I think it’s important to note that being alone is the easiest way to ensure a unique traveling experience. Weird and great things happen to you. Sometimes they are sub-optimal, but it creates the kind of travel story that’s worth telling.
Many people, myself included, do not realize how massive Australia really is until they arrive. The population is tiny relative to its size, and most of its inhabitants live in coastal cities. When people travel within Australia, the go-to destinations are Cairns, the Gold Coast, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Hobart, and Perth. Personally, I have visited Melbourne and Hobart so far. I have plans to go down the east coast after the IES Abroad program comes to an end, but will miss out on Perth and places like Uluru. The problem with travel once you are in Australia is that it is difficult and expensive to get from place to place. There is a Greyhound bus system, and you can get a monthly pass for a couple of hundred dollars so a lot of people opt for that. A fun and adventurous way to do it is to join one of the infinite Facebook rideshare groups. These are for young travelers looking for other people to split the costs of a car. I did this in Hobart and had a blast and a half. If this is intimidating, then the Greyhound or another bus/train/flight combination is perhaps a better way to go.
And now some anecdotes.
Going to Hobart solo was one of the best experiences I’ve had since being in Australia. When I arrived, I stayed in a hostel called The Pickled Frog (I can’t recommend this place enough!). Before I even got off the plane, I met two girls sitting next to me on the plane with whom to split a cab into the city. I ran off to get some groceries and as I was making pasta in the hostel kitchen, I met an Italian and some French people. We were all teaching each other some phrases in our languages (unfortunately American English is dry as dirt in comparison), and we all had such a good time together that we planned a drive out to Bruny Island the next day. May I also digress and say that an Italian guy watching you make pasta is terrifying.
In any case, Davide, Zoe, Elie, and I set off the next morning and had the loveliest of times in Davide’s rickety recently purchased sedan. I hung out with them for a few days, and we drove around the Tasman Peninsula, went to the Salamanca markets, and cried over the art at the MONA. I met a girl from Tasmania that was driving up to Cradle Mountain for a few days to camp and hike, so I joined her and lived out of her van with her for three days. We did a stunning summit hike of Cradle Mountain and then did a little hike the next day. Then we drove back to Hobart and one of the French girls at the hostel took me for breakfast the next morning before my flight. If I had been traveling with other people, there is only a small chance that I would have met these incredible people and had the experience that I did. Overall I had no plan when I arrived and had the most incredible time. I realize this was lucky, but I believe that where there is a will there is usually a way, and people are not as bad as you might think. Everyone is out to explore and see what they can, so if you can join up and reduce the cost of it while meeting some funky travelers, that’s all the better.
On the other hand, I’ve had negative experiences as well. Since I’ve been traveling in Australia, my only unfortunate encounter was in Melbourne. I was there with a group, but went off on my own for the day to explore the streets, alleys, art, and cafes. I was looking at an incredible mural in the back of an alley and a strange older man came up to me. He was seemingly harmless and was telling me about the artwork, but proceeded to make uninvited sexual comments and quickly left after I told him off. When things like this happen, the best thing to do is to remember that you can only control your reactions, not the actual events that happen. So I walked it off and kept going, but expect that things like this may happen when you are alone.
If you are nervous to travel alone, it's justified. It's scary. Eating alone is intimidating. Who will I talk to? Etc. But wandering around with no one else to limit how long you stare at a pretty flower in the street, getting food from wherever you want without having the dreaded "where do you want to eat" discussion, and meeting random crazy people is all worth it and more.
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Stella is currently a mechanical engineering student at the University of Colorado Boulder, where her goal is to always have at least one foot out of her comfort zone. When she is not on the engineering grind, she is passionate about playing guitar, backpacking, climbing, dancing, or really anything that will get her outside and soaking up the sunshine. Being raised in a French/English bilingual household, she grew up with an appreciation for other cultures and traveling. As she continues on her journey toward adulthood, she hopes to keep experiencing the unfamiliar and become an increasingly global citizen.