Solo travel changes you. It makes you ballsy, street smart and independent. Well, welcome to the other side – the gross, unpalatable and bat shit crazy one.
You will learn to poop and pee anywhere!
Balancing strangely on dirty public toilets, using newspaper as toilet paper, feeling the breeze on your bare bum- you’ll get used to all of this. Peeing in the wild is my favourite! The sense of freedom and release (pun intended) is unparalleled! To hell with clean enclosed spaces where you can touch your bum to the toilet seat without squirming.
You’ll become a master at your own sign language.
A lot of people will not understand English if you are traipsing around less popular places. Eventually you will develop a set of signs that only you know but that communicate the message perfectly. I for instance realised over time that pointing at your crotch, holding up your pinkie and shaking your leg furiously all at the same time is a sure shot way of communicating that you would like the bus to stop so you can take a leak.
Sleep is a luxury.
This can be a bitch. Every night you are in a strange place, surrounded by strangers. Either you are too excited to be able to fall asleep or too excited to catch a beautiful sunrise. Like this beauty which I thankfully woke up in time for.
You will learn to sleep anywhere
This is as true as the previous point. You will learn to take power naps anywhere! I almost fell asleep while sitting on the backseat of a running motorbike once. Power naps at strange times and places are a backpackers’ birthright.
You might face racism
Yes hard as it may be to believe some people are still so racist out there. One moment you are the ‘exotic’ girl from India a second later you are the ‘girl who wants to steal my sunbed.’ For some it’s even worse! Locals stop and take pictures like you are an alien with phantom limbs growing out of your skull.
The stereotyping is crazy too! If you are British you are loud in big groups, if you are Australian you are much too happy, if you are French you are snobby, if you are Indian you are an incomprehensible bobblehead, if you are American well everyone hates Americans and they know it. Canadians on the other hand are a huge favourite!
You will end up writing 100 postcards.
For those of you like me who miss writing and receiving letters, writing postcards to people from countries you are backpacking in, is the best feeling. They are pretty cheap to buy, stamps might be a bit expensive but the amazeballs feeling of sending a post card will make up for it! Sometimes hostels have a letterbox where you can drop in your post cards and they post it for you, if not, just head to a post office and mail them in the good old fashioned way.
You will get over food hang-ups and you will end up eating in the most unlikely places.
Despite what the popular misconception may be, local food doesn’t always give you an upset stomach. Go out there and try as much of the local cuisine as you can. It is the best way to explore a culture! Scoop that snail, slurp that oyster!
You will end up sharing a lot.
When traveling your defences are down. You have the liberty of becoming anyone you want to be and sharing things really close to your heart without any fear of judgment because these are people you know you may never meet again. You will be surprised how you can open your heart out to strangers the way you cant to people you have known your whole life. It is an amazing cathartic experience.
Sometimes you will just be grateful that you have a roof above your head.
Checking for bedbugs, sleeping on dirty pillows and waking up at 4am to drunk dorm mates will seem perfectly normal.
You will learn that nothing is the end of the world.
If you are in a scary situation, be open. Do not hesitate to ask for help. You will be surprised how helpful people can be. No matter how bad the situation you will eventually get out of it and get something out of it.
You will end up believing in Backpacker’s karma.
You’ll help other backpackers out, whether it is a dodgy ATM machine that swallowed a card, a terrible hangover or malaria pill induced delirium- you will become a generous, helpful person cuz you know how it feels to be in their place.You will share your travel hacks and learn some along the way.
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