I tested the waters last December to see exactly how I would like traveling solo.
A story my Dad told me (we’ll save the details for a later post) got me interested in traveling at the age of 6. Why? Because when you’re a kid, whatever your Dad does is immediately exactly what you want to do. Since then, I’ve been keen to see new places. Fortunately, I have had a few opportunities along the way to see what it was all about.
Trips to Aruba, Spain, Scotland and Germany between the ages of 8 and 18 intrigued me to see more of the world, and as cliché as it sounds, I think at some point everyone must explore it.
Our world is incredibly beautiful and diverse, and there is so much more to it than just the United States. There’s a vast world outside of the US that will help shape who you are, should you have the time to really explore it. As sad as it may be for some of you to hear, the United States is not the only country of importance in the world. It is but a small piece of a much grander destination, a destination I plan to see as much of in my lifetime as possible.
In 2014, I was lucky enough to add 3 new “been there, done that” destinations to my list. Now, “been there, done that” implies these were places I’d never go back to. I’ve seen what these countries had to offer, and I’m disinterested in returning for more.
Fortunately, my feeling is quite the opposite. Denmark, the Netherlands, and Australia were added to my list this year (in addition to Germany which I’d been to previously), and all three of these destinations are definitely places I would go back to in a heartbeat. Each offers a different experience; from fine dining on the canals of Copenhagen, to hiking the countryside of the Netherlands, and scuba diving the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. These three unique locations are a must if you’re looking for safe, westernized destinations for your next vacation.
My Decision to Resign and Travel Instead
I toured Denmark and the Netherlands last spring which first jump started my motivation to take a full year off to travel. At the time, I knew it was a bit unrealistic to try during 2014, as I’d only been at my first job for a year-and-a-half and still needed more money. However, after two years of work and a bit of saving, a full year seemed a bit more realistic. In what seemed to be an act of fate, a December work trip to Australia became the perfect trial phase for me on traveling alone.
I’d never traveled solo before so I was nervous checking into my first hostel in Melbourne. Through this experience however, I quickly realized that solo travel was exactly what I had been wanting to do for a long time.
When my friends (and friends of those friends) learned that I traveled alone, the most common questions I received were, “Where did you stay?” and “Did you meet people along the way?” I’ll answer those with two statements: hostels are great, and people are even greater.
Yes, I stayed in hostels along the way. Everything from the bustling Melbourne hostel across the street from Flinders Station, to the “club” hostel with a bar on every floor, to the small, quiet hostel in the Potts Point district of Sydney. Most international hostels are actually very nice despite what most Americans believe. The negative connotation associated with hostels comes more from US hostels themselves; it’s not common for younger people to travel internationally, and thus most people really don’t have a good understanding of how a hostel works. Sure, there could be a bad one along the way, but with a little research and maybe a few extra bucks, you’ll feel right at home in most.
It seems many US hostels end up getting used by the wrong type of people. They have a reputation for being unsafe and dirty because of the crowd of the types of people that tend to reside there. On the contrary, international hostels are much more likely to house a hundred 20-somes with little money, a big backpack, and an itch to explore. And you know what? All of them are just as concerned about finding a clean, safe, and comfortable hostel as you are.
The people you meet along the way in the hostels are some of the most friendly individuals you’ll come in contact with outside the Midwest of the United States (I may be bias, though, because that’s where I’ve lived my whole life). No one actually wants to travel completely alone, and even though you may have left home by yourself, you’re going to meet loads of amazing new friends.
You quickly become best friends with the kid from Austria sleeping above you in the bunk bed who’s getting home at 5 am and sleeping until 3 pm, or the quiet Japanese girl who’s content tagging along on a day trip with you just for the company.
In what other place would you ever become friends with people like that? You may have nothing in common, but when you’re traveling, you need to be open to meeting people you’d never otherwise associate with. Everyone will find they’re more open to other cultures once they’re immersed by groups of people who are very different from themselves.
So, what was it about traveling in Australia for a week and a half alone that finally pushed me over the edge to want to do it for an entire year? I Want The Stories.
When I’m old and decrepit, I want to look back on my time traveling and recount the memories. I want my kids to be able to ask me about the time I hiked 6 miles up a river in the jungles of Thailand to get back to the nearest town for fresh water. I want my grandkids to know about the time I first scuba dove in the Great Barrier Reef and witnessed one of the most supreme sights imagineable. And I want them all to be able to do it too and share the stories with me while I’m sipping oxygen in my bed at the nursing home 60 years from now.
Join me over the next year as I create these new moments, and if you want, come meet me along the way and we can create a few new ones together.