Backpacking and low budget travelling on your own is great!
There are many ways to not feeling lonely and to saving money. Plus, getting around is quite easy these days thanks to the Internet and Wi-Fi EVERYWHERE. It doesn’t matter whether you travel around via hitchhiking, interrailing or flying with budget airlines as well as camping, couchsurfing or hostel-hopping. Either way you meet people and probably still have some change left to buy something you don’t necessarily need.
What you can’t buy though is a great conversation. Once in a while we would like to enjoy one; maybe this is also part of our expectation when travelling. Expecting an unexpected and horizon widening and well considered conversation with someone we have just met. Sometimes you have to wait a long time to find someone like that. Sometimes it just happens.
Here is a theory:
99,99 % of travellers we meet are pretty open-minded at first sight. It’s easy to start a conversation with the typical (icebreaking-)questions, such as:
Where are you from?
How long have you been travelling?
How long are you going to travel?
Where have you been before?
Where are you going next?
How long are you staying?
Have you been here before?
What made you come here?
How did you get here?
What do you normally do – are you a student?
Depending on the number of participating travellers this can take all night or can be completed within less then 10 minutes. And then there may be silence.
And you think to yourself: „What’s next?“ As you don’t know each other you probably don’t ask too intimate questions about relationships, salary, illnesses, weaknesses.
At second sight, we’re all insecure, shy, introverted…because we are afraid of…of what actually?
I came across this behavior just a few weeks ago, when travelling a bit of Portugal. Except for my twisted ankle incident I had an awesome first week. That’s why I stayed even three more days and hung out with surf-fanatics. Same people, same place, same activity. We grew together and started talking about a lot of things other than surfing and waves. There was a lot of wordly wisdom we shared and philosophying about all and sundry.
But then I left.
My body was one big sore muscle and I was eager to see more of beautiful Portugal. So I went to Faro. And I stayed at a hostel called Casa d’Alagoa (recommendation!). And I quickly met people who invited me to join their group. And it was very nice. Well, yes, it was nice.
However, something was missing. Yes, we went through all of the above question. And yes, we even managed to go beyond. But there was always some kind of hesitance.
I made a very similar experience when I continued north to Lisbon. This was my last of three destinations and I decided to stay at the same hostel as in 2009: Yes! Hostel Lisbon. Last time I stayed, it had just opened and the elevator wasn’t working yet. So three years later, I was curios how it had changed. Well, the elevator did work but I always took the stairs to the second floor. If my dorm had been in the fifth…waaaay different story ^-^
As I said, I felt a bit of a déjà-vu here and maybe even worse: I felt old. I met travellers ten years younger than me saying that they find it cool that people like me (my age) still go backpacking and stay at hostels. They wanted to be like that, too, ten years from now. Ouch!
Maybe – I have to admit – I was also tired and spoiled after 9 days in surf-paradise. Maybe, I wasn’t in the mood of getting to know new people every day over and over again and I didn’t feel like pubcrawling every night. Also I didn’t join all the organized activities, because:
a) I’ve done most of the touristy stuff 3 years ago and
b) I cannot enjoy „mass treatment“.
I prefer the „hard way“ – try reading a map, try not to know where you are, try to talk to locals. You would probably not opt for that if you’re sightseeing in a huge group.
So two very legitimate question are:
Is it me, travelling all by myself, having too high expectations? Or:
Is it that travelling – especially for backpackers – has become one big superficial party where you don’t need a map and just count off the number of countries you’ve been to at a young age?
Yes, I know, there is no right and no wrong way of travelling. Everyone has a preference and enjoys many ways of travelling. Most importantly and what we all have in common is that we all like to experience something new.
However, because I still couldn’t figure it out: Who should start the „real“ conversation first? And how do you leave a conversation that you don’t feel capable of participating in? How long can you convince yourself to follow a traveller talk because you are waiting for it to enter the „real deal“?
I hope to find the answers someday. For that and for all the other great experience, I will of course continue travelling.
For more impressions, feel free to have a look here: bitly.com/PJ3YLi
Be aware of at least one not so considerable photo.