Preparing for a solo backpacking excursion often leads you down the foothills of the internet's travel blogosphere in preparation. You read itineraries, packing lists and "MUST SEEs" at each 📍 of the trip but you rarely encounter the emotional quandary of traveling alone.
It's typical to find a few catch all phrases about traveling alone such as "Good for the Soul" or "You learn a lot about yourself." While undoubtedly true, those adages fail to catch the daily mental monologue and emotional rollercoaster experienced when you feel the loneliness settle in or the ephemeral exuberance of finding a new friend.
I recently completed a 10 day trip solo backpacking trip through Colombia that began in Bogota, progressed to Cartagena, up the Colombian coast and then back to Bogota. While 10 days is a short backpacking trip, I called it "The Sampler" as I dove head first onto the backpacker trail for short stints at each spot along the way - immersing myself in the hostel universe.
The Phases of Solo Travel: My raw internal dialogue over the 10 day experience.
Feeling paranoid in a foreign land >> ok don't freak out, don't freak out, I shouldn't have done this >> ok if I don't meet anyone it will still be cool to see the sights, right? >> first friend, wow it feels refreshing to talk to someone other than my own inner voice >> ok, I'm not alone, we're all alone so we're all together, right? >> hey I recognize you from the other hostel, wanna go hiking together? >> i feel like a regular here, hey you, come join us >> I could get used to this lifestyle >> hmm what would it cost to do this for a full year? >> what's the cheapest way ever to get to that place two hours away? "Oh take the donkey to the bus to the path to the pond where the fisherman will pick you up and then you'll walk the remaining hour and a half..." Oh wait, I don't have to slum it, I'm only here for 10 days.>> the sad reality that you're just a passerby in the circulating carousel of backpackers >> the sad reality that you have to go back to your job and your life. >> That wasn't so scary, I never felt unsafe, I can conquer anything!