Over the past few years, I have travelled in many different styles, you name it, I have done it. Solo travel, travelling with best friends in groups of two or three, even randomly meeting up with other travellers and deciding to travel together simply because we are going in the same direction.
One of the most common questions I get from people, especially those back home who have never really stepped out of their comfort zone let alone travel, is ‘What is it like to travel solo and how do you do it?’.
Traveling solo would have to be one of the most rewarding and self-developing experiences you can do in life. Not only will it make you grow as a person, you will find yourself in certain situations you otherwise wouldn’t be in, making friends with people you have just meet and saying yes to things you’d normally say no to. This is what travel is all about!
There is no right or wrong way to travel. On one extreme you can book an all-inclusive tour where absolutely everything is sorted (with little flexibility), or you can just wing the whole thing, see what the day brings and hope it all works out. An ideal solution would be something in between like the services offered by Loka’s Flexible Travel Co.
I recently joined one of Loka’s trips on the Mick Pass as a solo traveller to explore the East Coast of Australia. As an independent traveller, the experience gave me a whole new perspective on the benefits of more organized travel, with a little less ‘winging it (but still room to do so) and a little more guidance from a local guru.
What I discovered with Loka:
- I was instantly at home with a group of people who quickly became a family of friends. We’re all of a similar age, stage and shared an enthusiasm to explore. We’re still in touch now.
- I travelled into remote areas along the East Coast and had some pretty epic experiences in places I would never have found on my own
- I travelled with a Guide, who was young, fun and full of energy and best of all sorted all the admin so I could just enjoy the adventures
- I still had the flexibility to hop-off anywhere along the way, do my own thing for a bit and jump back on when I was ready to move on (so I still had my independence).
So, this trip got me thinking about how to show my audience of readers, how to travel the East Coast of Australia as a solo traveller and get the very most out of your experience.
Recommendation 1: Book a shared dorm room (no private hotels or private Airbnb’s)
The best piece of advice I can give is to initially book yourself into a hostel and get a shared dorm room. If you book yourself into a hotel or private room, firstly it’s going to be ridiculously expensive! Secondly, you are going to be sitting in this big empty room all by yourself adding to the anxiety that you may have about being alone.
It takes a certain type of person to travel, but it also takes a certain type of person to stay in hostels as well. Normally, it is open like-minded people like yourself looking to meet others and have a good time. Staying in a dorm room forces you to connect with other people. If you are socially shy or awkward this is the perfect place to begin meeting people. You will quickly find that a conversation will spark up and you will be heading to out to grab a drink or something to eat.
Recommendation 2: Pick a good hostel with great common areas
It’s not only the room that provides this kind of atmosphere, but the hostel as a whole is like one big dorm room. You have the same like-minded people spread out in common rooms, games rooms and bars. If you don’t happen to come across the people in your dorm you can simply just head down to the common area. Just pluck up a bit of courage and don’t be afraid to say ‘hi’. Everyone is in the same boat and keen to meet new people too.
Recommendation 3: Find a social way to travel (that is not just location to location)
The kind of social atmosphere you find in a good hostel, transfers into the trips run by Loka. You will find yourself on road trip with 12-20 people who all have the same agenda “to make the most of their trip”. Within hours you’ll be chatting away trading stories, planning adventures and listening to sweet tunes. Compare this to travelling on a sterile intercity service where everyone has their own agenda and are far less likely to strike up a conversation.
Instead of having to painfully research each destination to determine where is worth visiting and why all that research and planning has already been done. Loka has scoured the coast planning and designing the ultimate route which includes some ‘off the beaten track’ experiences along with access to some of the more iconic destinations everyone talks about (ie Byron, Gold Coast, Noosa etc).
Recommendation 4: Say ‘yes’ and keep your plans flexible
When you are mixing and mingling with other people, one of the most important things I encourage you to do is to say yes! Saying yes to a bomb fire on the beach, a night out or a hike into the hills often leads to more adventures and stories to take home.
Because you don’t know what places are going to wow or excite you, or what opportunities will come your way, its best to keep a buffer of spare travel days up your sleeve so you can change your plans on the go. Loka’s trips were fully flexible so at any point, I could hop-off to chill out, go surfing or do some woofing and then hop back on when I was ready to continue. My pass was valid for 12 months so I had plenty of time up my sleeve.
Recommendation 5: Get advice from locals on where to go
One of the limiting factors of travelling solo can be getting access (finding ways) to explore some of the more interesting places or destinations outside city centres. It is logistically hard and can be expensive. I found travelling with Loka, we’d make of stops along the way (spotting wildlife, swimming at beaches etc) and we got access into some really beautiful, quite remote places which are otherwise unknown in common backpacker circles. You really need a local to show places like this which is what your Driver Guide does.
Recommendation 6: Link up and stay in touch!
Finally, when the time comes to part ways with friends you’ve made along the way, make sure you get everyone’s details. Post regularly on social media, so your new pals know where you are. I cannot tell you the number of times I have reconnected with fellow travellers not only in the same country a few weeks later, but sometimes months later on the other side of the world.
So if you are considering travelling the East Coast of Australia solo, then consider some of the recommendations above. I can guarantee you’ll have a great time, go amazing places and meet some amazing people. It will be one to remember.
You can learn more about how Loka’s Flexible Travel Network works here.