Your 1st solo backpacking trip: Things to get used to
NOTE: This solo backpacking trip post doesn’t really apply to you if you’re just solo traveling for a few days or a couple of weeks. This is more for those planning on backpacking solo for at least 3 months + to potentially years.
Are you excited or nervous for your first solo backpacking trip?
Your first solo travel trip is going to be a crazy, unpredictable ride filled with incredible highs, lows and memories that last forever. My advice to you? Strap in and get ready for the ride!
Are you at a stage where, you’ve done all the planning and researching you can possibly do? Are you ready to take that step into the unknown for your first solo backpacking trip?
There are plenty of us that have been there – In your shoes, feeling that excitement, nervousness and anticipation all rolled into one. However, there are plenty of long term solo backpackers and I’m one, who will tell you, no amount of planning and researching will truly prepare you for your first solo backpacking trip. There are things you will only get used to once you’re backpacking.
Not trying to put you off your first solo travel trip
I’m not trying to put you off your first solo backpacking trip in anyway shape or form, I love solo backpacking and there are so many of us long term solo backpackers roaming around the world. However I’ve encountered so many first time solo backpackers in the past who didn’t fully grasp or get used to certain aspects of solo backpacking life.
And, that’s what this solo backpacking trip post is all about. We’re going to delve into things first time solo backpackers have to get used to. We will cover some basics like, living out of your backpack, getting used to packing, unpacking, and packing again. There are things like getting your head around local transport or becoming wary of tourist traps and where you might have to haggle and much more.
Your first solo backpacking trip can…
Have the ability to change you, it can teach you so much, challenge, test, and push you. It will no doubt open your eyes and mind beyond what you thought possible. However on the flip side, the longer you travel, the tighter your budget long term solo backpacker will tell you how it can try and break you at times.
However, if you learn to cope and deal with those bad times if you can come out the proverbial shit pipe, then solo budget traveling can feel so fulfilling and enriching. You will grow as a person, you’ll learn so much about yourself, your character and what you are made of.
Solo budget traveling is like a life lesson on who are you, how you deal with the knocks. Yes, there will be hard times but you will reap the rewards. You will have incredible experiences, your mind will be filled with unforgettable memories and stories. I know I’m a completely different person I left before my first solo travel trip in 2010.
Will solo travel be for you?
You might find, during or after your first solo travel trip, that you fall in love with it and can’t see any other way to travel. Like myself and countless other long term solo backpackers.
Or you might find out that It’s just not your cup of tea, if that’s the case don’t worry about it. Solo travel isn’t for everybody and I’m sure you’ll find which way suits you best.
Getting used to the basics during your first solo backpacking trip
More than likely for your first solo backpacking trip, you’ll choose to stay in backpacker hostels. Hostels can take some getting used to especially if you’ve never had to share a room or space before. Depending on what type of hostel you choose to stay in, it can be quite chaotic, manic and even overwhelming or you’ll feel at home.
What you have to remember is, you’re paying for the bed and not the room in shared dorms, so keep your belongings in and around your bunk. The best way to piss people off is not knowing some hostel etiquette, which a lot of first time solo backpackers do not know about.
In hostels, you have to share practically everything, so be mindful of others, be respectable, be friendly and keep your mind open. Anything and everything can and normally does happen within hostel walls.
Get an in depth look at what your first hostel experience can be like and get some insight into hostel etiquette. and have a look at the different types of backpacker hostels there are. Into partying? Then you might be interested in backpacker party life
Living out of your backpack
One of the biggest things you’ll have to get used to during your first solo travel trip is living out of your bag.
Before your trip starts, you might pack everything in a certain way, but you might find once you arrive you start digging around having to empty everything to get to one item. You’ll learn dependant on weather, dress customs of your destinations what you need at quick access too and what you don’t need.
And living out of your backpack can start to become a bit annoying, everything will end up crumpled up, dirty clothes mixed with clean ones, that one day you need the thing right at the bottom. The longer you travel, you’ll find there will be times you just want to empty your backpack and put your clothes in a draw or hang them up.
Packing, unpacking, packing
One of the joys of being a backpacker – You’ll arrive in a new place, unpack a few essentials, toiletries, some electronics. You’ll try and make yourself comfortable for a few days but then have to pack it all up and move on.
I won’t lie, packing, unpacking & packing becomes such a tedious chor. That first time you ever pack your bags you take some pride in it, make sure things are neat, it takes time. After a few days that goes out the window. As you get more into your first solo travel trip and become a long term solo backpacker you’ll develop your own style of packing. That might be just shoving things in the bag, rolling, using cubes, or folding but you’ll curse every time you do. And you’ll nearly always forget to pack one thing, you’ll look at it and think weather or not It’s worth packing it or leaving it.
More than likely too, you’ll discover, no matter how light you thought you packed, you over packed, all first time solo backpackers do. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself constantly leaving clothes behind the more you move on.
Getting used to the actual traveling part of your first solo backpacking trip
First time solo backpackers are constantly on the move
The actual traveling part, the moving from one place to another doesn’t get mentioned a lot before your first solo backpacking trip. More than likely, during your first solo travel trip you’ll be constantly on the move; going from one destination to the other. At first this can be exciting, but be warned it can become a tedious affair. The constant, lugging your backpack from hostel/accommodation to bus/train station or airport.
When you’re constantly on the move like this, you’ll also find it can wear you down, get mentally draining. You might be just start to settle in one place, possibly start making some friends, get used to the surroundings, get your bearings then you have to move and start all over again. While It’s fresh and new it can be fun, but after awhile it can wear you down.
And also sometimes being constantly on the move doesn’t allow you to get a real feel for the place you’re in. If you’re just there a few days before moving on, in all likeliness you will have done some touristy stuff, a couple of activities or tours but no real feel of the place. Long term solo backpackers will tell you to take your time, enjoy the moment, let the place soak in, get to know it before moving on. As you become a long term solo backpacker, you might find yourself becoming a slow traveler.
Local transport vs national transport
Evey first time solo backpacker has to deal with it, sometimes it’s a dilemma weather to take the pricier but safer nationalised option or the local option. When I say safer, I don’t mean in terms of danger, it’s the safer option because most of the times the schedule, timetables, routes, and buying tickets is easier to understand, and gives a clear indication how to get to your destination.
Local transport can be a little trickier and even daunting during your first solo backpacking trip. Sometimes they might not have a set schedule, price, the timetable is hard to understand. A tuk-tuk driver might try and entice you but it could be a scam. You have to figure things out yourself, the route could be more complicated, you may need to switch transport in order to get to your destination. Even paying can be not so straightforward, sometimes they’ll try charge you extra because you clearly standout as a tourist to them. As you become a long term solo backpacker, naturally you’ll look less like a tourist too.
These are things you have to get used to during your solo backpacking trip, but again the more you travel, the easier it gets. At first it might be daunting, you might get ripped off or dropped of in the wrong place, but with practice and experience you start to understand how things work, you ask the right questions to the right people and those local transport options can be quite fun once you become a long term solo backpacker.
Types of transport
Hand in hand with choosing local over nationalised transport comes the price vs comfort options too. The cheaper the transport the less comfort you’re going to have. As you journey goes on this will be a constant argument you have with yourself. Can you afford to have comfort? Can you endure a long distance trip on something that might fall apart? Comfort vs price will be an argument you have all though your backpacking life. I won’t lie, even as a long term solo backpacker on the tightest of budgets I need some comfort on these long trip.
There will come a point during your solo backpacking trip, it might even be a regular thing when you have to take a overnight bus or sleeper train. In theory these are great because they save on a nights rent, but you’ll soon find out you won’t get too much sleep on them.
Take a look at the different types of transport options for budget travelers
Eating out vs cooking
You might laugh at this one right now but it surprises me how many first time solo backpackers have no idea when it comes to food.
The first few days into your solo backpacking trip, you’re bound to eat out, you might even overpay as your not used to the place or the currency, that’s understandable. It happens to us experienced long term solo backpackers to this day, but once you do get settled that should change. You should get used to the currency, figure out if It’s cheaper to eat in or eat out (some countries It’s cheaper to eat out than in). Over time though, you will get used to it, you’ll get used to shopping in local markets rather than supermarkets or eating with locals rather than touristy restaurants just like other long term solo backpackers.
That’s not to say sometimes you might want to splurge out during your first solo backpacking trip but you’ll know when you can or can’t afford to do that.
Meeting people, making friends as a first time solo backpacker
Sometimes first time solo backpackers are not aware that there will be ample opportunities to meet other other people and make friends during your solo backpacking trip.
From fellow solo backpackers to locals, it will be very rare that you’ll actually be alone. In backpacker hostels you have the easiest and best oppertunities to meet backpackers and make friends. So if that’s something you’re worried about, you’ll be fine.
The best way to make friends is to be approachable, smile, even a simple hi can go a long way. Join in social things going around the hostel, most hostels have social areas to hang out in and kitchens, bathrooms and dorm are easy places to strike a conversation up
Sometimes it’s hard to make friends with locals if you just stick to tourist areas and only interact with other backpackers. Venture into local areas, sit in local bars, cafes, parks and strike up a conversation. Granted this is easier if you’re staying for longer than a few days and another benefit of traveling slowly. You never who you might meet, that local you get talking to could end up being one of your best friends.
Check out making friends as a solo backpacker for a more indepth look
Stay away from the typical backpacker talk
The backpacker talk is a series of questions anybody who’s traveled more than a week hates. The reason it’s hated, is because It’s just a recycled series of questions. The questions usually role like: How long are you traveling for? Where you been? Where you going next? Blah, blah, blah. Now for you being the first time backpacker you might want to know and find out what other backpackers plans are. But think about the other backpacker, they will have heard the same thing over and over again. You’ll understand once you hear it a few times, and if you become a long term solo backpacker you’ll end up hating those questions.
However that’s not to say, not to stay completely away from it, just weave it into a natural conversation, don’t just fire the questions and then have nothing else to talk about.
Saying goodbyes can be hard for both first time solo backpackers and long term solo backpackers
As many ‘hellos’ you will say on your journey, will be followed by goodbyes. Some will hard to stomach, especially with those you get close to. And with backpackers, especially in hostels, it can feel quite intense so you become very tight friends much quicker than in normal life. Within days you can become best friends and feel like you’ve known each other other your life.
When it comes to saying those goodbyes, can be quite emotional, it can even conjure up homesickness, you miss people and feel sad to see them go. Saying those goodbyes can be hard to stomach for some first time solo backpackers.
This post goes into depth and covers how you can cope and get used to backpacker goodbyes.
Solo travel doesn’t mean lonely travel
Something long term solo backpackers have to get used to is different emotional states through our journeys. There will be times you feel euphoria, be mesmerised, and feel like your floating in a dream. But unfortunately there will be the down days too.
There will be times especially as a first time solo backpacker, where you feel homesick, times you feel sad, you’ll miss people and feel lonely at times. That’s not because you’re solo traveling, It’s just something all long term backpackers have to go through at times.
This post covers why you might feel lonely, and how you can cope, learn and grow from travel loneliness too.
First time solo backpackers don’t realise not everyday is an adventure
Before any first time solo backpacker leaves home, from the research and planning we do, we imagine and play out how that first solo travel trip will go. We picture bouncing from one adventure to the next, experience after experience, forging one memory into another.
However the truth is, It’s not always like that and that’s something you have to get used to as first time solo backpacker. If you’re planning on being a long term solo backpacker, there will be days where you do nothing. Sometimes you can’t be bothered to do anything, sometimes it will be financial restraints or you’re just having fun in the hostel/accommodation. Sometimes the most exciting thing you do is your laundry or some food shopping. It happens and those days you don’t feel like doing anything, don’t worry about it; It’s good to have some lazy days.
This post gives you an insight into what everyday life can be like for long term solo backpackers.
First time solo backpackers getting burn out
It’s understandable, It’s your first solo travel trip, you’re excited to finally be out there and you want to do and see everything but remember long term solo backpacking is a marathon not a sprint.
Far too often I’ve seen a first time solo backpacker plunge into their trips with strict itineraries, wanting to see and do everything and they go at it full pelt. They try ticking off everything listed in the lonely planet, they do every top 10 list they’ve seen in blogs.
However what happens is, because they’re going flat out, they forget to enjoy themselves, they don’t have a chance to take it all in, to enjoy the moment and feel the experience. They become stressed out, waking up at the crack of dawn, cramming as much in as possible. Now that might be fine for a few initial days but down the line they’re done. They burn themselves out. They can’t stomach another early morning, another tour or excursion.
Remember as a long term solo backpacker It’s more than ok to take your time, pace yourself. See things in good time, and also be ok with not seeing and doing everything the lonely planet or other guide books tell you. Sometimes It’s worth just getting to know a local who and discover things away from the guide books. It will be less crowded and you might have a better time.
First time solo backpackers can fall into Tourist traps/scams/haggling
Tourism in all forms is hugely popular all over the world now. Even plaes you think will be quiet or remote are popular with other holiday makers, travelers, digital nomads, backpackers and long term drifters. With that amount of popularity come the tourist traps, and locals trying to take advantage.
Tourist traps are popular places that attract way too many tourists, and in most cases so overpriced. It’s where the expectation vs reality of something really hits you. A lot of the world wonders, famous landmarks, national parks, and common things on peoples bucket lists have become huge tourist traps now. As a backpacker on a budget you need to be aware of them. Do some research and you’ll find cheaper, less crowded and better options at times. The longer you travel, the more you’ll be able to spot tourist traps a mile off.
Along with tourist traps, you get scams and cons for certain places, even some local markets and squares will try and scam unsuspecting tourists. I won’t lie, practically every backpackers has been scammed in some way or another at least once when we start backpacking. It could be a local over charging for something, conned into a shitty tour or excursion, even tempted by ‘authentic’ local food and It’s nothing. It happens but you learn and become savvy to them.
Something we westerners are not used to before we start traveling is haggling. We sometimes think it’s rude, or It’s easier just to pay what the person asks. However in certain countries It’s actually ruder not to haggle than it is. It’s their custom, the way they do things. You shouldn’t be afraid of haggling, don’t take it too seriously, It’s a game and there is an art to it. The more you do it the better you become at it. I was awful at it the first few times, but now I reckon I’m pretty good at getting the price I want.
Solo and budget long term backpackers have to learn to manage their budgets. You might be good at budgeting and keep it wrapped under an iron first, or you might be like me and be shit at budgeting. However over time we do learn to manage our money better.
As well as you budget for the initial part of your journey there comes a time when you look at your bank account and you start running dangerously low on funds. It’s inevitable. Some of us run out of it quicker than others. As a first time solo backpacker you might be tempted to panic, you’ll learn money comes, goes, and returns as quick as we need to pack unpack and pack again.
You’ll start to find out there are ways to replenish your funds, you can work in certain countries, volunteer, you can exchange work for accommodation and food. And there are plenty other ways too.
This post gives you a deeper insight into the 5 most common jobs for backpackers.
You’re always learning and adapting as a long term solo backpacker
You never stop learning, adapting and growing as a long term solo backpacker. Even after all these years I’m still learning new things and you will to. There is so much more I could have talked about but I’d go on and on. To note a few of them, you’ll learn and adapt to your plans ever changing, sometimes coping with a support network around you, making decisions on the fly, and you’ll learn to slow everything down around you.
You’re learning will never stop, you’ll constantly be getting used to different things but I hope the things I’ve talked about in this post will help with your journey.
Did you find this first solo backpacking trip post helpful? Let me know in the comments below if there is anything else you would like to know or need help with traveling alone for the first time.
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