When I first started attempting to plan this trip, I gave little thought to the being alone part of it (to be quite honest, I didn’t give much thought to any part of it). However, now the reality’s beginning to sink in: I have almost two months of travelling around Australia on my own. It’s daunting, and the speed in which I flick between being paralysed with terror and paralysed with excitement is equivalent to the speed strobe lighting moves at. I started out in Melbourne: a safe bet, as I’ve got friends and family a phone call away, and even though it’s easily one of the best cities I’ve ever visited, the start of my stay there was a massive learning curve, fraught with tears and a large amount of willpower to not phone home, begging someone to come and get me (unlike Brownie Camp, aged 9).
Coping with homesickness
Homesickness and loneliness are funny feelings. It’s like bobbing around in the middle of a lake, with reeds caught around your leg: they’ve got you, and the more you struggle and the more worked up you get, the worse it is. All you can do is acknowledge their existence, and do your best to keep your head up. The best cures I’ve found so far include listening to songs that cheer you up or remind you of home; getting stuck into a book so good you can’t put it down; giving yourself a proverbial kick up the bum, staring out around you, and telling yourself you’re the other side of the world, so quit moaning and enjoy yourself.
Do your research
Now that I have approximately three friends in the southern hemisphere, TripAdvisor has quickly ascended up the ranks to position of best mate. Being alone has made me that more wary before booking into hostels, so instead of just judging a place on price and photos, I’ve started to do some proper research. Before I’ve booked into any hostel or gone to any attraction, I’ve spent half an hour or so scouting it out on TA, and reading in between the lines of the reviews (it’s quite blatant when a non-backpacker stays in a hostel). Similarly, other travel blogs are brilliant to get ideas from when you’re alone, and are often a lot more detailed than TA reviews.
As much as I may talk it up on my CV, organisation has never been one of my strong points. I’m great at getting to the point of being organised (i.e. making lists, colour-coding things, buying notebooks), but implementing my lists? Nuhuh, rarely happens. However, when you’re on your own, everything becomes your responsibility. When I was travelling with Sophie, there was two of us to remember our to-do list: what buses we had to book, dates for hostels, shopping lists, but now it’s just me, and if I don’t do it, no one does.
Ditch the bitchy-resting-face
Over the years, I’ve been told I have a ‘resting face’ (i.e. the face you pull when you’re not pulling a face, if you weren’t familiar with the term) that looks scared, worried, and like someone should smash a watermelon over it (personal favourite, obviously). However, when you’re on your own in a hostel, creepy-smiling face should become the default.
Nah, not quite, you don’t want to become the hostel’s resident Cheshire cat, but smiling rather than looking like a rabbit caught in the headlights is much more effective when it comes to making friends.
Yes is best
Obviously this is not the case if the question is ‘will you transport these class-A drugs across international borders’, but other than that just say yes. Hostels are great in that they’ll run organised trips and events, and most of these are either free, or incredibly cheap. Check out what’s being planned when you first arrive, and a make a note to slip some of their events into your schedule.
Learn to be happy on your alone
Now this I can do, most of the time anyway. I love wandering around at my own pace, stopping to read or write for a while, then carrying on when I fancy it. The ability to be independent, and not need anyone around is hard, and it’s taken me three years to get to this point (and I still have a long way to go), but it’s given me so much more freedom. Everyone reaches a point where they realise it’s 100% fine to be by themselves, and that actually you’re a pretty cool person, and worth hanging around with.
This is only my second-ish week of travelling alone, so if anyone has any tips, I’d love to hear them.