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Saturday, 20 August 2011

How to Make Friends While Traveling Alone

Written by Jessica Festa
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After studying in Sydney, Australia and contracting a permanent case of the travel bug, it became my life’s goal to backpack Europe the summer after college. I can remember friends excitedly promising that they, too, would love to accompany me on a backpacking tour of Europe after we were done with school. However, as the Eurotrip approached, it became clear: this was something I would have to do alone.
Friends who had been previously gung-ho about making the journey began coming up with excuses: I don’t have the money, I need to search for a job, my parents aren’t comfortable with the idea of the trip, my significant other isn’t supportive. With about six months to go before I would be leaving for the continent, I was down to two travel buddies, neither of whom had laid out any cash yet. And, when it got down to the month before I was set to leave on my journey, I knew that I would inevitably be flying solo, literally.

It would have been easy for me to find an excuse of my own. For one, I had just completed five years of college by doing a combined degree program that gave me my BA/MA in communication, leaving me with thousands of dollars of loans to repay. Furthermore, I was anxious to get a job, not to mention the fact that it was a constant topic of debate for my parents, who thought I should already have a full-time job before graduating (apparently they did not get the memo about the sinking economy?). Moreover, to make the journey emotionally challenging as well, I had a boyfriend who would not be able to afford to come on the trip with me.

Despite all of these possible reasons not to go, I decided that I would make the journey on my own. Yes, I had loans, but they would be there for years to come. How could I let financial worries already start limiting my experiences at such a young age? I had my whole life ahead of me to worry about finances! And, while I loved my parents, I was confident that not only would backpacking Europe leave me with a great experience, I would also gain skills that I would be able to talk about in interviews once I began the process of looking for a job. As for my boyfriend, he broke up with me because he said he could not trust me going away for the summer, and once I realized how little he had invested into the relationship, I was happy with my decision to not let anyone or anything hold me back from dream.

With all of those issues settled, there was only one problem left…was I really going to have a good time by myself? How would I get to experience the nightlife if I was alone? Would I look like an outcast to other travelers? Who would help me navigate the transportation issues? Would spending a summer in solitude drive me crazy?

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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