This is my very first post. It was meant to be written 2 years ago and is the main reason I started this blog. Here it goes…
In the summer of 2014, I purchased a round-trip ticket from Singapore to Edinburgh, bought tickets to T in the Park, packed stuff into a big bag, and went on my first solo-backpacking trip.
Planning My Trip
This all happened after my friend Megan mentioned a summer music festival in the UK called T in the Park where the line-up that year basically reflected of a long list of my iTunes library residents. I had just graduated from school, had a few months before I had to join the army (story for another day), had some cash from part-time work, and was raring to do something exciting.
I had wanted to try my hand at solo-backpacking for a while now. Since this was a last-minute decision and I did not want to roll up to a festival with a luggage bag; I thought why not? There are moments in life when a voice in your head very clearly speaks to you and says: Let’s do it! – well this was one of those moments. So I did.
Without any plan, no accommodation booked; with just a bag of clothes, a guide-book, and a festival ticket, I was off to a land 17 hours away from home.
Go Big or Go Home
I couldn’t really go home since I had already spent the bought the flight and festival tickets… So I had to go big. That meant I was about to fully immerse myself in “The Backpacking Experience” which at that point in time I interpreted as sleeping on the streets if I had to and roughing it out, gung-ho attitude and all.
So like an idiot, I thought I’d look for accommodation only after arriving in a city/town, looking around and deciding if I needed to spend another day there. This was in July, when everyone in the world who wanted to see Scotland was in Scotland – not a good idea. With hostels all fully booked, I turned to couch surfing which turned out to be one of the best experiences during this trip. The morning I decided to leave Edinburgh, I booked the first bus ticket out and had a host in Dundee accept my desperate plea for shelter at the last-minute. James picked me up from the bus station and brought me and two other Dutch backpackers who were already staying at his on a mini road trip through Fife and St. Andrews.
I’d highly recommend couch surfing if you feel comfortable living in a stranger’s house and would like to see foreign land through the eyes of a local. It is an amazing way to meet locals and get to know the area from a more personal perspective.
James was incredibly kind and generous in ensuring my trip to Dundee was exciting; he drove me about an hour and half out to Glen Doll where I proceeded to climb a Munro without a map or compass (something you should definitely not do EVER). I approached the only human beings I could find and with their map, they pointed me in the right direction to head back down (which wasn’t exactly a foolproof plan but I survived so all is good).
After finding my down (and arriving much later than planned), I got lucky with two blokes driving through who ended up taking me to a pub in the mountains before getting me home.
Hitch hiking is a great way to get from place to place, meet people, and save $$ on transport (or in certain cases, not die from being stranded). There are travellers who will tell you to never hitch hike for obvious reasons. I did a ton of hitch hiking during this trip and never once ran into trouble. All I have to say is: as you wait for a kind soul by the side of the road, you never know what kind of person the driver that pulls up is. If the driver appears to be drunk, high, or just straight up creepy, I would politely decline or just run away – they are most likely not going to chase after you.
T in the Park
After my time in Dundee, James drove me all the way to Kinross (bless this man, he is the single most generous person I have ever met in my entire life) where I got out of the car to thousands of people pulling crates and pushing barrels stacked with beer. After finding my way in and setting up my tent, I basically spent the next 3 days having the best time of my life. Being at a massive music festival alone when everyone around you has a squad of friends was honestly quite intimidating at first, but as I consciously made the effort to start conversations with people around me, I ended up making friends and having a blast.
I felt somewhat of an unspoken rule to be inclusive with those around you when people gather in a place to enjoy music and have a good time. Across the weekend, I ended up never being alone. In fact, being there by myself gave more opportunities to meet people and make more friends.
Ben Howard, one of my favourites at T, has a song The Fear in which he sings “I’ve been worrying that we all, live our lives, in the confines of fear.” which perfectly describes how I was living life for a long time. As I started losing myself in the music and not caring about what other people were thinking, I slowly started having a more enjoyable time as I started interacting with the people around me.
If you ever have a chance and can afford to attend a music festival, you should do it! Though gathering a group of friends is a good idea, I highly recommend the experience of heading to one by yourself. I would do it over and over again.
A Year Older
I left the festival in Kinross for a pit-stop in Inverness to rest up before making my way to the Isle of Skye. Inverness was where I spent my birthday-eve with random travellers in the hostel and ended up having a party before leaving for Skye where the weather turned as I soaked up all the beauty it had to offer (including the rain).
This was the only time throughout the trip that travelling alone suddenly took a toll. I was living in a privately owned camper house out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by an incredible landscape but all by myself from early evening till the next morning. It was a tough few days being trapped indoors alone with no one to talk to but after the weather cleared up, things got better…
Travelling alone is an amazing experience that teaches you a lot if you are willing to be vulnerable to the situations you find yourself in. It does have its tough days like any situation in life but it is an absolutely rewarding and fulfilling experience everyone should try at least once.
As Ben Howard sings in The Fear, I think every can relate to the struggle of insecurity and fear making decisions for us that we ultimately don’t want. I learned through this trip that the willingness to be vulnerable, to live with an open heart and mind, to put yourself in unfamiliar and uncomfortable situations, and seek adventure; you not only grow from the experience, but invite like-minded, kind-hearted, and generous people who will inevitably add more colour to your life and make the adventure and even more memorable one.
Sometimes, it’s perfectly fine to not be in control of a situation, just let life happen, invite spontaneity and find freedom.