Why I Started Traveling Solo
It's hard to pinpoint a specific moment in time when the inspiration happened, but I would still object to jumping into a box exclusively labeled as 'solo traveler'. To this day, I still enjoy other people too and am happy to share travel moments, especially with those I care about.
However, it is true that most people approach traveling as a luxury, something one needs to sacrifice valuable time and money for, which most of us never have enough of, so we get stuck in the endless circle of workplace/commuting/home.
I remember, two decades ago, when I could occasionally get free flight tickets for friends joining me on travels, it was hard to find someone willing to go to faraway destinations, assuming that it comes with some costs after all.
For me, the cost of not traveling is much pricier. The world is changing so quickly, affected by natural and human-made circumstances and that shift dramatically affects traveling as well. Nobody can predict precisely the context of war and unrest, the climate change in this polluted bubble, or even health challenges that, as COVID-19 has shown, can bring all world traveling to a halt.
There have been many articles on the fact that people at the end of their life always regret the things they didn't do. We might be imagining our dedicated work will result in happy retirement, when we will finally afford the life we want to live. But that's a big loan from the future. We might end up being not just retired, but also tired, and our goals might change.
There is literally no reason not to follow our passions today. OK, besides that crazy world pandemic, but hopefully you understand what I mean. Prolonging our dreams indefinitely does not equal making them more realistic. We are planning the life of a person we are yet to become, instead of following the plan of the person we are at this very moment.
I Am Always On The Go
Before the pandemic started, my traveling lifestyle was pretty much long-term. I would spend maybe a couple of months in my home country, and hit the road far and wide for the rest of the year. The pandemic changed that. I've managed to get away from Croatia for three months in total only, carefully picking closer countries I could safely visit, without jeopardizing myself or others, and in the moments when their infection numbers would be under control.
Overall, I love destinations that can offer a variety of content, from natural beauty to cultural richness, societies that can blend urban and traditional, and just anything extraordinary, be it a well-known attraction, or a well-kept secret. I like to explore places through hiking, but also boat trips, museum visits, massive celebrations and festivals, and basically any eclectic cocktail of adventures.
How I Choose Where To Travel Next
I once traveled to China for a day and a half, which meant spending more time on the planes than at the destination. My personal preference these days is traveling truly long term, which can mean being away for five months at a time. I always say that the most expensive thing about long-distance traveling is, I believe, returning home.
On the other hand, jumping to a bordering country is usually quite affordable. It is not the same heading to Bali from Europe, or from Singapore. So extending the duration of traveling is the most economical thing a traveler can do.
Personally, I try to stay in a country until my visa permits. Often, that's a period of one month. I believe it's also a quite pragmatic amount of time. It would not make us feel as being punished by destinations that turn out disappointing. On the other hand, it would make our dream of a returning visit to places that a month would not do justice.
Sometimes, I plan my trips around destinations I already visit, for instance, for a conference. Or possibly, I have some friends or colleagues anchored there. This means that hopefully, I can count on some base as a starting or comforting point.
After that, travel itineraries are pretty much open to any content I researched and decided to include in my planning. Googling, reading travel articles, browsing social media. It's an ongoing process in which a place becomes a destination.
No planning, and going with the flow, is also a fine principle for me.
In addition, the itinerary could take into account the affordability of travel connections, as it doesn't cost the same which way one travels through Greek islands or Southeast Asian countries.
How I Pack For My Trips
I love minimalism. As someone who put a hairdryer in my first long-term traveling suitcase (which was hardly a necessary item), I think I can say that we all mature through the process of traveling. Last year, for instance, I traveled to Greece for two periods of a month, with a small school-size backpack that still included my laptop, two cameras and equipment, AND clothes, flip-flops, and basic toiletries!
Of course, I try to travel to warm destinations, which is my personal preference, but it also means less clothing. It's unbelievable how much space we can save in our bags if we kick out some sleeves!
Also, feeling relaxed about what is truly needed for a trip is a thing we achieve through experience. If we do lack something, we can be smart enough to find it at our destination of choice. Do we really need to bring that extra power cable, just in case the original one stops functioning?
I’ve Met Many New Friends During My Travels
When trips are made of these memories, it's hard to pick a favorite. During my travels, I've met many new friends, and sometimes they are the reason for my return visits. Seeing the world from the local perspective is something no world travel guide could ever teach us.
I'm proud to be a brand ambassador of the Backstreet Academy, which is a platform for connecting travelers with locals in meaningful and sustainable travel arrangements.
Whether you are exploring the street food scene, learning the craft of a silversmith, plowing the soil with water buffalos, or just seeing the place through a non-commercial tour, connecting with people who are essentially living the destination as their every day is the best thing you can do for improving your travel benefits, but also impact.
Countries I’ve Visited So Far
So far, I have visited 50ish world countries. For solo travelers, if we are talking about backpacking the world, I would say Southeast Asian countries, as well as probably European ones, are a great choice. Many people head to these established routes, and hostels and hangout places are full of other solo travelers.
We are not in the era of discovering the world, new territories, and tribes. Everything is more or less known, and it is hard to feel alone, except in the countries where tourist infrastructure is not yet fully developed. Otherwise, social life happens even to solo travelers, of course, if they want it.
If one is not backpacking the globe, but instead has enough resources to conquer any place imagined, the world will certainly adapt to such solo travelers. One can only hope that traveling for someone that can afford anything doesn't come attached with loneliness.
For instance, the Japanese billionaire Yusaku Maezawa is financing the first human mission around the Moon, and yet he wants to share it with other people. What is the most spectacular view of Earth, if it takes only your breath away? Speaking of that, I did apply for this mission but did not end up in a final round. Maybe I haven't become an astronaut yet, but Earth will do as an alternative for now: it has enough places for me to explore.
If I do not become an astronaut, then Earth still has enough places for me to explore.
I do not have a bucket list of places to see before I die, because essentially I do not think of life in that way. Bucket lists add to the stress, they do not diminish it. I feel the most stress actually when traveling to a destination with friends who have the whole travel itinerary mapped out, with all the 'must-see' places and 'must-do' activities.
Traveling long-term requires a different approach than a once-in-a-year holiday. I personally prefer to see traveling as regular life.
It is okay to skip seeing everything, and not do anything for a day. Always leave a reason for coming back to a certain place! That's the perfect middle-finger answer to Madam Death when she comes and asks if you have seen everything and are ready to go.
Some Of My Favorite Travel Apps & Websites
I use some very simple tools. For instance, Google maps. It's one of my favorite ways to mark up places I am interested in visiting. It's a never-ending process of adding things to the map, throughout the year. Whenever I see something interesting in classic or social media, a new pin gets dropped on my map.
Without really knowing if I would ever visit that part of the world, my map stays sprinkled with stars, hearts, and flags, so that once they do appear in my neighborhood (or more precisely, I appear in their neighborhood), I already know where I want to go.
When booking flights, I use a myriad of websites for finding the best option for my wallet, and I believe I'm quite good at that. There is no singular answer on how to save the most, as there are many tips and tricks for not breaking the bank on travel costs. It would be awesome to be able to offer that service to people with no time for doing research, but first I need to clone myself.
Even if I do offer practical travel advice on Pipeaway.com, the idea behind the website was more about documenting and reflecting on my personal travels, and hopefully providing content that can inspire others for traveling, the same as other people's content inspires me. So Pipeaway is a place for sharing my experiences of destinations and events I visit, as well as highlighting other peculiar travelers through interviews.
Four years ago, I started using traveling as a way to keep my sanity and travel blogging as a hopeful remedy for others looking to break out of their own troubles and having the privilege to do it through a similar type of process. Traveling is definitely a luxury, not an essential human need, but sometimes it's a priceless way to put things into perspective, and approach one's life from another, previously unimagined angle.
How I Manage My Costs When I Travel
This is one of the hardest things I had to answer when I started my travel writing adventure. How do I travel? What kind of baggage do I carry around? Am I an explorer with a huge backpack, or do I travel with suitcases brought around by butlers? I've sorted that part of the 'identity crisis' by getting a transformer bag that has both wheels to pull around, as well as hidden shoulder straps if I want to carry it around. I did not want to exclude any part of the experience.
Even if all advice tells you that a travel blog should be niched down, I didn't want to specialize in luxury travel, or backpacking, or anything in between. I knew that extraordinary places come in a variety of budgets, and my website wanted to highlight the best ones, those that break out of the standard, whatever that standard is.
Frankly, I did get to Southeast Asia by googling 'the cheapest countries to travel to in 2017'. But after I established my travel writing name better (and my previously awarded journalistic career in Croatia definitely helped in perceiving me as serious), I was staying at a variety of accommodation options, from the most luxurious hotels and resorts to the most special small guesthouses and hostels. I even use Couchsurfing to some extent, which also helped me discover the world from the locals' perspectives.
I am not sure if I could stay in pampering 5-star hotels all the time, nor that I could crash on people's couches permanently. So I try to keep the balance about it, while always keeping in mind what is important.
Some Of My Craziest Travel Experiences
Feeding elephants in a Cambodian jungle by mouth, or petting wild hyenas in Ethiopia? Standing on some scary Norwegian cliffs, or exploring an abandoned amusement park in Vietnam? Falling off a motorbike on some terrible road in Laos, or having breathing equipment problems while scuba diving in Greece? Following penitents that pierce their cheeks in Malaysia, or those that prove their faith in the Philippines by being nailed on the cross? Spending fantastic days in Turkish baths in Hungary, or entire nights in South Korean spas? Having a great night out in the infamous Berlin club Berghain, or chilling with hundreds of deer while watching cherry blossoms in Japanese temples? I wish I could share it all here, but then again, I do need to keep some material for my blog too.
Some Things That Prevent Me From Traveling More
Besides global travel restrictions, due to COVID-19, or political control of the world through desirable and undesirable visas, I do not see many other obstacles. For resourceful individuals (whether mentally or financially), who are willing to adapt, traveling is a choice. For some people, being away from family and usual friend circles could be an obstacle.
But I believe that, as we move further and further with our life, the world seems to shrink. As babies, we are limited to our mothers' breasts and attention. As children, we start exploring our neighborhood. As teenagers, we step into the unknown parts of the city. After a certain amount of traveling in the region, even exploring other parts of our continent doesn't seem to be so far away. In my today's perspective, traveling to another part of the planet, and staying there longer, is not the same feat as in the times of Magellan or Columbus.
The world has become much smaller. We can cover more space and have more time to do it. And even the cost of such a flight ticket, if we stay longer at the final destination, becomes equal to the cost of a tram ticket that a non-traveler buys every day while commuting to work in their home city from the beginning of this story.
My Advice To New Travelers
Do not follow anyone's advice. Including the one I just gave.
Now, paradox aside, do you! Be yourself, travel the way you want to, stay as long as it fits you, and spend as much as you are willing. Do not get seduced by the filtered world of Instagram, and any 'travel experts' story trying to sell you a recipe of how to leave your 9-to-5 job. You don't need to leave anything. And even if you do, know that it is always OK to change your mind, and come back. Your travel aspirations should not be seen as a decision of a lifetime. Relax! Nobody is watching. Be you, and do you!
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