At 18, I decided to dedicate my life to backpacking the world.
I travel alone, with no plans, no end dates, no expectations, a tight budget, my rucksack and camera.
I have immersed myself in exploring the world, on a journey of the unknown.
(10 min read)
Over the past 5 years, I’ve extensively explored hundreds of places across five continents. Discovering wonders of the world, foreign communities, diverse people, fascinating cultures and traditions completely different to mine. Choosing carefully what I spend my money on, prioritising travel funds over home luxuries and simply working hard for what I want in life, I have no secret help and do not get paid to travel. It’s taken many choices and sacrifices into having this lifestyle and having the freedom and time to travel.
Traveling alone separates us travellers to the rest of the world. No working phone number, no set address, no easy connection with internet and no one to rely on.
Days filled with wondering and floating in new places. Guessing and adapting to constant changes. No idea on what I am getting myself into, but wanting to find out.
Running wild and free.
I get to see unusual and distinctive ways of living. Observing backgrounds, upbringings, beliefs and traditions opposite to what I am used to. Discovering how the rest of the world lives and being alone lets me fully involve myself into my travels.
Hopefully, I have a healthy, fulfilling life ahead of me with further lessons, experiences, memories and changes to endure. I am still young and can only talk about my own experiences.
‘What’s it like?’ you ask.
Heart-breaking, eye-opening, agonizing, exhausting and crucial.
I’ve seen evil, witnessed poverty at the extreme, heard truly horrific stories and met people who have lived deeply difficult and demanding lives. Humankind with everything and others, with nothing. Stared danger in the face and found myself in tricky situations. Slept in countless beds sharing rooms with people from every part of the world. Had my heart broken having to leave places and people I have fallen in love with. Witnessing first hand the struggles of life and the seriously unfair and illogical problems of the world.
Living with one rucksack and minimal possessions, cheap and cheerful has to do – it’s all part of the journey.
I don’t choose who I sleep in a room with, occasionally I have no idea what I am eating or where I am sleeping that night and often feel confused. I spend a lot of time alone, away from the internet and away from normality.
I have to rely on trusting strangers, trusting other peoples methods and judgments, on trusting everything will be ok.
But no one said it would be easy.
All sounds a little crappy?
Wait. Let me get to the good bit…
Traveling the world alone has taught me the most fascinating, wonderful, enchanting and exquisite things about the true beauty we have in this world. Planet earth is weird and wonderful and there is a lot going on.
It’s has shown me everything but the news; the ways of everyday living, in my opinion, seeing a more genuine, less filtered version of this crazy world we live in. I am here to witness both the good and bad. To open and broaden my mind and understanding of this place we all call home.
I have seen wonders of the world, become friends with citizens from every country. I’ve observed hundreds of fascinating animals, heard extraordinary stories, learnt to scuba dive, skydived for free over the great barrier reef, eaten countless, crazy local foods, seen the worlds most epic landscapes, hiked canyons and mountains and simply felt alive.
I’ve had feelings of ultimate highs, feeling free and satisfied, remarkably happy and healthy. Yes, I definitely get lonely, confused and occasionally have tough, emotional days, but it’s all part of the travel journal, part of life.
The world is unfair.
To have a British passport; to have English as my native language; to have a supporting and loving family at home waiting for me are things I didn’t earn. People I meet all over the world don’t have this.
Simply because I am a British female, I rarely encounter problems. I don’t seem suspicious, I don’t get questioned crossing borders, I am not interrogated to simply enter a country and have most people able to speak my own language.
I have met many people who will not be given the chance to travel like I do, purely on what country they are from. I have learned how unfair things are but the gratitude I now have my for background, upbringing and the chance to simply be alive has only increased. Traveling the world alone has taught me to look at things in a positive way; what I value, what to appreciate, and the privileges I have.
As has my appreciation of the dynamics of communication.
I’m living and communicating with locals who have never even met a person out of their race or community, let alone speak English. A smile is a universal language and it’s amazing what you learn and how to communicate without speaking.
The lessons of communication, eye contact, body language, and speech are confusing, sometimes draining and can feel bloody silly but the beauty of human contact and communication is an art form in itself.
Remember, most locals haven’t left their own country. I get a chance to hear their opinions and how they feel about places. I can see what their society shows them and what they call normal, which can be the complete opposite of mine. It is easy to forget that you are representing your country when you travel, these people will automatically relate you as a person to your country, that’s all they can do.
I have a greed for freedom.
I genuinely feel I may have ruined my future due to my current lifestyle. I’m aware I have less commitments and obligations to most, and many think my life isn’t ‘reality’. Let me tell you. Yes it is. It’s just different to yours.
I am so used to feeling independent and free, choosing what I want to do, when I want, and how to do it. Traveling alone has made me a tad selfish, with my choices and options. Giving myself so much variety in decisions, doing it all on my own. I have created big dreams and goals for my life, I have experienced the type of lifestyle I want for myself and now there is no stopping me.
I literally have the world as my oyster.
I don’t like to plan my travels – it’s boring. I need excitement and unknown adventures. I have this idea that the less I plan, the more opportunities I have, I am open to more chances and ideas. A different type of route, that I don’t need to know.
Truth is, I have no f*cking clue what is going to happen tomorrow and neither do you. Go with the flow and trust everything will be alright.
It’s easy to feel as though we need to plan our entire lives. Being in the same surroundings, making money to get on with life. We have structure, aims and ladders to climb. Traveling alone has taught me to just enjoy what I have, to take what is right in front of me, to understand what I can’t control and what makes me happy. It’s taught me how to manage constant changes and how to adapt to various situations.
Society has created a life we think we need to live, traveling the world alone has shown me that it doesn’t always mean it’s the right way to live. Seeing how other societies live, what other cultures are out there and simply what people want for themselves, has given me a wild insight to countless beliefs, behaviour and ideas.
Looking at my home country from far away, gives me a chance to observe my own life and culture in different ways.
While some cities are all about the 9-5 and take away coffee, flashy new shoes and having the latest gadgets, many people live a life of purely surviving and feeding the family. It has made me question who really are the lucky ones. The ones who feel obliged to show off and make millions, or the ones living a private, quiet life in a tight knit community around family in nature.
You think its easy to follow your plans? That’s the difficult part. You create expectations and make comparisons easily. To travel with no plans is easier then you think. I am going with the flow and loving every second. No, this will not be my life forever – I need to create stability, an income; I want to start my own family one day and I will settle when I am ready… But for now, it’s working out for me just fine.
Yes, my safety and wellbeing are at risk.
Traveling alone comes with added risk, various dangers, and situations that aren’t familiar.
It’s a different level of vulnerability and responsibility and it’s not always manageable.
I am a young white British female; I am an easy target. I have felt alienated, unsafe and uneasy on many occasions.
Sometimes I am the only foreign girl walking around with a giant rucksack, this can draw unwanted attention, comments, and hassle. However, you learn to adapt, to keep your guard up, to embrace the backpacker look (which we all know can be pretty hilarious). I understand I won’t always fit in, I won’t be the same as everyone else, and that’s totally fine.
I am currently living in Rio De Janiero for a couple of months in a suburb far away from the main tourist hub. Many men around me carry guns and there are continuous military operations. It is one of the most dangerous parts of the world I have been in, however I still feel comfortable, safe and welcomed.
Considering the things I have been doing and the places I have been in the last five years, I can confidently state, it is safe to travel alone.
What you need to remember.
There are no guarantees in life. Your safety anywhere in the world is not assured and it’s important to remember that. You can minimize risks in many ways and traveling the world alone will give you life lessons you can take everywhere.
There are places in the world I can’t be out alone and will be at great risk due to my gender, race and background, but it’s the same for everyone. There are corners of the world we simply cannot go.
There are many terrifying, dangerous and scary people and places everywhere but I want to avoid the filtered news and see for myself what happens in the real world.
Traveling the world has shown me the vast majority of people are pleasant and genuine. I’ve had help from strangers, locals open their homes to me, witnessed human kindness to it’s full, had entire communities welcome me in and others craving to please me. Most people around you, mean good.
Traveling the world alone is my favourite challenge.
I have down days, feelings of utter confusion and have felt fearful, lonely and weak. However, the excitement, lessons, experiences, dreams, moments, feelings and memories I have encountered, lived and achieved over rule the dangers and risks. I am completely satisfied with my life and I only want to keep exploring the world.