10 Things I Learned On My First Solo Backpacking trip

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Packing my bags and temporarily leaving everything behind wasn’t the easiest decision I’ve made. It wasn’t because I didn’t want to do it. It was because I was quitting my job (more like a sabbatical I suppose) and traveling to foreign countries that I really didn’t know too much about except for the stuff I read on travel blogs. But that’s all apart of the excitement! I knew it was something I had to do in order to grow as a person. So I did. And ended up learning a few things along the way. Here’s just a few things I learned on my first solo backpacking trip.

  1. BE READY FOR PEOPLE WHO REALLY WANT YOUR MONEY. As soon as I landed at my first destination in Cancun, Mexico I was greeted by a cluster of taxi drivers all wanting to take me places. Sounds pretty legit I know. But it was overwhelming to have all of these drivers throwing prices at you, so I just kind of ignored them and kept walking until one of them stopped me and told me he would take me where I need to go for $68. I looked at him like he was crazy, said no, and kept walking. He immediately ran up to me and told me $15… I kindly accepted…. There were also a ton of people begging for money throughout Central America. I Eventually got used to it.
  2. THE AUTHENTIC MEXICAN FOOD BLEW ME AWAY! And I want to go back because of it. Everything I ate there was exactly how food should taste. Lime, guacamole, and salsa were my staples in topping off my delicious street food! I even had amazing Italian and Chinese food while I was there. Belize was another winner when it came to seafood. And while in El Salvador, the papusa was a must. Very cheap and very delicious!
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  3. HOME SICKNESS ALMOST GOT THE BEST OF ME IN GUATEMALA. The one place I couldn’t wait to get away from started to creep back up to me. I was one click away from buying a plane ticket back home. Maybe it was because I felt alone around a bunch a new people. Luckily, Mike, who I had befriended back in Tulum, Mexico showed up at the hostel I was staying at (Capitan Toms Hostel, which I highly recommend) and wanted to go to Lake Atitlan for new years. I had wanted to go there anyways and it worked out perfectly. So don’t throw in the towel just because your missing home. The decision to keep moving on was a good one! Because that’s when I became much more comfortable and some real fun started happening!
  4. THE BACKPACKING COMMUNITY IS MUCH BIGGER THAN I HAD EXPECTED. And the camaraderie of the travelers was pretty awesome. It was very easy to make friends and it felt like we always had each others back. I’ve had fellow backpackers loan me money when I forgot it back at the hostel and of course I paid them back! Some of my favorite times came from cooking and sharing food with each other. Things like that just make people feel connected. So just remember when your out there in this gigantic crazy world, reach out to your new friends because you never know who you could be helping out.                                                                                                  10891808_10152448376556400_2292397572086483738_n
  5. THE WORLD ISN’T AS BAD AS PEOPLE MAKE IT OUT TO BE. When I told people about my idea to backpack Central America, some tried to tell me that these countries I was about to go to had nothing but drug dealers, kidnappers, and criminals and there’s nothing good there. I live in a state which supposedly has 3 of the most dangerous cities in the U.S. Well I’ve been to all of them multiple times and it’s not that bad. Like any other city, you just have to know where to be cautious of. In every country I visited I usually always felt pretty safe and the locals were very nice and I would definitely return in a heartbeat. But of course there’s always someone out there wanting to take something from you, like when I had a hoody stolen from me off my backpack in the street without me knowing it. Just always be mindful of your possessions.
  6. I ENDED UP SPENDING A LITTLE MORE THAN I THOUGHT I WOULD. I spent right around $1500 a month for two months. Now I spent my fair share on booze, good food, and decent hostels. I’m not here to do the bare minimum. And I had no problem treating myself at times. The Hostels I stayed at were anywhere from $5 to $20 a night. Same goes for food. It all depends where you are and what you eat. Tours got a little pricey at times. But the $60 I spent to go snorkeling in Belize might have been the best $60 I spent. If you go to Caye Caulker, Belize, go to Dirty Mcnasty’s hostel and this guy named “Smooth” will hook you up with the tour. It’s highly recommended if you like to snorkel, drink endless amounts of rum, catch conch, spear lobsters, and then have it cooked up for you on a private island!
  7. THE LANGUAGE BARRIER WAS A BIG SHOCK FOR ME. I flew into Mexico hardly knowing any Spanish. I only knew what the first few lessons of duo lingo had taught me. I didn’t really think about trying to ask for directions or ask for anything really. But when I needed to know some information about something it was hard to break that language barrier and it became very frustrating at times. So I decided to take a week of Spanish Classes in Flores, Guatemala and it helped me quite a bit.
  8.  LIFE MOVES AT A MUCH SLOWER PACE. The people just seemed more relaxed. Maybe it’s because they live a more simple lifestyle than the average American. We get so caught up in keeping up, we kind of lose our true sense of self, and perhaps that’s why so many end up stressed and depressed. But throughout these countries, people were a little more easy going. Sometimes maybe a little too relaxed. A lot of stores seemed to only open when they feel like it and didn’t have a set schedule. And one time in Bacalar, Mexico, I thought I was going to be late for a boat trip so I started jogging down the street with a small day pack and sandals, and these locals started laughing at me and all I could think they were saying about me was, “look at this silly white boy, he needs to slow down!” Once I got to the dock, My boat driver was actually late and not me. That’s when I realized I need to slow down, and take it easy.
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  9. AS SOON AS I RETURNED HOME, I WANTED TO GO BACK. I might have ended up staying longer but I got REALLY sick in El Salvador. I couldn’t hold any food or water down for three days and once again got homesick while I was actually sick. So I bought a plane ticket 2 weeks in advance back home. And when I returned, it was like people were stuck in time, still doing the same things as when I left. Now of course I was only gone 2 months, but it felt much longer since I had done so much and gone so far. I felt as if I had had an out of this world experience and that I could take on anything, anywhere. Within a few months, that feeling was still there, but faded into the background. But the eagerness to travel again never left me, and has only grown.
  10. THERE’S AN ENTIRE WORLD OUT THERE I HAD NO IDEA EXISTED. There is still an amazingly huge, awesomely vibrant world out there that needs to be explored! That’s why I urge people to travel more. At the least get out of your comfort zone and experience a different culture.

One thought on “10 Things I Learned On My First Solo Backpacking trip

  1. Yeah, traving around is awesome to see different countries when not any place is the same, and night and day, and people still working, its good time to travel when you single, when you have family you cant do what your doing

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