Cosmo-topia! Travelling Alone and Meeting People: The strategies for success (or hilarious failure) by Daniel Shutt

Posted on July 24, 2011

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Travelling alone can seem daunting at first. Just the notion of being completely dislocated from a carefully-constructed and -maintained social sphere can send people running for the nearest alcohol dispensary or purveyor of ice cream. But never fear, my esteemed peers! Brave men and women have trodden this path and survived and prospered. Unfortunately, the knowledge ensconced in this tome comes not from such a lofty tier of human experience, but from tentative and awkward encounters through which much was gained, and much comically misunderstood, and that brings us to…

1.      Don’t worry be happy (i.e. It’s okay to make an arse of yourself)

            Too often in the world of burgeoning social interactions you can find yourself inordinately preoccupied with the views of others. Such preoccupations inhibit your ability to enjoy the interaction itself so in the words of many mums: “hang loose mother goose”.

The more you concentrate on enjoying the moment and, more importantly, enjoying yourself, the more those around you will sense that enjoyment and want to come along for the ride. That is not to say that standing in a corner of a bar by yourself, bopping along to the musical stylings of the Spice girls whilst drinking yourself into oblivion is necessarily advisable. It just means that when you do approach that cute member of the opposite sex or the rowdy group of Europeans from an indeterminate country, don’t be afraid of their initial impressions. Chances are that they are looking to have carefree fun and will welcome a change of pace. Variety is the spice of  life after all.

2.      Confidence is key (but arrogance grates)

"You only have one degree? How quaint!"

            Confidence and self-assurance, whether genuine or constructed, go a long way. No-one wants to hang out with someone that is overtly and constantly in self doubt. Admittedly, the important difference between self-assurance and arrogance is a constant underlying self-evaluation but as mentioned above, the less you outwardly express your worries, the better. Remember, if you have made the decision to travel alone you have already had the courage to test yourself and your self-image. Harness that impetus, and remember that most people you encounter probably have similar notions of self-doubt.

Thus with the power of your confidence (i.e. awesomeness), you can encourage people around you to relax, enjoy themselves and enjoy your company. Most importantly, don’t judge people straight out of the gates, you’ll more often than not be pleasantly surprised and you’ll learn a lot about other walks of life (which is the point of travelling alone, isn’t it?).

3.      DON’T gravitate towards people from your own country (meet them at home)

"Don't I know you?"

When sitting in the hostel bar, lounge or dungeon (yes really, some hostels have dungeons) you may hear the familiar, soothing sounds of the Aussie twang. The comfort of the familiar may sound enticing but don’t automatically fall into the trap of “You’re Australian? So am I! What a coincidence!”. It’s not beneficial to either party to slot neatly back into the social norms you were so brave in the first place to eject yourself from. It’s the easy way out and will not provide you with any more insight into the part of the world you happen to be backpacking through.

That said, don’t recoil from other Australians like you would an infectious disease, we’re generally pretty cool people but be warned that once you start, you can’t stop. It’s like an addictive drug, clinging on to whatever vestiges of home you can whenever possible. Which, needless to say, inhibits the wider experiences you could be having. Remember, you’re undertaking a journey of mind-expanding significance, you don’t want to return with “yeah and then I met these guys from my school who totally knew me!” and “I never realised Tasmanians travelled!” (I know, I didn’t believe it myself!).

4.      Get lost (but don’t be  afraid to ask)

"Where the fuck are we?!"

Once you have arrived in the city of your choice, you are bombarded with information: “see this!”, “go on this tour!”, “best pub crawl ever!”. But where do you start? Get lost, that’s how! Information has it’s merit but the best way to see a city on your first day is just to wander. Don’t worry about destination, that’s secondary to your concerns. The map you obtain from your hostel should only be a means to work out how to get back to your point of origin. Get acquainted with the city you have deigned to grace with your presence. Find some strange alleyways and little parks. If the city is too big to walk around, rent a bike. Public transport too often dislocates you from the size and feel of a city. The method of route selection should be no more complicated than “that looks cool!”.

That said, don’t feel ashamed to ask locals about what’s cool and fun in a city. The insights they can give you will lead you down many unexpected avenues of exploration and interest, especially where the nightlife is concerned. While you’re investigating the city, keep an eye out for unassuming doors or alleyways as these will most often have the most interesting night spots. Most of the time those working in your hostel will have a good insight into the city’s hotspots, but make sure you stay away from large tourist-trap clubs or bars (one of the best nights I had out was at a party in a nuclear bunker I was invited to by a one of the receptionists from my hostel). And don’t be afraid to recruit others to your cause. Get lost in the sights, sounds and tastes of the city and you will have experiences that you wont easily forget.

Such are the strategies for a successful solo trip as discovered by a humble author of substandard blog articles (laying it on a bit thick, aren’t I?). So enjoy your time away from the known and don’t forget these simple and, hopefully, easy-to-follow steps to rocking out.

Have you done any solo travelling? Got any more tips for our curious readers? Your advice belongs in the comments!

for more from You’re Dripping Egg’s Cosmo-topia! series, click here

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