advice

+ Travelling solo

It never really occurred to me before flying out alone just how hard it can get travelling independently. I’ve travelled a few times by myself before but it’s only now I am completely and totally part of the backpacking lifestyle that I can appreciate its perks and difficulties. Maybe you’re planning a gap year or trip away and don’t want to go until your friends are ready as well. If I’d done that I don’t really know if I’d been able to go away as soon as I did. It can be really tough sometimes when you really need a close friend who knows you well to have a chat to, or when you’re in an amazing place and want to be able to share it with someone from back home.

Self-Portrait at Beijing Summer Palace

*** This is a self-portrait of me at Beijing Summer Palace in China. I really liked the detailing of the building in the background, but as you can see travelling on your own presents with it some difficulties - particularly if you want yourself in a photo and there's no-one around to take one for you. It took me about ten attempts to successfully get this pic, and even then most of me isn't in it!***

PERKS
+ You get the freedom to decide your own itinerary according to your own whims and wills. For the majority of my trip I’ve always planned to go to Patagonia after Buenos Aires, and yet after speaking to various travellers I realised that considering I’m on a budget and am seeing glaciers in New Zealand anyway... so now I’ve changed my trip to depart from Buenos Aires and travel up through Argentina and Bolivia to fly to Colombia for a while!

+ There’s less chance of ruining a perfectly good friendship. If you were planning to come away with someone it’s fair to say they’re a really good friend to begin with, but I’m sure there’s a few BFFs who grate on each other and are perhaps more distant after their trip. If you’re on your own you don’t get the chance to find out if this is going to happen to you too. Personally I find it hard to spend time with the same person for more than a month, so by backpacking solo you can never get bored or angry with someone!

+ You can be selfish. Considering you’re spending ££££s on this trip of a lifetime it would be a big shame to have to spend that well-earned money on places that you don’t want to visit just because friends want to go there.

+ If there’s only one space left on a bus or a tour that you want to go on, no problem!

+ All the other solo backpackers I meet agree that being alone forces you to ‘put yourself out there’ and go up and introduce yourself to people when you arrive to a new place.

DIFFICULTIES

+ Whenever you switch locations and check into a new hostel, there’s always the constant worry that you’ll not find anyone to hang out with. In fact, the reason why I have the time to write this post is because today I’ve just checked into an empty room in a hostel with only two other people who don’t even speak English unfortunately! So I guess loneliness is a drawback but you find ways other than socialising to fill your time.

+ Kind of a run-on from the previous point, but when you arrive in a new amazing place you want to share it with someone. If there’s nobody at the hostel who wants to sightsee with you, or if you are surrounded by people who don’t speak your language then your only alternative is to hit the museum alone, or sunbathe by the beach with just your ipod for company!

+ There a lot of backpackers in groups sometimes, which can give you a bit of a complex after spending the fifteenth day as the tag-along to a group of close friends. It means instead of being on an equal standing with new friends, you are out of the loop with a lot of the conversations and feel a bit desperado and clingy!

+ When all the people who truly know you are thousands of miles away, you really miss being around people who really know you and what you’re about. Most travellers’ friendships are a marriage of convenience and quite fleeting, so it can be quite hard to get your head around the fact that the only person you can ever truly trust is yourself.

+++ I think everyone knows deep down if they're made for travelling alone, although it's good to have doubts! Some lone backpackers I've met are the sort of people you would never have expected to go alone, such as those who've barely left sixth-form and are really really close to their parents. I have also been surprised by the kinds of people saying "wow you're travelling alone? that's brave!" - they're normally the macho guys who make out they are Mr Independent but secretly love having a friend or two to take care of them!