Getting up and moving to a new country for a year (or longer) can be disorienting and daunting. My perfect solution was to find someone to go with me. I thought it shouldn’t be too hard because I wanted to go to Australia and could see so much interest among my friends as I posed the question, explained the research I’d done on the visa and asked who wanted to go with me? Unfortunately, the friend most interested wanted me to postpone the trip for a whole year because she wanted to go Sailing in Mexico. I considered it very seriously. The program would still be there in a year and then I’d have someone familiar to travel with.
I never realized how happy I would be about deciding to go traveling solo. I arrived in Melbourne only knowing a cool couple I had emailed that had met an uncle through an online chat room. Through them I got connect with the local bush walking club (where I met my best friend) and cycled in charity events and around the Port Phillip Bay. Their friends also lent me supplies I needed for weekend trips bush walking in the mountains.
Then I went traveling about the country and it was all about me. I decided when I would go (often last minute) how long I would stay, and picked attractions to fit my time and budget. I was forced to consider my whims, and what was important to me. Sometimes it was just taking in the brochures and activities that looked cool, other times it was talking with other travelers. If I liked a town I’d just check with the hostel to see if they needed someone to make beds and I’d stay as long as I liked. If I met a cool bunch of people doing a van relocation I had the freedom to say yes or no. I often would meet people and travel with them for a few weeks before we went our separate ways.
I didn’t realize how much freedom that was until a dear friend came to travel with me. My beach and sun routine changed a lot with a non-swimmer (though thankfully Queensland has enough tourist that they’re set up to take non-swimmers on the Great Barrier Reef). I suddenly felt subconscious about exploring local trails with someone who had zero hiking experience, and my budget was blown to hell and back with due to my travel buddies insistence on sharing private rooms (which is nice because you don’t have to lock up your stuff) and much higher caliber food options. I also found my attention being sucked up by my travel buddy who is an introvert which resulted in me not being very social with other travelers.
It wasn’t all bad though, traveling with someone allows you to share the research of your trip. You have someone familiar and trusted to rent a car with and take a road trip (who you know will pay their fair share). There’s someone to walk with late at night when your bus drops you off in a new town to your hostel. Someone else to share the cooking with in the hostel kitchen with (though in my case that came with the need to wash all the dishes before and after use because of my partner’s OCD). You can also get some much needed privacy by renting a private room with two beds or sharing a bed in a private room (most hostels have both options) which means you won’t have to lock everything up (I’ve even had phone chargers stolen in share dorms).
I’m glad I got to do a bit of travel with and without someone I knew before I left. It really highlighted the pros and cons of each. My conclusion is that the pros are so strong you should never pass up an opportunity to go traveling because you would have to go by yourself.
The friend I had planning to go to Australia in a year’s time never went. I’d never trade the experience for anything ever! It was once in a lifetime, and I can’t wait to return (I didn’t get to go everywhere I wanted). Don’t wait for your friends, there is no time like the present and you’ll get to really meet the core of who you are traveling by yourself.