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Lessons on solo-traveling. 

Just say, "hello".

There is an enormous hostel in London that can host 900 travelers of which I was one. I checked-in and walked to my dorm room noticing another traveler coming down the hallway. As we approached each other, the moment to say "hello" came and passed. We had both made the decision not to say "Hello". I later came to discover that that person would be my bunk mate for the whole weekend and since we missed our first chance to acknowledge each other, we did not share a single word for the duration of our stay.

 

To greet a stranger is to open oneself up to conversation. It is as if to say, "I am available to talk to you if you like." By ignoring them, you effectively close yourself off from any potential  interactions. It can be very uncomfortable to approach another traveler for the purpose of establishing a friendship. I find that starting a conversation must be grounded in a need or commonality. For instance, in order not to seem creepy or annoying, it is necessary to have a legitimate reason to talk to a stranger. Examples include: asking for a lighter, asking for a recommendation, or asking directions. Some commonalities could be: you're both reading the same book, you're both frustrated by the broken showers, you are sharing the kitchen area, etc. The most universal and accessible commonality is merely having shared a kind "hello" earlier that day. 

It is crucial to make friends when you are solo-traveling. Having friends leads a traveler to new experiences, new connections, new recipes, new methods of transportation, and new sanctuaries. You will find that it is incredibly useful and rewarding to have people beside you that are trustworthy and have trust in you. These relationships start with "Hello".

Comfort is not the final destination. 

"Allons! we must not stop here, 

However sweet these laid-up stores, however convenient this dwelling we cannot remain here, 

However shelter’d this port and however calm these waters we must not anchor here, 

However welcome the hospitality that surrounds us we are permitted to receive it but a little while."

– Walt Whitman, Song of the Open Road

It soon becomes time to move on. There are too many places to belong to. We must always keep moving ahead down the road. I'm afraid, the time of departure always arrives just a little before it feels merited. 

Kindness is most effective. 

When you make connection for 1 minute, people give you free shit and invite you to there homes...

Try to notice when people are trusting you. 

"It helps to know a guy"

Janne

No guilt necessary.

Never feel guilty for taking a day or two off to just do nothing. 

They too return home. 

I used to be completely obsessed with Halloween. As a twelve year old, I couldn’t wait for October when my mother would let me have total liberty in decorating the front of the house for the holiday. There was one year from my memory that had been the greatest yard design up to that point. I tried every year to recreate that set-up. I could never get it to be as good as that one particular year. Eventually, I tried something new. I came up with my own cemetery design that would be far different from that of years passed. To excellent surprise, the result was so much more rewarding. All this time I had been trying to re-create something that was good at one point, but not meant to be any longer. I had been approaching the project from the wrong direction. I had not been creating, but re-creating. My pride in the new design showed me that I had finally approached it in the right way. The new design was honest and not superficial. 

 

I learned this lesson again while developing a new play. I wanted to re-create a scene from another play and insert it into my own play. I had liked the way that scene felt when I experienced it and I wanted to deliver the same feelings for my own audience. So I basically stole the whole scene, including the music, and plopped it into my play. The result was a clumsy, contrived, out-of-place sequence that spoiled much of what the play had going for it. My advice to artists is to let things inspire you while being wary of the negative effects of re-creation.

Don't be naive.

There are dangerous places. The long one road before us is not always welcoming to strangers. In Bogotá, Colombia, there is a neighborhood called La Candelaria. It is a beautifully colorful and lively neighborhood with much tourism. Truthfully, it's one of the safest in the city. At first appearance it doesn't seem very intimidating. But beyond the colorful graffiti and smiley locals, you cannot afford to let your guard down – specially after dark.

 

I was once walking with two dutch friends back to our hostel from a bar. It was after midnight and we only had about four blocks to walk when a homeless man came around the corner and approached us for money. We told him we didn't have any money for him and continued to walk down the street. To our discomfort, he also continued down the street beside us. He stared at our ignoring eyes with a distant unconscious stare. We started to get nervous thinking he might become aggressive and attempt to mug us. After two blocks, he ran off in the opposite direction. The threat seemed to disappear until one of my friends said, "So I didn't want to freak you guys out, but he had a knife at my gut that whole time."

 

We made it back to the hostel safe and sound that night and vowed not to go out walking after midnight. The following night, six of us desired a late dinner and walked to the sausage stand at the corner of the block. We wouldn't have dared walk around any further than the street corner near our hostel. We ordered, waited, and once we all had our food in hand, we walked towards the hostel. Almost immediately, three homeless men approached us again asking for food and money. We told them that we didn't have anything for them at which point they began to separate one of the guys from our group. They tried reaching into his pockets and had a knife at his gut. It was a tense moment that could have escalated into something terrible. Being carful not to react with aggression, I and another friend responded by addressing the thief in calmly saying, "Eyyy, amigo, come on now, stop messing around. It's all good." Our tone was as if we considered his actions amusing or goofy, smiling and laughing as they attempted the robbery. At that response, the three thieves ran off into the dark streets. Perhaps they expected a quicker reward and ran out of time. We took shelter in the hostel just three doors away feeling lucky to have all our belongings and to be uninjured.  

I share this story not to discourage travel to Bogota, but to express how this experience influence for future sense of vigilance. Soon after, I was in Rio de Janeiro. Rio has an enormous amount of petty crime towards travelers. Everyone I met had either had their phone stolen, been robbed of their cash, or had their drink spiked. I spent the most time in a neighborhood called Lapa which is known for street crime and assault. During my four weeks in Lapa, I was never once approached, mugged, assaulted, or drugged (these experiences were abundant among my fellow travelers). Perhaps it was luck, but I truly think that my experiences in Bogota erased my naivety. I was much more careful in Rio than many of my peers. Bogota had lessons it needed to teach me. I was mugged twice with a good outcome both times and I considered that strike three would come any day. I'm glad for having gone to Bogota and grateful for what it taught me. I am a better traveler for having been there. 

Don't fool yourself. 

You cannot be a local everywhere you go. It's ok to embrace the touristy areas. There is a smug attitude towards these types of places El Tunco (El Salvador) , Amsterdam (Netherlands) , Playa Escondido (Mexico) among travelers. I merits some simpathy 

Keep the lights off!

Hostel's are at the heart of the journy. I have stayed in hostels for as little as 4.50 USD per night – and I suspect there are even better deals. What many of my peers are surprised to learn is how luxurious many hostels. There are luxury hostels, dirty hostels, outdoor hostels, lake side hostels, treetop hostels, city hostels, party hostels, and jungle hostels. With each hostel, comes a different vibe. 

Why are you traveling?

When I flew to Europe for a 3 months euro-rail trip, I thought that I was interested in experiencing new cultures, taste new foods, observe great art, and so on. But it took me about way through my trip to realize that in large part, I didn't really care so much about all that. What I was really most interested in was meeting people. That was the real reason for my travels. I observed myself passively experiencing city after city with the face of a stranger in the foreground. I became a serial friend maker, learning the right and wrong ways to make friends with other travelers. 

Keep the lights off!

Hostel's are at the heart of the journy. I have stayed in hostels for as little as 4.50 USD per night – and I suspect there are even better deals. What many of my peers are surprised to learn is how luxurious many hostels. There are luxury hostels, dirty hostels, outdoor hostels, lake side hostels, treetop hostels, city hostels, party hostels, and jungle hostels. With each hostel, comes a different vibe. 

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