Three months ago, I hopped on a plane with no return ticket and headed to New Zealand for what would be the start of a long journey around Oceania, Asia, and beyond. This is my first ever backpacking trip completely on my own and has been on my bucket list for the past decade.
Anyone who knows me knows that traveling is my deepest passion, and I aspire to see as much of the world as I possibly can. The fact that I am currently living out this dream of mine right now overwhelms me with gratitude, and all I want to do is show others that, if they desire, they can do it too!
Here is what I’ve learned so far during those first 3 months.
1.You will lose all sense of time and never know what day of the week it is until you see a random post on the gram saying, “TGIF!” and think, oh dang, already?
2. The little things you worried about before you boarded that plane suddenly become completely insignificant.
3. You become less needy, more resourceful, willing to put up with less BS, and learn to rely on yourself more than ever.
4. You also learn how to let things roll off your shoulders more easily. Things are going to go wrong, it’s just inevitable… whether that be your phone getting stolen, losing your passport, eating something that makes you sleep next to a toilet that night, suddenly going deaf in your right ear (currently me right now)… All you can do is deal with it, then MOVE ON.
5. You become a pro at talking to new people and see that it’s way easier than you thought to meet others to go on adventures with while traveling solo. You’re never alone for long.
6. Which makes you grow to truly value your alone time more than you ever thought possible.
7. Solo female travelers are SUPER common (even more so than solo men in my experience) and each one is so inspiring! They all have similar stories of how they were each warned of the dangers of traveling alone, yet they were each tired of waiting for someone to join them and got on the plane anyway. No matter what their age or which country they came from, because of this common aspect, we instantly understand each other.
8. However, you quickly learn not to get too attached to the new friends you make because they will likely not be with you for long…
9. Yet at the same time it is very common to run into familiar faces while traveling again down the road. 😊
10. You now know exactly what to look for when choosing your next hostel or accommodation. Location, locker security, spacious kitchen, hot water in the showers, decent wifi, a friendly vibe… it all matters.
11. Make a plan, but never over plan. Things will arise, both good and bad, that will be out of your control. Plus spontaneous adventures usually end with the best stories to tell someday.
12. You become used to sleeping in a room full of new strangers every night.
13. Yet a private room is necessary every once in awhile for the sake of your sanity.
14. Lazy days where you do nothing but watch TV, journal, do laundry, nap, etc. are vital to your mental health.
15. You become a braver version of yourself, someone willing you take more risks and experience new firsts: like skydiving, bungy jumping, or going on a 4 hour night hike at 2 in the morning. It will all be worth it though.
16. You will eventually get so sick of wearing the same clothes over & over, plus you will develop a love/hate relationship with your backpack.
17. You become less attached to your personal possessions; if something is weighing you down or not getting used, you can easily ditch it in the hostel donation bin. Maybe someone else will get some use out of it.
18. You wonder how you’re ever going to go back home to a life where you lived with SO. MUCH. STUFF.
19. You learn how to make your meals super fast that way you can quickly get out of a hostel kitchen. Hostel kitchen during peak meal times = hell on earth.
20. When eating out is too expensive (like in New Zealand and Australia), you will pretty much live off of pasta, oatmeal, and bread just to get by.
21. You become a human exchange rate calculator and rely on your phone less and less.
22. You learn patience like no other — your room isn’t clean yet so you can’t check in, your flight got delayed, the bus is late, you’re stuck in traffic — the endless waiting never stops, but it doesn’t bother you as much anymore. You allow yourself to wait and just be. After all, what’s the rush?
23. You realize every penny counts which causes you to make more responsible decisions like sacrificing nights out getting drunk in exchange for something more valuable to you like a private room or a day tour you really want to do.
24. You learn to make creative meals with anything left behind in the “free food” kitchen shelf in your hostel. “Guacamole and rice tonight? Let’s DO IT.”
25. You will randomly smell whiffs of B.O. in your hostel and wonder if it’s actually you.
26. You realize you’re not going to fall in love with every new place you visit.
27. But you will find something to admire about each of those new places.
28. You will not click with EVERY traveler you meet.
29. You learn how to perfect your “resting bitch face” in certain times that call for it.
30. “Backpacker hair” is now the norm. No matter how many times you wash it. It just constantly looks like a tangly greaseball that you have given up on.
31. You forget what it feels like to ever feel truly clean, even after you literally just showered.
32. And you forget what it’s like to feel completely in your element. Your element is back at home where you left your comfort zone.
33. Most travelers you meet are going to be a lot younger than you, and they are going to think that anyone older than 25 is “old” 😂
34. You realize you took your daily routine back home for granted, yet at the same time, this new backpacking lifestyle has become your NEW routine. And it’s not so bad.
35. Sometimes it’s ok to indulge in things you could easily do back at home (like going to the movies or a concert or getting your hair styled) just to bring a bit of normalcy back into your hectic travel day-to-day.
36. Social media will make you think you’re missing out from important things back home, but you’re really not. Home will always be there, and everything will be as you left it.
37. You gain a huge respect for people who live the nomad lifestyle every year; traveling without a home base is hard! Even more so if you’re solo.
38. You realize that travel bloggers who make their life look like a dream are really dealing with a 💩 ton of travel fatigue, stress, loneliness and self-doubt and that it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.
39. Never underestimate a call from your mom or best friend to help lift your spirits when you feel like you’re in a funk.
40. You meet tons and tons of people and travelers from all over the world and realize we are each more alike than we are different. We’re all just humans seeking real connections and wanting to see more of this planet while we still have time left.
41. You feel like you’ve been away forever, yet at the same time, 3 months isn’t that much time at all. You’ve still got a long way to go.