notebook, backpack, or phone. Make hard copies of your IDs in case they are lost!
Avoid walking around at night by traveling in the mornings (night time is reserved for all your new hostel friends!). Carry around an extra charger for your phone, have a solid waterproof case, and don’t be afraid to ask for wifi at restaurants. Pre-plan your walking routes to the hostels from the train stations until you can get a good map and solid directions from locals. Keep your backpack and belongings locked up when you’re not using them! Finally- get really good at selfies, cause you’ll be taking a lot of them :-\
Just a quick side note– this Sunday, I leave for my 3rd trip over to Europe this year! Follow me along on Instagram, @CJKvisuals to see some snazzy iPhone pics of my travels! I already have blog posts set to go live while I’m over there, so follow along on here as well to see all the amazing people I’ve photographed recently!