If there’s one place you haven’t been to in the world and should, it’s Aus. Everything about it I adore; the sunshine, the lifestyle, the beauty.
I was lucky enough to have eight glorious months in Australia last year and came home with not only a killer tan, but with friends for life, a newly found confidence and an Aussie twang to my voice I didn’t even realise I’d picked up. It was an amazing journey. When people ask who I went with many are surprised to learn it was a solo venture. And several of my friends or even friends of friends have asked me questions about it; where to go, what to do, how to go about it alone?
There are many travel companies which offer all-inclusive travel packages (accommodation, transport, tours, you name it) aimed at young solo backpackers. And they are tempting; it seems like the perfect solution when you’re unsure of where to go, what to do and how to make friends. It makes the unknown a bit less unknown. It makes you feel more secure. But it is just that: the easy option. And I am so glad I did not arrange my travels through a company who made my plans for me. Be brave. Planning your travel yourself is so much easier (and better) than you think.
First thing’s first:
Where to go?
Australia is so vast. The whole of Europe, the entire continent, fits into Australia. The UK alone fits into Australia over thirty one times. It can be very overwhelming trying to decide where to go, but do not overthink this. There are two important things to remember when deciding where to go.
1. Don’t even try to see it all. To see everything properly and not just the superficial surface view? Well, you won’t. Not realistically. Not fully. If you want to see the real Australia and appreciate the history, culture and lifestyle, you’re going to have to compromise on what you see.
2. Your plans will probably change anyway. You have no idea how you will feel about a place until you are there. Don’t try and organise yourself an exact itinerary; everything depends on the people you meet and the vibes you get from each destination.
The choice on where you want to go is entirely yours, so research research research. Due to the vastness of the country, each state is completely different. Your best bet is to choose a main route that interests you, be that the east coast, west coast or outback and Northern Territory. Somewhere to start. The most popular backpacker route is probably the east coast. This comes with advantages and disadvantages: you will meet a lot of like-minded people and it is very much tailored to travellers with great bus links and many hostels, but it is more “touristy”. Ultimately, the decision is yours and yours alone, but if you’re nervous the east coast is a great place to find your feet.
More posts on exactly where I went and what I did in each place are to follow, so watch this space! Once you’ve decided on a rough route, the next question follows:
How do you organise this?
Simple answer here: don’t. In fact, this is my rule number one of travelling: nothing about your time should be set in stone. If time is available, leave your options open. I really cannot stress this enough. Once your plans are set, whether by yourself or through a tour group, they are set. So my advice would be to book as little as you can in advance. Trust me.
When I went to Aus the one thing I wanted to tick off my list before I got home was travel the east coast. But the ins and outs of this? I had no idea. My flights were the only thing I had booked when I left the UK. Everything in between was a mystery. My time in Noosa is a prime example of when I was so grateful for being ‘disorganised’. I was planning to go for a week of surfing lessons, but six weeks later I was still there working in a hostel with the best group of people I could ever meet. I also ended up venturing to Perth and the west coast, which I had not the slightest interest in before setting off, but loved to absolute pieces. If I had organised everything to the last detail this would never have happened. Ultimately, set plans equals missed opportunities. Sometimes it just good to see where life takes you.
The fab thing about the land of down under is that this last minute lifestyle is an option. One morning in Sydney I woke up and felt like I was ready to go to Byron Bay, so I booked a bus and a few nights at a hostel: fifteen hours later, I was there. The bus company you should use is Greyhound coaches. Greyhound offer hop on hop off travel passes which last a number of months and go between most places. I bought a pass from Sydney to Cairns which was valid for three months and each individual journey is booked as and when. If you want to leave your options completely open, a kilometre pass may work better; you pay for a certain number of kilometres and can book onto any journey until you’ve done your distance, assuming they have routes between the two destinations. Hostels also can be left until the last minute the majority of the time. Extending your stay is also pretty easy, though be prepared to have to move rooms.
Being a solo traveller makes this ‘flexibility factor’ a thousand times easier: you have no one to worry about but yourself. Absolutely nothing holds you down. So while having a friend share your adventure with you may seems appealing, if I was to go again there is no one I’d want with me other than myself. Go solo. You can get up and decide exactly what you want to do with your day. And whatever you decide you will always find someone who wants to do it with you.
This leads to the third question people always ask:
How do you meet people? What if you make no friends?
This is a completely unnecessary worry. For those who are scared they won’t meet people, hostels are full of like-minded people. Whether you spend the day together or go travelling for a few weeks together, you’ll find people who have the same ideas as you. The reason these friends make better travel buddies than your best friends from home? You are under no obligation to them, and them under no obligation to you. You can have two weeks together and the most fantastic time. But when you decide you’re ready to explore somewhere else and they need some more time in your current destination? That’s cool. You both appreciate the time and the memories you’ve had together, exchange contacts so you could arrange to meet back up, and wish them the best of luck with their travels. No ties.
The second reason why going solo turns out for the best is that you will make more friends if you are alone because you have to. You are thrown into a new country with no one you know. You are forced to be sociable. You will talk to as many people as you can. You will gain so much confidence. You will gain so many more friends. You just have to take that leap and jump into the deep end.
Part of travelling is that it makes you nervous. It’s exciting and new and unknown, and so maybe it should just be left that way. Embrace each day as it comes, never turn down an opportunity, and see where you end up. Step out of your comfort zone; the mystery is all part of the fun. If you wait for someone else to travel with you, you may never go. As John Mayer once said:
“Don’t be scared to walk alone. Don’t be scared to like it.”
So pack your bags and go solo. It doesn’t matter that you don’t know the ins and outs of where you’re going, only that you’re going somewhere.