In January 2018, I embarked on the epic solo backpacking trip of a lifetime, traveling around Southeast Asia for two months before reaching Australia and New Zealand, where I spent a year in each country thanks to their working holiday visa programs.
For most of that time, I carried everything I needed in my trusty purple backpack and a smaller hand-sized bag for my laptop and other essentials. I embraced the backpacker lifestyle, keeping only what I needed and buying clothes that were of great use to me. Gone are my days of repacking because I knew I would have to lug it around.
While backpacking isn’t for everyone, there are a few things you can do to make your first date easier. Here are three things I learned during my long-term adventure that you can apply to any backpacking trip, even if it’s just a few weeks.
Choose the right backpack
In hindsight, this is something I probably should have done more research on at the time, but I managed to make it work. After reading a ton of articles and reviews online, I finally settled on a beautiful Purple High Sierra 55 Liter Women’s Backpack that I picked up for $75 on Amazon. I bought packing cubes — which allow you to fit a lot more in there, especially if you’re folding and rolling your clothes — and tested it out on a shorter trip a few months before I left.
Backpacks come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from 30 liters to 80 liters, so you really need to think about how much you want to carry. They can also be quite expensive depending on how many bells and whistles you want. REI’s website was a great resource for learning about the different types of frames, straps, straps, and other structural details that go into making your backpack as comfortable as possible. You can also try something on in a store to get a better idea of how to properly size things. Choose the one that suits you best, get used to wearing it before the big trip and you’ll be good to go.
Diversify your accommodation
Hotels are great for shorter trips, but if you’re traveling alone, things can get pretty quiet. Staying out of hotels – either by camping, opting for hostels and shared Airbnbs (instead of renting the whole place), or house sitting – opens you up to meeting more people and having some truly memorable travel experiences. In doing so, I learned to slow down, connect with my fellow travelers, befriend the locals who shared their homes with me and the neighbors I met while pet sitting, and most importantly, let my journey unfold rather than I try to plan every other one of those.
Not only that, but you’ll probably have a safe place to stash your backpack no matter what time you get there. Most hostels have lockers or other safe spaces for just this purpose, while hotels usually offer something similar if you arrive before check-in or need to stash your belongings after check-out. Hostels almost always have laundry facilities, so that’s one less thing to worry about during your big adventure.
Remember: it’s okay to splurge sometimes
Saving money is always a good thing, but it’s okay to splurge every now and then, especially if it will greatly improve the quality of your trip. Instead of suffering through a rough night on a cramped night bus, see if there’s a more spacious option like a train that will get you there, even if it costs a bit more. If you’re tired of noisy hostel roommates, look for a private room so you can still enjoy the atmosphere but get a better night’s sleep. While I wouldn’t advocate doing this a lot, it can be a real sanity saver in the long run, especially if you only have so much time in each place.
Above all, enjoy yourself – this is your solo adventure after all – and remember to extend some grace when things don’t go as planned. Anything can happen, so it’s important to learn to roll with the punches and make the best of things, wherever you are.
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