Sipping my healthy smoothie by the Kilifi Backpackers bar counter, I watch as my friend tries to get a splinter off of *James (a fellow traveller’s) foot . Poor thing went swimming at the beach and left his stuff (bag, shoes, and bicycle) unattended. Unfortunately for him, “Cha kuokota si cha kuiba” finding is not stealing, is a rule some people live by on this ends, his bag and shoes got stolen and had he not left his bicycle somewhere in the bushes, his transport back “home” would have gone too! With his shoes gone, getting his bicycle from the bushes left him with a thorny situation.
Even after cleaning his wound when he got back from the beach, *James could still feel some sharp pain on the foot and that’s when he asked us to check it out. Funny thing though about this whole situation, I doubt he would have gotten any such assistance from fellow guests in a classic or luxury travel setting, everyone keeps to themselves! Imagine you and your friends enjoying your drinks in some luxurious hotel bar, laughing with each other about jokes nobody outside of your group will understand, based on memories and past experiences you had with those friends. Now imagine some random dude approaching you and asking for help with his foot situation. What would your reaction be? weirded out perhaps?
With backpacking, things are different. Sure, not everyone will be welcoming with open arms when you ask if you may join them for dinner, some people want to be left alone sometimes, but I guarantee you that 99% of people will say “sure, no problem”. See even though we were not really “buddies” with James, we were not really strangers per se, we had cheered him on during the daily beach volleyball, shared conversation over breakfast, heck we even got to “babysit” his beers!! so we were already familiar with him.
If you are setting out to travel on your lonesome and are worried about loneliness creeping up on you, fear not, backpacking is here!
Just like our time at Distant Relatives, you will realise that almost everyone backpacking is travelling alone as well. Moreover, everyone wants to make friends. As a matter of fact, you may have to TRY to be alone! It does not matter how introverted you are, it is impossible not to meet new people; for instance, at times you may just be sitted by yourself wanting some alone time when a stranger joins you for conversation.
Whether you’re lounging in a hammock on the balcony or frying something in the communal kitchen, at any moment you could strike up a conversation with a stranger and make a friend for life.
Aside from that, meeting new people is inevitable when staying in a hostel, or dorm rooms. You won’t have a choice but to get to know them. Just say hello and ask where they’ve been, where they’re going, how long they’ve been around and if they’d recommend anything cool to do or see.
I’m not sure it’s possible to feel lonely at a hostel and more often than not, you may end up craving some alone time.
In the backpacking world, it’s always someone’s first or last night and therefore a reason to go out – which means there’s a lot of drinking going on (A LOT!). Therefore, if parties are your thing, you will never fall short. Going out for dinner one night with several strangers and never seeing them again is part of the fun and it’s what happens. People are aware of it and it’s kind of the norm.
You meet great people, and then tomorrow they are gone. Maybe you will see each other again, maybe not. In some cases though, some of these people may end up being the group you travel around with, which is a great bonus!