So the crucial factor in any travelling situation, let alone in a solo one, is this;
Do you, or do you not, go naked in the shower?
Yes, there are cubicles with doors and locks, there is privacy, there are also people; everywhere. But a bikini dousing is not enough. You just cannot get clean like that, besides which you then have a wet bikini to stick in your rucksack because it’s obviously chucking it down with rain outside so therefore it cannot dry in that elusive git; the sun.
If you are starkers, in nothing but a pair of flip-flops; dignity is taking a low blow in my book. Also, the ‘traveller towel’ you brought with you that allegedly dries itself does me no favours. Then, after the dignity-confused escapade into the worlds fastest shower, you have to get dressed in the wet cubicle, whilst maintaining flip-flop footing and balance, then choke to death on copious amounts of mozzie spray, cause lets face it, I’m a tasty treat, and then you also need to pee, but all your shit is in the cubicle with you, you have a definitely-not-self-drying towel loosely wrapped around your hair and there is most definitely no air con in the room so you are now rapidly melting and going bright red. Then there is the added pressure that you could be involved in some kind of shower safari whereby a fellow traveller, who if doing this is definitely a wanker, could pop his head over the top of the cubicle to have a gander at your goods. Then all mysticism and prowess of the body has disappeared, and been given to the sights to someone actively seeking out Goon* and throwing up in his capsule bed.
(*the box wine of Australia loved universally by travellers due to its cheapness in comparison to other drink and its ability to get you swiftly so fucked up your eyeballs might possibly fall out.)
The serious issues of a solo traveller.
However, besides the shower debacle, the most major and worrying problem with hostels and with solo travel, as many have experienced;
is the attempt to make friends.
Now this is a toughy, you have three options in this endeavour;
-Go balls deep. Talk to someone like you have actually known them for twenty years whilst they look at you like you’re mental.
-You wait until someone comes up to you (as happened in my case in Seminyak, Bali, as I obviously looked like a lonely puppy) and talks to you because they are a) in the same boat or b) have taken pity on you.
– Or the third option is you go sit with the loudest people in the communal area in the evening and dive straight into their conversation about travel ‘conquests’. These people tend to be British/Scottish/Australian, though realistically they are just the loudest and most probably the drunkest. They entertain the hostel masses with their latest forays into the unknown, later finding themselves paying out hefty sums for swift STD courses down the local health centre.
Of course not all backpackers are like this, but you will encounter these types. You will also meet numerous people covered in hemp, people who worked as unsuccessful estate agents at home and now find themselves as surfers consistently saying they are ‘stoked’ in their very middle class drawl, and also of course, lovely and unforgettable people.
There are also however, the beautiful girls who seem to be unaffected by communal living with their perfectly applied make up and straight hair (how?! I haven’t brushed my hair in three weeks) There are groups of friends travelling together who you will be jealous of, and will make you resent your friends at home for being actual grown ups and not coming with you as human safety blankets. There are groups of lads who have used this trip to reinvent themselves as casanovas and will pull out some blinding chat up lines in your direction.
You meet new people you never would of spoken to, in just a weeks of travelling I have already made friends from all over the world (look out guys, the cheddar will run out soon and I’ll be coming for your hospitality)
You also learn to love and also hate your own company. You think about all kinds of things you didn’t think about before. Massive cliché questions like ‘What the fuck am I doing with my life?’, you form plans for eco-friendly business ventures for when you get home that will never happen once you return to Starbucks, 4G and Topshop.
You question who the hell was that fuck-boy you spent years on only to learn your worth in a dumping text equal to or less than that of most fourteen year old boys. Don’t worry about this one you’ll meet nice guys who make you truly recognise your real worth, and also that the term ‘cockpocket’ completely suits that ex of yours.
You think about your family, your friends, your home. You miss them so much you look up flights on skyscanner wondering if its mega cheap to fly home for one day and come back so you don’t actually have to commit to grownupdom.
You change your clothes, you get tattoos, you get 30,000 mozzie bites. Some dickhead taxi driver kicks you out his cab in the arsehole of nowhere, a perv on a moped gropes your tit as he drives past you (don’t worry parents, this didn’t happen to me just other poor travellers, bless them) Local people become your good friends, you add everyone you ever meet on Facebook. You learn only one word in the local dialect- toilet. You devour Oreos like there is no tomorrow, you profess your intention to become a yoga master but NEVER actually do any yoga. You eat pancakes everyday and think the 3 strawberries on the top will sort you right out.
You face time people at home so they can see your sweaty, red, makeupless face. You stroke random dogs in the street (FYI not really a good idea in most places) because you are having dog withdrawal (then your mum freaks out thinking you are going to spend all your travel money on sending 20 puppies home), you think you can climb mountains but when the lift is broken in the 5-storey hostel you think you might die somewhere around the 3rd floor. You disregard every instinct in you to wear a helmet on a speeding moped that you have no experience on, but obviously don’t tell your parents about that. You wear a million bracelets, not a scrap of make up, don’t condition your hair in a month and feel the most beautiful you have ever felt in your entire life.
You dance until 5am in a sweaty club when at home you only lasted until 12:30 once a month. You see your new mate kiss a random local fella, and then you get home at 6am and order Maccy’s delivery (true story).
You have blessings in sacred temples and pray to gods you don’t know, you drink more local beer than you care to remember, you jump off waterfalls, you break your flip-flop half way through a night out and sellotape it to your foot; you do things you’ve never done before, things you’ve never even thought of.
You laugh your tits off, you cry in your capsule bed; and you generally, unequivocally and absolutely love life.
You fucking miss peanut butter though.
(God these two pictures are vastly different)
Solo travel is tough. Super tough, and I’m only at the beginning of it. But its freaking brill. You learn things about yourself you never knew, and you also reaffirm everything you did. You realise how lucky you are, how grateful you are, how happy you are, how unhappy things and people made you; and how a hangover is truly meant to feel.
But, you still don’t know shower rules, what the local currency even means, what day it is today, and what time it is at home.