When you don’t have to fit in with anyone else’s travel preferences, your personal travel style becomes clear. Perhaps you realise you prefer exploring at a fast pace, or otherwise enjoy having more time to smell the roses. Maybe you discover your inner party animal, or you find that you like getting up early to sightsee before the crowds arrive. This intel will help you better plan future solo trips.
When you travel alone, your assumptions and beliefs are tested more than ever. With no one by your side to back up your prejudices, you’ll learn to open your mind to new ways of living, and re-evaluate any preconceived notions about these cultures or customs you may have been harbouring.
Worried you wouldn’t be comfortable sleeping in a multi-share room? Figured you’d be tough enough to manage a multi-day wilderness hike without access to a shower? Travelling solo, you’ll quickly find out what your limits are, and how comfortable you are pushing them.
There might be times when you wish you had someone to share a meal with, but after travelling solo for a while, you learn to be at peace with your own company. After being in a group environment for a few days, you may even find yourself pining for a bit of solitude afterwards.
You’ll lose bank cards, miss buses, underestimate the amount of time it takes to get to the airport, and forget to book a hostel during a festival period. When travelling solo, you have no one else to blame for your mistakes but yourself. You learn to take full responsibility for them, take the lessons on board, and move on.
Without a trusted travel partner to help point you in the right (or wrong) direction on the road, you find the courage to trust your own instincts. You have no other choice, after all.
As you are introduced to new people, sights, smells and sounds, you develop the ability to look at your ‘real’ life at home more objectively. You question whether the habits, goals and lifestyle choices you once thought were important really matter to you as much as you thought they did.
After travelling for a while, you get used to living with just the essentials. Suddenly the idea of ordering next season’s must-have jeans when you have a perfectly good pair at home, or spending an hour on your beauty regime each day that you could be spending at the beach, starts to seem a lot sillier than it once did.
Your true friends and family love you for you, and understand (or at least learn to accept) your need to travel alone. When you return, you’ll pick up exactly where you left off. Other people you may have thought you were close to, however, may not relate to the ‘new you’, and don’t have time for the travel stories you’ve been dying to share with them. Likewise, you may realise that you don’t have as much in common with these ‘friends’ as you thought, and start to re-evaluate the role they play in your life.
You’ll soon learn that it’s easy to make friends travelling solo, with many of the friends you meet on the road ending up being friends for life. Be receptive to other travellers who strike up conversation, taking the time to find out more about what brought them to the very same place you’re visiting – you may very well have something in common.
YHA has a network of 70-plus hostels dotted all across Australia that are perfect for solo travellers looking to meet some new friends on the road. And Lonely Planet’s great edition of ‘The Solo Travel Handbook’ contains stacks of handy hints and tips for backpackers planning the solo trip of a lifetime – pick up your copy online or in all good bookstores.
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Booking directly on yha.com.au gives you various advantages such as best price guaranteed, more room choice and much more!