The One Thing I Wish I’d Known Before Backpacking Solo

 

The internet is filled with tips for first time backpackers. Bring this, ditch that, roll your clothes, pack bottom heavy. Tips and tricks for making your first trip backpacking solo as smooth and worry free as possible. But the number one thing I wish I’d known before taking my first solo trip is this:

You’re not alone!

Sure, I’d read Lonely Planet forums reassuring first timers like myself that we’d meet plenty of other travelers. But I still had this image in my head of myself wandering the streets of Latin America alone, forced to take selfies at the Mayan ruins and eat lonely dinners in the hostel kitchen.

 

backpacking solo

 

Luckily my experience couldn’t have been more different. During my first solo backpacking trip I spent the first couple weeks with a friend living in Mexico. It was the perfect transition and I was grateful to see a familiar face when I landed at the airport. But after our time together was up, I knew I’d be out on my own. Wearily, I directed my taxi to take me to the busiest sounding hostel in my guidebook, even though it was the most expensive. I felt like I had newbie written all over my face. I nervously walked in, eyes darting around trying to assess the friend potential of each of the other travelers, praying I’d make at least one friend.

Spoiler alert: I did. I made many friends! I made friends that night from all over the world that I ended up traveling with for the next few weeks and some I still even chat to today. Because, that’s what happens when you travel.

Backpacking ‘solo’ is often anything but. Of course, if you prefer to be a lone wolf, it’s entirely possible to keep to yourself. But if you’re looking for travel-mates it’s pretty difficult not to make friends. And no, I’m not talking about just for the social butterflies and chatty Cathy’s. Even the shiest travelers can find a like-minded group to connect with. I guarantee it.

 

backpacking solo

 

How do I know?

Because when you travel, you discover that there is a whole community of other backpackers traveling the world. It’s almost like a secret society, except anyone can enter and there’s no creepy initiation. It’s hard to understand unless you’ve been backpacking. And yes, I realize how ridiculously pretentious that last sentence sounds. But I don’t mean it in a snobby, exclusive way. I just mean that before I took my first trip I had no idea there were so many other backpackers exploring the world. And they’re all waiting for you to come and join them! Anyone who is considering traveling but is too nervous to go alone, don’t be. Going solo pushes you to get out of your shell and talk to people you would otherwise never connect with. By the same token, being a solo traveler comes with a strange gravitational pull that attracts other travelers to you. A person by themselves is much more approachable than a couple or group. You’ll find yourself being asked to join on day trips, share a taxi or grab a meal.

That’s not to say that you won’t ever be alone. Because you will. It’s an inescapable fact that at certain points you’ll be by yourself. Even if you meet other backpackers to travel with, at some point your paths will diverge, you’ll give heart felt goodbyes outside of the hostel, and you’ll find yourself standing on the side of the road, waiting for the next bus going to the border, anxious and excited to see who you’ll meet next. But any solitary situations you might end up in will be worth it, because at your next destination you might find your new best friend, your soul mate or just an incredible group of people to explore the world with.

 

backpacking solo

 

Have you ever been on a trip backpacking solo? Drop us a comment on Facebook or TwitterWe’d love to hear about your experience!

Backpacking Solo

17 Comments

  • Rebekah says:

    I love reading things like this. I’ve only solo backpacked in china and I was in some more remote places but still managed to find some friendly faces. I’m going backpacking in a couple months and I tend to envision myself sitting alone on some beach in Thailand just reading… I occasionally need reassurance that I’ll meet some fun peoples

  • Rachel says:

    So true! I travelled solo for 1 year from Guatemala to Argentina and never felt alone. As a mater of fact about 4 months into my trip I met the faboulus Christine Williams at a dive school in Utila, Hondurus! Then about year and a half later, when I had just moved to Colombia to start a new life as an English teacher, I ran into her again in a club in Bogota (Capital of Colombia)!
    Do it, spin the globe, point your finger and go! You won’t regret it!

  • Tom Edwards says:

    Thank you. This was great to read as someone who is getting to take their first solo trip in a couple of months. I’ve been floating between confidence, terror and ignorance. Hahaha

  • I have never traveled alone or gone on a backpacking adventure so hats off to you Christine. I admire people that do and think you’re brave. It’s no surprise to me that you made friends on your solo adventure, you are very outgoing and easy to visit with. Fantastic pics of you! I really love the first one, where was that taken?

  • Emily Luxton says:

    I think that solo travellers probably meet more people and make more friends than people travelling as a couple or a group. I’ve only ever travelled with my boyfriend and was always terrified of the idea of going solo, but once you do go away, it becomes so obvious how easy it would be to go alone.

  • Veronika says:

    Great post..! It’s so true. Even shy and introverted people can find backpacking friends 🙂 I had a blast with a bunch of guys in China’s Yangshuo. Although our sightseeing plans didn’t work together (they saw everything I wanted to see by the time I came), we still spent evenings together, just going for beer and chatting the night away. Priceless!

  • rebecca says:

    loved this! so very true. I am on my way to live in Japan by myself and have to keep reassuring my family and friends that there are LOADS of expats over there that I will meet not just japanese.

    I find that backpacking solo is the best way because you are forced to meet cool people

    • Yep sometimes that ‘forced to meet people’ scenario works out well because you just have to go for it and hope for the best haha. That’s awesome that you’re off to Japan, it’s definitely on our list of places. Might even see you over there next year!

  • Natalie says:

    Thanks so much for this! I’m heading off on my first solo backpacking trip in ten days, shortly after my 18th birthday, and I’ve definitely been imagining myself wandering through the UK alone, taking badly framed selfies with the landmarks. I really wanted to find someone to travel with, but no one wanted to come along for the adventure and I wasn’t willing to wait to find anyone. It’s so reassuring to think that I will for sure make friends along the way, especially since I’ve always been kind of shy!

    • Hey Natalie! We’re super glad you found this useful! That’s what we’re all about. You will absolutely make friends along the way, it is sooooo easy! The best part about traveling is that you can just be who you want, and everyone can meet you for who you truly are. It’s very liberating! Where are you headed to? Please keep us updated on your trip, we’d love to hear about your experiences! Good luck!

  • Kevin says:

    Hello. I love tips like these and posts like this reassured me before I went away on my trip alone. I would like to offer my tips on how to make the most and enjoy solo backpacking.

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