I travelled alone for years. Yet on all of those journeys I have never felt lonely. This is mainly because of the use of backpacker hostels, and guidebooks. Backpacker hostels not only provide you with cheap accommodation, but also a relaxed, comfortable and social atmosphere where the weary traveller can rest and talk to other, like-minded, people. This is the best place for a solo traveller to meet others who are on the same road as them. Consequently, you will often join up with others and travel together. The best part is that when you’ve had enough of each others company, you can part and go your own ways. Shortly afterwards you will no doubt meet more people to travel with. In my years of travelling I have made friends from all corners of the world. With the beauty of email you can now keep in touch. I recently had a reunion with an Irishman who I worked with for a month in Australia six years ago. It took six years, but we finally got to meet up again.
The other necessity for the independent traveller is a good guidebook. The Lonely Planet and Rough Guides are the most commonly used. They are like the traveller’s Barclaycard. In other words, ‘Never leave home without it.’ These books will give you all the information you need when on the road. They are geared towards informing the penniless budget traveller up to the posh independent traveller. Also, when you are travelling a country where there is a dire shortage of backpacker hostels, the Lonely Planet will often tell you which budget hotel is popular with other travellers, or you can guarantee that the first two on the list will have other travellers staying there, because they too are using the Lonely Planet Guidebook and often choose the first or second. The only thing about the Lonely Planet and the Rough Guide is that they wont offer a true reflection of the accommodation they are writing about. I have lived and worked in a hostel in Wexford and seen how the writers either announce their presence with a card upon arrival, thus assuring free accommodation, and either spend the night, or in some cases just spend an hour being shown around the place. In my humble opinion this doesn’t constitute an accurate portrayal of the place because, quite naturally the owners are going to bend over backwards to be nice and courteous.
So there you have it, proof indeed that travelling alone is not as lonely as you might think. Many people have said to me: ‘Ooh, I couldn’t travel alone. How do you deal with the loneliness?’ If only they knew, I thought!