3 Mistakes I’ve Made When Solo-Traveling Or Backpacking

August 22, 2021

Oh boy. Where do I start with this. From my very first years of solo-travel, I’ve definitely done things I would do differently now.

Some were small inconveniences, whilst other things were the reason an entire solo-trip flopped. It’s funny because these realisations were actually inspired by a reflection exercise I did as part of my thesis. Whilst my mind drifted away the topic of law and delved into thinking about future trips, I started to reflect on things I would change if I could go back in time. I didn’t know where my reflections on solo-travel would start or end, but safe to say the below 3 points came to my brain fairly quickly haha. Let’s get straight into a light-hearted read on travel regrets from the perspective of a frequent solo-traveller.

Letting Nerves Impact Decisions

For me, this point links very closely to the topic of eating. It took me years before eating alone was something I felt comfortable with. Yup, years. I would try convince myself I could last on snack foods and water for the duration of all my solo-trips. At the time, the thought of sitting in a restaurant to try the local cuisine was out the question. As a result, my accounts of food and drink were always minimal when reminiscing about a place. Fast forward to now, triggered by understanding no-one actually cares if you’re eating alone, I’ve ditched the mindset of ‘Oh this stranger who I’ll never see again is judging me’. This switch had the biggest impact on my solo-travelling experiences so far.

I have picked up some ways to handle eating alone though, especially when I’m not feeling like my usual self. The first has been ensuring every accommodation I stay at is central to where I’ll be exploring. That way, I can easily bring back food or make myself dinner, then head out again to see the sights. I honestly find foreign supermarkets weirdly exciting, so I’ll never complain about going to buy my own ingredients haha. Another tip on eating alone when solo-travelling is to join activities which have a strong food element, like street-food tours or group cooking classes. Both options aren’t as pricey as you may think, give you a chance to socialise and leave you with an impressive skill. Now that I think about it, most of the street-food tours I’ve attended have been free and were found on ‘Eventbrite’. I’ve also booked onto a handful of private cooking lessons whilst solo-travelling, which still remains my favourite leisurely experience to date as I can now make sushi perfectly. You know the level is good when your friends think it was purchased from a restaurant… Just saying!

Not Researching The Bare Minimum

You all know by now how much I vouch for spontaneous travel. However, I’ve really understood the value of planning in recent years. Even if it is the bare minimum. Before, I would just turn-up and figure out how to get from A to B on the spot. Not the smartest move. The fact transport varies across the globe didn’t help either, as I would sometimes be left without a bus until the following morning. How was I supposed to know buses to Amherst from Boston don’t run during the night? Well, I could have researched it. That would have saved the headache. I also didn’t know that in Milan, bus tickets are purchased at off-licenses. Again, I could have researched this. It’s all fun and games winging a trip until the transport conductors whip out those hefty fines because you didn’t know where to purchase a ticket. Trust me, it’s awkward. These days, transport logistics are the first thing I look up. Oh how times have changed. All it took was about 20 negative experiences on transport across the globe…lol. I still roam around the city without a set plan but at least I can sit back on a plane without wondering if there’s a late train going into the city on a Tuesday afternoon.

Skipping The Concept Of Slow Travel

In the past, I was convinced every element of my trip had to be jam-packed with adventure, otherwise I was wasting my time. The thought of sleeping in late or being at a place for too long gave me a fear of missing out. For this reason, I was always on the move. Yes, I was constantly entertained but something was missing. I lacked connection. I felt like I wasn’t really learning anything, even though I had plenty of things to do. It wasn’t until I stumbled across an article on slow travel that I started to put the pieces together. Everything suddenly made sense. I was craving emotion with locals, nature, culture and music. That’s why I temporarily abandoned my travel bucket-list, as I didn’t want travel to turn into a ‘tick-box’ task. The concept of slow travel has encouraged more conversations with locals, more lessons learnt about the world and more insight into new traditions. These first-hand experiences have prompted a greater focus on sustainability in my daily life, as I’ve become more aware of the impact travel has on the world. Both positive and negative. In fact, I’ll leave you with my post on simple things which can lead to more sustainable travel – How I’m Adding Sustainability Into My Travels.

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