Come one, come all. I’ve been on the road for over six years as a full-time solo backpacker, and I’ve come to spill all my secrets. Well, they’re not really secrets, but for those interested in starting their own backpacking journey around the world, you might want to learn a thing or two before you go. I knew practically nothing when I started solo traveling. I was a clueless little puppy just following random travelers around South America before finding my own footing.
It’s been quite the journey since I hit the road, one where I’ve experienced the highest of highs and one that’s been fraught with the lowest of lows. Life on the road is tougher than you think, but also easier than you think, if that makes sense. Does it? Probably not. What I’m trying to say is that it can be tough, but we are also a lot more capable than we give ourselves credit for. There will be challenges along the way, many that you’ve never faced before, and you’ll surprise yourself by getting through it just fine.
Truly the scariest part of starting your adventure is taking the leap in the first place. I used to never travel alone. I always tried to coax my friends to come with me. Eventually, I realized that if I wanted to go somewhere, I couldn’t wait around my whole life for people whose hearts were never in it in the first place.
I took that leap, booking my first solo trip to Colombia. What was initially meant to be a two-week trip turned into one that is still going on nearly six years down the road. Every single day was a learning experience, and every day remains a learning experience. About the world, about life, about other people, and most importantly, about yourself.
And hey, some of those learning experiences weren’t particularly fun. I got a brand new phone pickpocketed in Johannesburg. That experience came in handy a few years down the road as I watched amigo after amigo get their valuables removed during Carnival in Barranquilla. Not me, though. I was a veteran at not getting pickpocketed by then. Like I said, not all learning experiences are fun, especially when you find yourself alone in a foreign country. I’ve made dozens upon dozens of mistakes, and hopefully, this tell-all post can help you avoid making those same mistakes.
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Table of Contents
- Finding Affordable Flights
- Choosing Your Accommodation
- Making Friends as a Solo Traveler
- Getting Around At Your Destination
- Tips for Traveling on a Budget
- Finding Things To Do At Your Destination
- Staying Connected While Traveling
- Navigating While Traveling Internationally
- Group Travel vs. Solo Travel
- Volunteer Travel
- Travel Insurance
- Closing Thoughts
Finding Affordable Flights
Now, how are you going to get to your destination? If you’re not traveling too far from home, then maybe a bus or train will suffice. But, if you’re reading this, chances are you want to go on a big trip halfway across the globe with dreams of leaping out of your comfort zone and finding yourself along the way.
For flights, I use Google Flights religiously. It offers so much flexibility when searching. If you don’t know your dates, or even your destination, it is a great resource for finding an affordable travel destination. When you’re long-term backpacking, you often have flexibility with your itinerary. If you want to fly from Medellin to Lima on Monday, but the flights are $150 cheaper on Tuesdays, then it’s a no-brainer. Spend that extra night in Medellin and save yourself a big chunk of money. Just avoid going too hard on the aguardiente so that you don’t miss your flight. Now that’s an even more expensive mistake. Google Flights makes travel planning easy by showing you a calendar and what the cheapest flight of every day is.
And don’t even get me started on the explore feature. When traveling Europe, for example, it’s easy to find cheap international flights. You can hop on RyanAir for like $8 and fly halfway across the continent. When you don’t have a set plan, let Google Flights do the planning for you. Even if you do have a destination in mind, it’s also possible to use this feature to save some money. I was in Milan and I needed to fly to Cluj-Napoca, Romania for a festival. It was very expensive to fly to Cluj-Napoca, so I looked at nearby cities. A flight to Bucharest was $20. I had to take a long train from Bucharest to Cluj, but if I can save $300 on a flight by chilling on a train for 8 hours, I’ll take it.
Oh, and if you have a specific destination, use the explore function but set your destination city as your departure city. I did this for Pakistan because flights from the U.S. were well over a thousand dollars. I picked Lahore as my departure city and use the explore function to find out that I could fly from Dubai roundtrip for $200. Dubai is a much cheaper airport to fly to internationally than Lahore, so I leapfrogged my way to Dubai. I got the cheap flight to Pakistan and still had money leftover to enjoy a Mediterranean summer.
Choosing Your Accommodation
As a backpacker, Hostelworld is your best friend. There are a number of reasons why I prefer hostels to hotels and Airbnbs.
The Case For Hostels
Aside from the social standpoint, hostels are just much more affordable. To me, a bed is just a place to rest my head at night. It doesn’t matter where I sleep as long as I’m able to have the freedom and new experiences that come with traveling. Hate to say it, but freedom comes with money, and the less money you spend on accommodation, the more freedom you have to do other things. Depending where you are in the world, hostels can be as cheap as a few dollars a night. People ask me how I can afford to travel so often. Bro, I can’t afford not to. Rent back in the U.S. is what, like $1500 a month minimum to live anywhere worthwhile? I’mma chill on this hostel on a private island for $12 a night.
When searching for accommodation as a backpacker, Hostelworld is the only resource you’ll need.
The Case For Hotels and Airbnbs
Booking.com is a great tool, and you’ll often find great deals on hotel rooms. You’ll even find some hostels that don’t show up on Hostelworld. If I’m looking to switch it up and get some proper rest for a night, then I’ll hop on Booking and find a cheap hotel room. It’s also a great resource for destinations that don’t have hostels. When hiking in the Svaneti region of Georgia, only one hostel showed up for the entire region. Meanwhile, dozens of guesthouses popped up on Booking.com. Even if you don’t book anything, it’s a good way to check availability. Seeing how booked up guesthouses or hotels are gives you a general idea of whether you need to book in advance, or just rock up with your backpack and charm your way into a cheaper rate.
For longer stays and traveling with friends, I use Airbnb. Groups of friends can often get a nicer place all to themselves for the same price or cheaper than each one paying for a hostel bed. I’ve stayed in luxury apartments in Yerevan, Armenia for $75 a night split between three people. A bed in a shared dorm at the hostel in Yerevan would have cost us $40 each. While Airbnb may not typically be the first option on most budget travelers’ brains, it is worth scoping out. You’ll be surprised at what you can find.
You usually won’t have any trouble finding accommodation. The tricky part is choosing one. I prefer hostels for a number of reasons, but the biggest one is the social atmosphere. This is where hostels reign supreme.
Making Friends As A Solo Traveler
The best part about traveling is meeting new people and sharing unforgettable experiences together. Whether you’re solo traveling or with friends, hostels are a great place to find fellow travelers. I know it might be nerve-wracking walking into a hostel on your own and not knowing anybody.
However, the one thing I can tell you after six years of solo travel is this: everyone feels the same way. They also want to make friends, so they are much more open. But the first time you put yourself out there, I know the feeling, it is a big step. I still remember how I had to hype myself up before approaching a group of travelers at my first ever hostel. It was on the rooftop of La Brisa Loca in Santa Marta. I fiddled around on my phone across the terrace from a group of people huddled around a speaker. I was alone, but playing it cool and trying not to look lonely. I waited for a good song to come on before coming over and asking the name of the song. That was that. I needled my way into the group, and the next morning, I set off for Tayrona National Park with two brothers from Australia. Listening to Ocean by John Butler still takes me back.
You quickly realize that you’ve been worried for no reason. Making friends abroad? Super easy, don’t sweat it.
Someone walks into your shared hostel room? Just ask where they’re from and see where it goes from there. They’re likely just as eager to make new adventure buddies as you are. After all these years, it almost feels like a script I’ve rehearsed thousands of times, but it never gets old. Everyone asks the same questions, but the answers are never the same. Each person, including you, is as unique and interesting as the next stranger to occupy the top bunk. The people make the trip memorable, and adventures are often best when they’re shared with other people. Everyone’s in the same boat. Don’t overthink it.
Walking tours are another activity where you’ll often run into your fellow travelers. The tour guides can often be very engaging and involve the group, even if it’s as simple as making everyone say where they’re from. There’s a girl from Ecuador? What’s she doing all the way in Vietnam? Break the ice, and just start talking to people segueing with that one tidbit of information. Ask if anyone wants to go for a drink or a sunset adventure after the walking tour. More often than not, they’ll say yes, or suggest a different activity at a different time if they’re busy. Co-working spaces, cafes, bars, you’ll run into travelers everywhere. All it takes is a “hello” to turn that stranger into a lifelong travel buddy.
Other Ways to Meet People
Although I prefer making friends in person, the digital age has made it easier than ever to find travel buddies. The Hostelworld app even now has a chat where you can talk to the other travelers staying at your hostel. Everyone gets added to a group chat, so if you’re looking for pals to explore with, you can just drop a message in the hostel group chat and see what’s up. Facebook groups are another great way to meet people. It can be as easy as looking up “South America Backpackers” and then joining the group and seeing if anyone’s around or doing a similar route as you.
I’ve also recently become a big fan of using dating apps to meet locals. I’m pretty transparent on my profile that I’m just looking for local friends, and most of the time, I’ll get matches and messages everywhere I go. Usually, I’m met with curiosity like “what are you doing all the way in Gdansk?” and we go from there. Sometimes, it helps playing the naive tourist card and asking locals if they can show you around. Worst case scenario, you get a few local insider tips. Best case scenario, you get another stamp in your passport of loooove. Wink wink.
Getting Around When You’re At Your Destination
Okay, let’s get to the other “getting around”. You’ve flown to your destination, made some friends, and now you need to figure out how to get from place to place with your new travel buddies.
Using Ground Transportation (Buses and Trains)
For buses, Rome2Rio is a reliable resource in finding out the best way to get from Point A to Point B. Omio is another option for comparing trains, buses, and flights. I recommend these two especially for travel in Europe, or between major cities elsewhere on the globe. It often doesn’t include local buses from smaller villages, especially in destinations without much tourism infrastructure. For traveling overland, I use BusBud, RedBus, or FlixBus to look up timetables and itineraries. BusBud and RedBus are excellent in South America. FlixBus is an essential for bus travel in Europe, as is RegioJet for train travel. 12go is my go-to for Asia.
If nothing pops up on those websites for your intended destinations, then just ask around. Your fellow hostel mates may have just undergone a similar journey and can give you some tips. The hostel staff are always a great resource, as well. If not, just head over to the bus station and ask around. I’ve come to find that it can be as simple as rocking up and just saying your destination to any local. You’ll get ushered into a local bus or van and end up at your destination. That’s what I love about destinations like Albania or Georgia. There’s no seats to reserve or timetables. Just vibes and a guarantee that you’ll get to your destination one way or another.
Using Public Transportation Within A City
I’m a big walker. I love walking, and I’ll shamelessly admit that I’m the friend that lies to you about how far something is so that we don’t have to take a taxi or Uber to get there. Anything less than an hour’s walk away? Easy money. There’s a reason I average 20,000 steps a day, not to flex or anything. In general, I always pick accommodation that is centrally-located, or close to a public transportation station. This makes it easy to get to and from, and then walking should do the trick the rest of the way.
But when it doesn’t and wheels need to be called… Public transportation is my go-to. Always look into public transportation, especially in Europe and other pricier destinations where taxis and Ubers can cost a lot of money. Big cities in Europe have great public transport systems that are easy to use. Google Maps even has public transportation time tables for many cities now. Look into whether you can get a multi-day pass, as they’re often a better value than buying a ticket each time.
For other destinations with less-developed infrastructure, I still prefer to use public transportation. You’ll usually need a little bit of cash or some coins to pay up front, but it’s easy to use. Keep an eye on your offline map to make sure you get off where you need to. If the driver doesn’t speak English, just say or show the name of the place where you intend to get off. They’ll be sure to remind you when it’s time to get off. They always remember. It’s weird. Keep an eye on your belongings, and as they say in Colombia, no dar papaya.
Taxis, Ubers, and other apps
Sometimes, taxis are unavoidable. It’s 4 AM after a crazy night out and you have no other option to get home besides drunkenly walk in the cold darkness for two hours or shell out some money for a taxi. I’m not ashamed to admit I usually choose the first option. Before hailing a taxi and being at the mercy of whatever they want to charge, hop on Lyft or Uber and compare prices and order a ride if it’s cheaper.
In other countries, look into what the main ride-ordering app is. You’ll want BiTaksi in Istanbul, GG in Armenia, Gojek in Indonesia, Careem in Dubai, and so on. They’ll usually be cheaper and the drivers won’t be as predatory towards tourists. In Istanbul, the Ubers were the worst. They’d message you as soon as the ride is confirmed, ask you where you’re going, and then no matter if it’s a 5 minute ride or an hourlong one, it’s the same. They’ll tell you there’s too much traffic and ask for 10x the price of what the app shows. I’ve been asked for 250 euros for a 20-minute ride before. This never happened to me with BiTaksi, so always use the apps that the locals use.
If you’d like to save even more money, then hitchhiking is an option, if you’re comfortable with the idea. You can check hitchwiki for anecdotes from fellow travelers regarding how easy or how difficult it can be to hitchhike in a destination. I’ve had great success in the Balkans and more remote parts of Latin America, South East Asia, and the Middle East. Some regions just have a culture of hitchhiking, or helping out their fellow humans. Just trust your gut and you can save some money this way.
Top Tips for Traveling on a Budget
Saving money is the name of the game when you’re long-term backpacking. Here are a few of my top tips.
Stay at Hostels
Hostels are almost always the cheapest accommodation option. If you feel uncomfortable staying in hostels, test out the waters with a private room in a hostel. That way, you can take advantage of the common areas to meet other travelers while having a private space to go back to. Hostels these days can actually be quite nice. If you’ve never stayed in a hostel before, then Selina is a great hostel chain for beginner backpackers. They are gorgeous properties, and the rooms usually have privacy curtains on each bed. The only downside to Selina is that they tend to be pricier than local hostels and the crowd can often be more digital-nomad-y than backpacker-y. It’s basically luxury backpacking, but a good starting point to see if hostels are right for you.
Take Advantage of Public Transportation
On short holidays, I understand maximizing every minute. On longer-term trips, though, you’ll want to maximize how far your money goes. If hopping on a local bus takes 15 minutes longer but is $15 cheaper than a taxi, then take the local bus. Look into multi-day passes, or even ask at your hostel to see if anyone’s got a spare public transport card that they’re finished using. Taking taxis or Ubers everywhere quickly adds up. Walk or take public transport whenever you can.
Night Buses or Night Trains
It may be an uncomfortable night’s sleep, but taking a night bus or night train to your next destination kills two birds with one stone. It’ll save you a night of accommodation while getting you to your destination. In South East Asia and South America, sleeper buses can actually be quite comfortable. They’re equivalent to first-class flights, with lots of space and seats that sometimes fully recline. Taking a 12-hour day bus usually means wasting an entire day on a bus, and then just paying for a place to sleep that night anyway. A night bus gets you to your destination and allows you to start exploring right away.
Eat Local, or Cook Your Own Food
When you’re on vacation, eating out is just part of the fun. Treating yourself to nice, expensive meals is the norm. Forget all that. If you’re on the road long-term, one nice dinner can easily equate to 5-10 cheap local eats. Street food and hole-in-the-wall spots can be cheap, delicious, and a much more authentic cultural experience than dining somewhere bougie.
If you have a weak stomach, then try to book hostels or accommodation with a kitchen. Many hostels have common kitchens for travelers to use freely. Rice and pasta are some easy budget meals that’ll fill you up for hardly any money at all. Plus, the kitchen is a great place to make some new hostel friends.
Make Some Friends!
Speaking of friends, make some. Traveling solo is fun and liberating, but traveling with people can also be cheaper. Splitting taxis, private rooms, and sharing meals are all ways to cut costs with your new friends. Plus, new friends from all over the world is the best part of traveling!
Finding Things To Do While Traveling Abroad
Okay, let’s get away from boring logistics of traveling for a bit. The best part of traveling, aside from the people you meet, is the adventures and activities that you’ll remember for a lifetime. There are tons of resources for having a unique, unforgettable experience in a destination. I’ve shown up to many destinations without a lick of research and have had the best time.
Start With Your Hostel
When you first rock up, make sure to see what activities the hostel offers and ask the receptionist for any recommendations. Whether it’s a local hidden gem or a tasty bite to eat after a long journey, they’ll have at least a few ideas. The hostel staff are usually locals who have lived there for quite some time. They’ll know their stuff.
Next up, your fellow hostel mates. Ask the other travelers what they’ve done and whether they’d recommend it or not. Everyone has different priorities while traveling. Some people love the outdoors, others prefer museum hopping. Take each suggestion with a grain of salt, since every traveler is different, but this on-the-ground research is much more valuable than what any blog or listicle will tell you.
Those are great resources, too, though. Again, taken with a grain of salt because travel blogs can be outdated or catering to a specific type of traveler. You wouldn’t go to a luxury travel site if you’re looking for budget eats in a big city. Use your keywords wisely, as travel bloggers obsess over SEO, whatever that means. Search up things like “best free things to do in London” or “best archaeological sites near Cusco”. Don’t just browse through generic blog post after blog post after searching “things to do Amsterdam”. Search smarter, not harder.
Local Tour Agencies
What I’d recommend is to go to a local tour agency, see what tour offerings they have, walk out with a pamphlet, and then do some research back at the hostel. Most times, the “tours” are nothing more than transportation and entry fees, which you can cover yourself. Why pay $50 for a tour to the next town over when you can pay $2 roundtrip for the local bus? Browse through travel blogs, using keywords like “without a tour” and I guarantee there will be some quality resources detailing every step you’ll need to take to make it happen.
However, I can’t deny that the convenience of tours and the social setting of a group can be a good alternative. In destinations that are less-traveled, tour groups can be much more fun, diverse, and exciting. You think tour group, you generally think of big throngs of elderly white or Asian people rocking their safari outfits to go to a museum in Paris. In less-traveled destinations, the group can be much younger and more international. It’s a great way to make friends while traveling solo.
If a hostel offers tours, then book through them to guarantee that you’re with fellow travelers. If not, then GetYourGuide is a great platform to browse through tours and activities in a city. Even if you don’t actually book anything, it’s great for making a list of things to visit in a destination. I use GetYourGuide to book day trips outside of a city, but also to look up highlights in a city that I can visit myself. Tours that combine multiple destinations in one day are worth it just with the time and money saved from transportation alone. Those are the main types of tours that I’d recommend booking through a website like GetYourGuide or Viator. Some experiences on there are pretty unique, such as cooking classes and food tours, so you might be surprised to see what you’ll find on there.
For day trips, they also have the name of the tour agency that they partner with. If that agency has a website, physical location, or phone number, it’s a good idea to get in contact with them to book directly for the best rates. I won’t get any commission by telling you this hashtag travel hack, but you can buy me a beer to make up for it ;).
So checklist for when you show up completely clueless to a location. Chat with hostel staff, chat with your fellow travelers, read up on travel blogs, browse through GetYourGuide, and lastly, just go for an aimless wander and see what you’ll find. That’s the best way to explore a destination. I’ll sometimes have Google Maps or Maps.Me pulled up and see if I’m within walking distance to a point of interest. Besides that, just let your feet take you on an adventure.
Staying Connected While Traveling
I’ll admit, we definitely live in the digital age of traveling. It’s sad sometimes rocking up to a hostel looking to make friends and seeing that everyone’s just sitting on their phones or laptops. But I get it, the ‘gram has to be updated and your friends and family need to know what you’re up to. My first few years of traveling, I never bought SIM cards and often went long stretches without even having a phone. Those were courtesy of a pickpocket in Johannesburg, a volcanic crater lake in Nicaragua, and a drunken tubing adventure in Laos. I’d lose my phone and wouldn’t even sweat it. These days, losing my phone would be more catastrophic than losing my passport.
An app I love to use is WiFi Map. This app is basically a crowdsourced resource for WiFi passwords all over the world. The only annoying thing is you do need to already have data or internet to use it. However, it’s worth using a little bit of data to save a lot.
SIM cards are convenient to have, and usually pretty affordable. It really depends on the country you’re in, but in most countries, buying a SIM card is the cheapest way to stay connected while traveling abroad. There will usually be places to buy SIM cards at airports when you land. However, I’d recommend holding off until you’re in town so that you don’t get charged the inflated tourist prices.
SIM cards are great if you plan on staying in one country or one region long-term. I’d buy a SIM card for my month-long stay in Peru, for example, but would go SIM-free if I was just spending a few days crossing over Bosnia. Many providers offer regional SIM cards that work in multiple countries. If you’re backpacking through Europe and visiting a new country every few days, then there’s no need to buy a new SIM card for each one. Just make sure to buy a SIM card with coverage for all the countries you’re visiting, and you’re good to go.
Alternatives to SIM Cards
The annoying thing about SIM cards is having to get a new phone number. I used to get SIM cards for every country that I was in. My friend sent me a screenshot of my iMessage contact card on her phone and she had about 15 numbers saved for me. I almost exclusively use WhatsApp or Instagram for messaging these days because of it. Also, having to keep your tiny little SIM card and pray you don’t lose it while traveling is quite annoying.
An alternative to physical SIM cards is to download an eSIM app. If you’re device is eSIM compatible, this is a great option. I use the app Airalo, which allows you to purchase data plans for almost any country in the world. If I’m only in a country for a few days, like Albania or Bosnia, this is an amazing option to stay connected without having to commit to a SIM card. Even in countries where I stay longer-term, like Turkey, I used Airalo. The plans were very affordable, and even if they weren’t as cheap as an actual SIM card, it was worth it to keep my U.S. phone number and everything it was connected to. It even worked for me in Pakistan, a country that doesn’t allow foreigners to buy physical SIM cards.
It can be hit-or-miss, so depending on what country you’re in, you can decide whether it’s better to use an eSIM or purchase a physical SIM card. In Colombia, for example, it cost $9.50 USD for one gigabyte of data on Airalo. A physical SIM card would cost less than half that for 10 times the amount of data. In Turkey, it was cheaper to use Airalo than to purchase a SIM card and data plan. You can use my code ELIJAH933 to get $3 off your first eSIM with Airalo.
Raw-Dogging Without a SIM Card
I’m more than familiar with traveling without internet. My first backpacking trip through South East Asia, I didn’t even have a functioning phone. I did have a laptop, so I often found myself hopping into cafes and hotels whenever I needed WiFi. If you’re in a dire situation and desperate for internet, going to a cafe, restaurant, or hotel and using their wifi will usually suffice. A lot of cities will have public wifi areas, like central plazas in Latin America or bus and train stations in Europe.
You’ll come to find you don’t actually need Wifi. The stretches where I don’t often turn out to be some of the most memorable, especially those long backpacking trips into the mountains where it’s just you and nature. Try it out. Once you get the hang of traveling with limited cell service and wifi, you’ll find ways to fill your time.
Navigating While Traveling Internationally
Long-gone are the days of having bulky maps that are impossible to fold. Everything can be done from our phones now. When traveling, you can’t always count on having cell signal, so it’s important to have an app for offline maps.
The Best Offline Map Apps
Google Maps is my go-to when I have cell signal or Wi-Fi. Otherwise, it’s best to download an offline map. Google Maps has the capability to download offline maps, but they take up quite a bit of storage. The app I’d recommend would be Maps.Me, where you can download offline maps that show you only the most important bits.
It’s like a Wikipedia for travelers, since people can add their own points of interest and notable locations that might be relevant for travelers. This includes places you won’t find on Google Maps, like which random side road you need to go to to catch a local bus, or secret entrances to tourist attractions. It’s always an adventure, and my favorite memory with Maps.Me was seeing a place called “kill chicken yourself” while I was cycling in Phong Nha, Vietnam. Turns out, it was a restaurant where you could indeed, kill a chicken yourself. I kept on cycling.
For more outdoorsy destinations, I’d recommend getting an app like AllTrails. It shows you offline maps of hiking trails, and I’ve found it surprisingly useful in various destinations. I used it religiously while road-tripping through the United States, but it came in handy while doing a 4-day trek in Svaneti, Georgia and various destinations in Eastern Europe. It’s one of my essential road-tripping apps, but can be useful for international travel as well.
Group Travel vs. Solo Travel
My first international backpacking trip was solo, but before then, I had gone on two study abroad trips with my university. I’ve been a solo traveler ever since my travel blogging journey began, but I definitely can’t deny that going on those two study abroad trips gave me a feel for international travel. A lot of people are reluctant to take on international travel alone, which is very understandable. There are pros and cons to both group travel and solo travel.
The Case for Solo Travel
Leaving the country by yourself is a scary thing, but trust me when I say that you are a lot more capable than you think. Between that and the human kindness that I’ve realized is universal, it’s a lot easier to figure out international travel and get by the tough times than you’d expect. You don’t realize this until you’ve been on the road and have been faced with challenges that previous you would have absolutely dreaded.
Freedom is the biggest thing about solo travel for me. You don’t have to compromise your travel plans to stick with someone. If you feel like hanging out somewhere longer, you can. The options are limitless. I love meeting fellow travelers, but sometimes, you know when your time together has run its course. There’s no obligation to stick with a person, or in a hostel, or in a city. You literally can do whatever you want as a solo traveler.
It can be challenging and lonely at first, but once you get the hang of it, god dang is it liberating.
The Case For Group Travel
If you still have hesitancies about solo travel, group travel is an excellent way to dip your toes into backpacking. There are tons of group travel companies out there, but my favorite (besides my own group trips, of course) is TruTravels. They have their sh*t together and offer affordable trips in dream destinations from Peru to the Philippines. They invited me to travel with them on their 12-day Colombia Uncovered Tour and I had an amazing time.
I’ve also worked with Stoke Travel in the past, although my experience with them wasn’t one that I’d fully recommend. They are a very party-oriented group travel company, and oftentimes, the experience was dampened by our guide sleeping in til 2 PM and being too hungover to do his job. However, they offer lots of fun festival trips throughout Europe, so if you want to go to a festival but don’t have anyone to go with, Stoke Travel might be a good company for you. They’ve got one of the biggest Oktoberfest parties in the world. The trip I did with them was a Croatia sailing trip, and everyone on my boat will likely agree that the experience could have been better. So, I’d say if you want to actually experience travel while having fun with a great group and an amazing guide, go with TruTravels. If you want a fun group of people to party with at Europe’s best festivals, then Stoke Travel is a good option.
Other companies that I haven’t personally worked with are Contiki and G Adventures. Contiki is a more party-oriented company. G Adventures caters to travelers of all ages, so your group will have a more widespread demographic in terms of ages, backgrounds, and travel styles. TruTravels is the one I’d recommend most for people who want to get a taste of backpacking and see if it’s right for them. They also offer more high-end trips for travelers who might want to splurge a little more for nicer accommodation and private transportation.
Digital Nomad Group Travel
For travelers looking for a more digital nomad or remote work-oriented group travel experience, there are lots of companies out there for you. Wifi Artists, Remote Year, and Hacker Paradise are a few of the big ones. I’ve been invited to a few of these digital nomad programs, with Wifi Artists in Medellin and Mexico City, and with other companies in Bali and Cape Town. They are what you make of them. If you need to be in a good working environment for your job and prefer staying still in one destination as opposed to backpacking to several, this is a great option. I tend to get antsy and restless after a couple of weeks in one place, but I can’t deny that it’s a great set up for digital nomads and remote workers.
You can get $100 off of your Wifi Artists program by mentioning me (ThePartyingTraveler100) in your application.
Volunteer Travel (WorkAway, Worldpackers, etc)
Where many travelers get their start is as a volunteer. If you’ve backpacked before, you’ve likely stayed at a hostel where the majority of workers are volunteers. Basically, you’ll get a free bed and some free meals in exchange for working a few days a week. The work can range from bartending to working the front desk to housekeeping. One can usually ask around at hostels to see if they’re looking for volunteers. If you’ve got a cool skill, you can also offer that in place of housekeeping and changing gross hostel sheets all day. Social media and content creation has been my expertise long before I grew a following, so I’d often exchange photography and social media management in lieu of paying for accommodation.
We do live in the digital age now. While volunteering at hostels still an option, it’s also easier than ever to have the entire world at your fingertips. Websites like WorkAway and Worldpackers allow you to browse through hundreds of volunteer opportunities around the world. The options can truly be overwhelming. While the majority will involve housekeeping or manual labor, there are much more options these days. Do you want to be a social media manager in Estonia? Do you want to work at an animal sanctuary in South Africa? Volunteering can seem like picking some random things out of a hat, but more often than not, those opportunities are pretty dang cool.
You can use my code for Worldpackers to get $10 off your membership and start browsing for some epic volunteer opportunities around the world.
Travel Insurance: Is It Worth It?
I used to not travel with travel insurance, and looking back, I’ve been very lucky. I’ve done a lot of death-defying things without ever getting a scratch on me. I’ve had minimal things stolen and have had relatively good luck on my adventures. However, as I get older and have more disposable income, travel insurance is a must for me. It’s also a lot more affordable than I initially thought. I use SafetyWing to cover me as a full-time nomad for about $40 USD a month. It covers almost everywhere in the world. It’s a great alternative to health insurance since I’m hardly in the U.S. these days anyway.
You can look up more insurance providers that fit your travel style, but I think that SafetyWing is the best travel insurance for the typical traveler.
Travel is a beautiful chaos. You’ll be on cloud nine after finishing a 5-day trek to the World Wonder of Machu Picchu, then find yourself grasping for a wink of sleep on an airport floor the next night. There will be more nights of staying up until sunrise and mornings of waking up before sunrise than you’ve ever experienced before in your life. It’s not easy, but you’re no cupcake either. Every single moment on the road has been as challenging as it has been rewarding.
Keep an open mind, roll with the punches, and share a beer with the stranger from across the world. Travel is what makes life worth living.
I’ll keep this post as updated as often as I can with new things that come in handy while I’m on the road. Thanks for the read, and happy adventuring!
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