How to travel alone for the first time? Everyone has that scary feeling when they traveling by them self. The benefits of travelling with friends are fairly obvious, let’s face it, when you travel the world you will come across sights and events that many people will never have the fortune to see or experience, and sometimes it is just nice to share those things with someone else.
A great many people travel with friends or partners, even entire families, and the adventure of backpacking can be a great bonding experience, to trek through a jungle trail and come across a hidden lagoon with a cascading waterfall is much more fun when you have someone to dive into the water with, seeing ancient and modern wonders alike can be more special as a shared experience.
Then of course there are the times in between all of these fantastic experiences. Companionship on a long trip is always welcome, especially on a long overnight coach or train journey, and many lone backpackers turn to each other during these times for this exact reason. Sharing the costs of everything from guides and accommodation to hiring a boat or anything that involves a group is also a great advantage, especially if you are trying to budget and keep costs down.
A lot of single travellers get ripped off by the unfair single occupancy rip off of many hotels and guesthouses, yet if there are enough of you room costs can be shared. If there are a group of 4 or more of you, then you can even get a small 4 or more bed hostel room to yourselves very cheaply which is often as good as, or even better in some of the more modern hostels, a more expensive private room. The issue of security is also a concern for a lot of first time backpackers, especially if they are travelling alone, and there is a lot to be said for safety in numbers.
Travelling with a partner or friend does have the added advantage of peace of mind, not necessarily safety, as it is just as safe realistically to travel alone, but it can be surprising just how much reassurance and confidence a partner can give you. Plus there is the practical advantage that someone can stay and watch the bags at a bar or cafe while the other troops off to find some decent accommodation in a new town instead of both of you lugging your kit about. There are a lot of advantages to travelling with a partner or a friend, but it is not always a good idea for everyone either.
Whilst travelling with friends or partners is a great option, you do have to be aware of the potential pitfalls. You have to remember that compromise is often the key element in travelling with someone else,especially if you go with a group.
Everyone is unique, everyone is individual, and everyone will have completely different needs and wants, likes and dislikes, different things they want to see or do or even entirely different reasons for backpacking which sometimes aren’t always compatible.
You also have to be really comfortable with the person or people you are backpacking with. You will be living in each other’s pockets for a significant amount of time, especially if you are travelling for an extended period, and you will see the best and worst of each other.
Whilst backpacking does bring many people together and bind them with shared experiences, I have also seen it be the ruin of more than one relationship, and friends or even partners who have started their journeys together have often gone their separate ways a few months into the trip. It doesn’t always happen, in fact it doesn’t happen far more often than it does, I just want to make you aware of the potential pitfalls so you at least have the chance to avoid them.
Travelling alone is another option. It does scare a lot of people, especially those who are overly worried about security, expense or just plain loneliness, but it really shouldn’t. Backpacking by yourself is in my opinion one of the best ways to travel. Travelling with someone can be good, don’t get me wrong, but travelling alone can be great. You have nothing or no one to worry about except yourself. You can do what you want, when you want to do it and the only person you have to worry about is you.
You are essentially your own boss, if you want to do something, you can do it. If you fancy changing your plans at the last minute to go hiking up a mountain just to see what is at the top, you can. If you want to have a lazy day and sit in your hammock to finish that book, you can do that too. There isn’t anyone or anything to stop you. It is also infinitely less stressful when you don’t have the hassle of worrying about someone else or dealing with their problems.
There are countless people, both male and female, who go travelling alone every single year, sometimes for extended periods of time, without any problems arising from the fact they are travelling alone whatsoever. You will always find that there are other backpackers to talk to, many of whom may be travelling alone too, and it is easy to simply have a chat or ask for advice, or even team up for a day or two to places backpackers tend to frequent such as hostels or budget accommodation, internet cafes (although much less so now with the ubiquitous free wifi and smartphones and pads everywhere), or bus, coach and train stations.
Of course there are always the locals you will meet along the way to chat to as well, so you will find that loneliness really is not an issue. Saying that, to do this you will need at least a degree of confidence and a slightly extrovert nature. Striking up a conversation with a complete stranger will be much more difficult if you are the shy, retiring type. However, there are drawbacks to travelling alone too.
Even if you are friendly and chatty and meet plenty of people along the way, there will still be plenty of times where you will be on your own, so you really have to be comfortable in your own company. There will be times when you may just feel a little homesick or crave a little company, which is absolutely fine and normal and both are problems that are easily solved, but if you are not the type of person who is happy being on your own for a while, then obviously backpacking alone may not be for you. You have to be honest with yourself here.
There are also costs to consider. Travelling in general, not just backpacking, is often unnecessarily unfair on the solo traveller. Hotels, guides, transport, all are often more expensive without anyone to share the costs. Especially if you frequent the types of hotels which whack solo occupancy charges on their rooms!
Choosing your travel partner.
If you do choose to travel with someone, then it is important to consider who exactly you are backpacking with. Many people automatically choose their boyfriend, girlfriend or best friend as a default travelling companion. After all you get on great at home, so what can go wrong, right? Many experienced backpackers will tell you that travelling together can either make or break relationships, and sometimes even the best of friends or lovers are not ideal backpacking partners.
The requirements of what makes a good friend or partner are very different to the requirements of what makes a good travel buddy. So how do you choose a good backpacking partner? Well you have to sit down together and be seriously honest with each other about what you want. There is no point in telling each other what you think the other one wants to hear because you want to be nice, that will cause problems later down the line and you really don’t want that, so you need to ask yourself a series of questions.
What type of trip do you both want? Your backpacking adventure will be on a road to failure from the start if you want to experience local culture and temples, whilst the person you chose to go with wants to head to the local nightclubs and full moon parties!
It helps immeasurably if you both want to see and do the same things and have the same experiences from the same trip. Since everyone is unique and will want different things, this isn’t always possible. Having a common goal, such as reaching Everest base camp or seeing the Taj Mahal or attending a full moon party, will go a long way to ensuring that you have a harmonious trip too.
You obviously won’t have to spend every single waking moment together, but having a common goal will make travelling together worthwhile. If you don’t have that, then you may be better off travelling alone.
Great expectations? What do you both expect to happen during the trip? Are you both happy with living in each other’s pockets, being in extremely close quarters for extended periods of time? Not everyone is, even those of you who may have the best relationship in the world or have been friends since the womb probably have that because you both have your own separate space away from each other from time to time.
Backpacking does not give you that luxury. You have to ask yourselves will one of you get on the other persons nerves until it ends up in a huge
argument? Does one of you snore so loudly the other will be forced to use their travel pillow as an impromptu anesthetic device? Are you both happy to spend a day or two apart if you both want to visit different places only to meet up again a day or two later? Or will your friend or partner panic and see that as completely unacceptable? It is best to get everything out in the open before you even book the trip. Budgeting discrepancies? Money is often said to be the root of all evil.
I don’t know about that, but I do know it can be a cause of a great many problems to backpacking friends and partners. Budget affects everything.
Accommodation, travel, food, drink, sightseeing, entertainment and anything else you can think of. If you both split everything down the middle 50/50 then that can help, provided that you can stick to that over the extended trip! But then what if you want to budget for staying in hostels and your friend or partner refuses to stay in anything other than comfortable hotels? If things like this are not sorted out before you even set off then it can cause a lot of problems along the way.
Agreeing a similar budget before you set off can be one of the most important things you can agree on beforehand to ensure that you don’t have a massive blow up and end up resenting each other or going your separate ways. I don’t want to put you off travelling companions completely here, travelling with someone can have a lot of benefits too and many people travel together every day with no problems and have the joys of reliving their travels with their friends for years to come.
I just want you to be aware of how to avoid any potential pitfalls. If you do choose to travel with a friend or partner from home, which many people do, then it is really important that you discuss all of these things and more before you set off.
Make sure that you are both aware that problems will occur and that you can get past them if you talk about it and are aware of them beforehand. If you choose to travel alone, then that is fine too, just prepare yourself mentally for the times you will be alone and ensure that you are gregarious enough to meet others when you need to.