Have you ever wanted to travel the world but have been too scared to do it alone? Stepping out of your comfort zone takes incredible courage, but when you are armed with the tools and resources to take action, plugging into the unknown can be quite liberating. One way to test the waters of solo travel is by hostelling.
Making New Friends
Most Americans don’t think of hostelling in the United States, but under the trusted Hostelling International USA (HI USA) brand, domestic hostelling can offer a safe place to navigate your solo adventures. You will still meet like-minded individuals from all over the world who are sure to add some unexpected flavor to your trip. The international diversity alone will not only be inspiring, but also life changing.
Be prepared to dance all night with Europeans in San Francisco, drink until sunrise with Australians in New York City , or eat until it hurts with Asians in Los Angeles. Whoever you meet, wherever you are, an amazing time is bound to happen. Let’s be honest, everyone is in a good mood when hostelling and looking to create memories in a foreign land.
Traditional friendships usually take a few weeks, months or even years to develop because of the limited amount of time spent with each other. But hostelling has a time warp effect where spending hours with strangers often leads to solidified friendships.
Hostellers are naturally more open. How can you not be when sharing space with others? MiLLENNiAL caught up with Brisbane, Australian native, Manning, at the HI Santa Monica hostel. When it comes to traveling alone, he explains, “You definitely put yourself out there a bit more. You’re forced to meet new people and probably do some things you wouldn’t usually do.”
He admits when traveling with close friends, he is more apt to stay in his room and less likely to meet new people. But solo travel pushes him to engage with strangers throughout the hostel.
The point of hostelling is to not get trapped in the room but to explore the city with newfound friends. There is something so exhilarating about an entirely fresh experience with other solo travelers. You don’t know the people and you don’t know the location, but you do know that you are having fun and are willing to embrace everything that comes your way.
Marching to the Beat of Your Own Drum
When you travel with friends, you have to compromise on what the collective wants to do. You risk someone being in a bad mood, including yourself, if the activities don’t quite align with your travel expectations.
The great thing about traveling alone is that problem no longer exists. You have freedom and can see and do whatever it is that makes you happy in the moment. There are no influencing opinions or people to make you wait.
Many hostellers equate solo travel to that of soul searching because when you step outside of your routine life, you are met with unique experiences that make the journey one of a kind.
We met Josie, a man traveling from Los Angeles to San Diego for ComicCon, staying at HI San Diego Downtown. He tells us, “The best thing is you bump into the same people even if you didn’t have the same schedule.” Hostellers often follow similar travel paths without knowing it. Josie suggests these kinds of serendipitous events happen all the time when you allow yourself to go with the flow.
To keep yourself mobile, he recommends streamlining your belongings. Don’t bring anything valuable and leave the fancy jewelry and expensive watches at home!
“When I travel I just have my backpack. That’s it.” Josie stresses that this allows him to easily move from location to location while being less worried that he is going to leave something behind.
Safety in Numbers
Being alone can be challenging for some and utterly serene for others. But the overwhelming consensus most travelers have is that being alone teaches you to love yourself and become more independent than you previously thought possible.
If safety is your main concern, staying at a hostel with other solo travelers or small groups, may be the best-case scenario. You can request a gender specific dorm, which could give you the security of having someone watch your back, or you can request a private room and occupy a personal space while still benefiting from the hustle and bustle of hostel life.
At HI USA, the hostel staff goes over and above to make sure you are comfortable with your surroundings. They even specifically design events to help with icebreaker techniques and guest interactions. From pub crawls to monument tours, open mics and even clubbing, each hostel’s activities not only give you a local perspective of the city you are visiting, but also put you on an even playing field with others on solo travel journeys.
The common areas are also a great way to not feel alone. Most HI USA hostels offer free breakfast in the mornings, which allow you to fuel your day with some good food and conversation. You’d be amazed at how open to chatting most solo travelers are in the morning. Once they get caffeine in their blood, you can’t shut them up!
And while you may not hang with the person you have breakfast with all day, you are sure to see them throughout the rest of your stay and feel instant camaraderie every time you pass by.
Gaining a New Perspective with Solo Travel
Hostelling is known to provide friendly environments that foster intercultural exchanges. This generally “opens up your point of view” as Alan from Canada tells us. He often travels alone so that he doesn’t “get stuck in one way of thinking.”
Hearing other people’s stories and learning from their experiences can awaken new insight into the way you live your life. Meeting a range of travelers will no doubt inspire your plans during your trip or perhaps give you ideas for the next one you take.
Each encounter is bound to change you for the better. If you’ve never considered solo travel, you may want to start by taking a domestic trip throughout the States first and staying at a reputable hostel.