November 4, 2016

4 Things I Learned Backpacking Solo

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Jeremy BIshop
Jeremy BIshop

1. Socialize.

No one is going to hold your hand throughout the way and pave the way to new friendships and experiences. I’m certainly not the most extroverted of individuals, but “fake it ‘til you make it” truly worked out well for me in this case. Simply introducing yourself to one or two people in your hostel when you arrive was a starting point for me. As my travels wore on, I got more comfortable talking to others, and had an infinitely better time than when I started. The people you meet along the way are the best part of the trip, and where most of your best memories will lie, so shake off the shyness and just say hi. I promise you won’t regret it.

2. Research.

I’m a huge procrastinator and the one in my friend group who tends to go with the flow most of the time. But, after standing in lines that were sometimes hours long to go to a museum, exhibit, or monument of some kind, I learned my lesson. Booking tickets in advance often saves you time and money. A couple minutes on your phone or computer and you’re all set. Win-win in my book. This is also useful when mapping out your travel route. Transportation around Europe was astoundingly cheap when I started booking things in advance instead of booking trains, buses, and planes the day before (okay the day of in most cases). Leave yourself some wiggle room though, for you’ll be surprised at which cities you’ll fall in love with-it’s often the ones you least except. (I’m lookin’ at you Prague.)

3. Explore.

The usual attractions in major cities are great, but it’s when you wander down forgotten paths and alleys that you truly discover a city’s hidden gems. In particular, if you’re looking for food that tastes like you’ve died and gone to heaven early, ask locals for recommendations in areas that aren’t heavily populated by tourists. Tour guides also often know of the best places to eat and go out, so be sure to ask for their advice. Bonus: Almost all of the city tours have a free walking tour (please make sure to tip if you’re impressed with the tour though, it’s how they make their living after all).

4. Be open with your head and heart.

Immerse yourself in new cultures and experiences, for this is a once in a lifetime adventure that most don’t have the ability to take. I firmly believe life is a journey of learning, so take on the role of a student and investigate everything you possibly can. Even those seemingly useless brochures hostels pass out-there’s actually some pretty cool stuff in there! Remember how lucky you are to see new corners of the world and remain gracious for this precious time you have in a foreign land. Open your heart to the world and I promise it will show you kindness and love back tenfold. TC mark

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