A year later than planned, and without so much as a ferry booked, a train seat reserved or a dorm space earmarked, I started planning this week in earnest to go backpacking.
I must have been saving and saving and saving for years? Wrong. Well, right, but the money I did save has sort of gone walkies and found its way onto different trips and other impulses.
I’ve got other more pressing concerns for the time being though… for starters, every time I type ‘Iceland’ into google maps, I get a list of all the Iceland supermarkets in the South West. Someone, somewhere, doesn’t think I’m serious about my vague plan to go backpacking that at present looks a little like two holidays joined together. So here I am, back on my blog after a bit of a sabbatical that saw me set up a village bakery.
I’m back on here to tell you that I am serious. I am going backpacking. I might have tried to go backpacking in Scotland autumn 2020, with my big rucksack, the odd hostel booked and public transport high on the agenda. But the occasional Airbnbs that mum paid for… well, that’s slightly cheating isn’t it?
Perhaps a dictionary definition of backpacking is good to throw in at this point. The Cambridge Dictionary says of the pursuit that it is:
The activity of travelling while carrying your clothes and other things that you need in a backpack [such as a kitchen sink the size of Honshu?], usually not spending very much money [unless someone else offers to pay?] and staying in places that are not expensive [until I inevitably say ‘sod it, I’m 34, I’ve bloody earned a room of my own’ and pay for it with a credit card that I don’t end up paying off for some time?].
Am I cut out for this? Right now, can I even afford to travel on a shoestring, let alone any other way? Will I end up like Reese Witherspoon in the film Wild, on the floor under the weight of a heavy backpack, except instead of getting up as she did, I just stay down and never make it out the door? Not to even mention the c-word! But one of the biggest questions I continually ask myself: can I hack being solo? I’ve been on short trips abroad by myself, before going on to meet friends. Growing up in London, I was no stranger to solo trips to galleries or dining alone. But while I have no problem dining by myself, I 100% would choose dining with friends over dining alone.
On this worry of going solo, I can however replay to myself something my infuriatingly well-travelled brother Stephen said to me as we discussed going to Japan together before he went on alone round China: when you travel solo you are never really travelling alone. Locals gravitate towards you in a way that doesn’t happen nearly as much when you are with your family or friends. When you travel solo, by your very nature of being so aware of your surroundings, you will always tumble into people along the way, whether you want to or not.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
For now, I’m happy just to begin at the very beginning and let the rest fall into place. Or not. What will be, will be.