I am a budget traveler and have always been preferring a backpack and a tent to a rollie suitcase and a 4 star hotel. The thing about being an American is that a lot of our travel is adventure related with exotic locations and extreme activities as part of the experience. Until my 30s that was me too and in some ways still am. I prefer quality brands like Patagonia and Rainbow sandals to cheap off the shelf items from retailers worldwide.
Before I turned 30, I was also a driver and returned to it in my mid 40s. I liked packing up the car with the tent, camping gear and some bikes and surfboards or snowboards for an adventure whether week long or a few.
But it wasn’t until I went to Costa Rica with my girlfriend at the time, that I was introduced to the true budget traveler. The strong men and women who go for a trip for a while. SOme go for a year and some just go.
I met a few of these travelers in Jaco, Costa Rica and realized I needed to know more. Traveling with a partner is great. It’s a way to strengthen the bond that ties you together and to build great memories that keep you together yet, sometimes, it’s also good to go out on your own.
It’s pretty simple. There are easy steps to follow and the internet has many guides and suggestions. Here is mine for a first time solo traveler.
- Buy a ticket
- Pick a warm or tropical location – it’s easier first go around
- Go to a store like REI.com or Patagonia.com and buy a bag of no more than 50 liters. One that you are willing to carry on your back and lug around bus and ferry stations, airports and in some cases down the road actually on your back
- Remember whatever you bring, you have to carry and wherever you go has stores to buy the things you forgot for a lot less money that you would pay in the US
- Bring a book or E-Reader for down time. You will miss a lot if you are buried in your phone
- Other than your backpack, which could also be a used item, don’t bring bling unless you are willing to part with it
- Wear sunscreen – you are going tropical – getting a burn on your first day is novice travel 101. It happens to most. Try not to let it happen to you.
Beyond that, have fun and be cognizant of your surroundings not just for the people looking to do bad but for those who are good.
By looking around and not being tied to your phone, you become open to those looking around too. You are not the only person leaving on your first solo travel. There is probably a good chance that the other cool looking person, probably with the big backpack, is on your flight going to the same place. No harm in saying hi.
Over the years I have ebbed and flowed through life and the people I have met along the way have been the reward. Of course the sunsets in Malpais are the best I’ve ever seen, a sunrise at the top of a volcano has its own color and a trail with no one on it except a few sheeps and cows is also at the top of the list. But in the end it’s the people whom you have the experiences with or share them with over a beer or dinner at the end of the day that are the reward. My advice, buy a ticket and go. It’ll change your worldview if nothing else.