How did you communicate with people? Wasn’t the language an issue?
There are plenty of occasions when things get lost in translation (or lack thereof), and things become more complicated than they need to be. One good example of mine is from Nepal, when my partner and I didn’t have enough cash to catch a bus back to Kathmandu. In the village we were in, there seemed to be no one who spoke English well enough to understand our predicament. It took some work, but we did end up finding someone who could understand us and translate for the bus driver and everything worked out.
I would say that the language barrier is a big part of the fun of traveling. It can be frustrating, sure, but when else will you have a chance to play charades on such a regular basis?
Where did you sleep? Did you book in advance?
Particularly if you’re traveling alone, hostels are the way to go. It’s a cheaper and more social option than a hotel. A lot of the friends I’ve made traveling, I have met in hostels. You’ll always find someone in the common area looking for a partner in crime for the day.
I’ve also had some great experiences couchsurfing, an even more economical option than hostels. The website is free to use, as is the accommodation if you can find a good one. It takes a little more digging than finding a hostel; reading the reviews and perhaps contacting a potential host some time in advance, but it can be a great way to meet locals and learn from an expert about the culture of the place you’re in.
I’m not a natural planner, but when I’m traveling alone, I do tend to book hostels in advance to take my anxiety out of the equation. It’s such a relief when you get to a new city to know exactly where you’re headed.
But there have been plenty of times when I’ve arrived in a new place without having booked anything. In that situation, if there are no accommodations in sight, find some wifi and book on the spot. Either way, things will tend to work out. It’s not very likely that you’ll find yourself sleeping on the street just because you didn’t book a place beforehand.
Weren’t you afraid to go traveling alone?
The first time I traveled alone, I was indeed terrified. But you learn very quickly that traveling alone doesn’t mean that you’re going to be lonely all the time. Being alone opens you up to meet more people. In fact, it might even become difficult to have time to yourself once you find your crew.
The best part of traveling alone, though, is the freedom it affords. You can plan a trip without trying to sync up schedules with flaky friends, and you never have to worry about pleasing anyone but yourself. And again, you’re much more likely to be open to new experiences and people when you’re alone.
Did you work while abroad? Did you budget? How did you afford your trip?
I worked for one month at a hostel in Rome during a two month stint in Italy, but that was more for the experience than the money (I wasn’t even paid until the end of my trip). Out side of that, have always used my savings to travel. Thankfully, Southeast Asia, where I have done the majority of my traveling, is much cheaper than the US, so I’ve never had to burn through too much cash.
I have gotten stressed out about money stuff while abroad and have had to adjust some things (i.e. deferring student loans for a few months). And I have less and less savings each time I travel, so working abroad may be something to look into soon enough…
What was the worst part of your travels?
Honestly, mosquitoes. Not to brag, but they’ve always been very attracted to me, and in tropical areas (i.e. Koh Tao), the bites seem to swell a little more, take a little longer to go away, and are a little itchier. Bug spray or not, I always leave that island looking as if some skin disease has ravaged my feet and ankles.