I’ve always heard inspiring travellers talk of how everyone needs to go solo travelling at least once in your life. If I were a hippie, I would say that I need to find myself. In truth, I just love to try new things. I’m very fortunate for all the travelling that I’ve done with my family and friends. At the end of the month I’ll start on a one month lap of Europe mostly by myself, and this weekend marks the first time I’ve ever done this.
Here’s the conclusion that I came to: when you travel alone, you’re really travelling with everyone. It sounds a little backwards, I know. But on this trip I met so many people from all over the world! More than I have ever met while travelling before.
My first mistake of the trip came on my way from the airport to the hostel. I always welcome a challenge, so I decided to tackle the public transit system to save some money. What I didn’t realize is that it really isn’t designed for travellers. None of the bus stops have names, signs, or really any information at all. I made it halfway to the hostel on the first bus, but was stumped from there. I started walking.
Let’s just have a quick flashback to a time that I watched a TED talk about an inspiring traveler who speaks about saving money while travelling. He explained that hitchhiking is a great way to meet locals and get around for free. That sparked the adventurous part of my heart, and I’ve wanted to experience that ever since!
So here I am, walking on the way to the hostel, thinking about hitchhiking, but so scared of taking that leap of faith. Should I do it? All I have to do is stick my thumb up! What If I get mugged? I had dozens of thoughts going through my mind. The traffic was moving very slowly at the time. My palms started getting sweaty and my nerves kicked in. Just then someone shouted out of their window, “Where are you headed?” This was my chance. It was now or never. I quickly recalled my destination and answered “Costa Del Silencio!” He gestured me over to the passenger side door, and I hopped in.
And that’s the story of how I got my first ride from a complete stranger. His name was Fredrik, from France, and genuinely one of the nicest people that I’ve ever met! He told me all about his trip to Africa that was booked for the day after and how he planned on bringing toys for the less fortunate children. He made my day, and I’ll never forget the first time that I ‘hitchhiked’ (kind of).
The first night in the hostel was spent getting to know many of the people who were staying there. I met a Kiwi living in London, a Glaswegian living in the Netherlands, and a few others from places like Lithuania, Turkmenistan and Russia! I’ve never seen such a diverse group of people sitting around a cheap plastic table drinking 1 euro beers.
For the record, the trip wasn’t entirely solo. I planned this trip with some flatmates, but because of a mandatory lab I couldn’t leave until Friday morning, whereas their flight was booked for Thursday. Because of this, we had a one day overlap (my first day) which we spent surfing, exploring cliffs, and sharing a 1 meter long hotdog. Yup, a full meter, but our fatal mistake was ordering burgers before that. Seemed like a good idea at the time, but hindsight is always 20/20.
The surfing was a different story. We were warned of powerful waves as the tide was coming in, but decided to go for it anyways. A little water never hurt anyone, right? As we sat out in the colossal waves, we realized that we may have been in over our heads. No pun intended. After getting lambasted by waves for 2 hours (we occasionally did get up), we washed up onto the beach, had a good laugh and carried on. You win some and you lose some.
For the second day, a few of my new international friends and I rented a car and drove around the island! It takes about 3 hours to do a full lap of the island without stops. We got to see the different local communities around the island, and beautiful views of the coast!
Part of the decision to lap the island was to see the ‘Carnaval’ happening in Santa Cruz. It was the last night, so it must be exciting right!? Wrong. Well, not entirely wrong… It was definitely worth going to see, as there were finale fireworks and we got to see the atmosphere of Spain’s way of celebrating the departure of winter. We were thinking that there would be a huge local party celebrating the last night! Turns out that the people of Tenerife are actually responsible and don’t party hard on a Sunday night. Such a strange and foreign concept to me…
Once we found that out, we gathered ourselves, drove back to our hostel, and took one of the hostel workers out for beers at a local bar named “Tatanka” with live music. This is such a cool place. It is located in the middle of an underground mall and the bar looks as if it is built into the rock behind it. The hallway of the closed mall is taken over with couches, tables, a dart board and a pool table. After a number of beers at this bar, we were more than ready to recover for the next day.
The next day was one that I had been looking forward to ever since I booked my scooter rental. I awoke for the free breakfast at the hostel, and grabbed the bus to the rental place. In case you were wondering, I had figured out the bus system at this point. No hitchhiking required.
What I didn’t realize was that getting there was the least of my worries. I kid you not, it took me nearly an hour and a half to find this damn place. I asked five different store owners, consulted my preloaded map on my phone countless times, walked down several different nearby streets, all to no avail. But as soon as my spirits were at their lowest I decided to ask one more store owner for directions.
All the lady replied was “I thought you weren’t coming!”. It turns out that I stumbled upon the bike rental shop on accident. In my defence, the website that I rented from had no advertisements up on the side of this shop at all, and this shop just appeared as incorrect as the other 3 bike rental places that had turned me away.
Alas, I finally get to ride my beloved scooter! Let me tell you, it did not disappoint. Equipped with my new whip, I was ready to meet my hostel friends at the top of Mount Teide, the highest point in Spain. As I ascended to the middle of the island, the temperature difference was immediately apparent. The climate changed from barren and desert-like near the ocean, to a luscious forest, and then to a rocky volcanic area near the top. I couldn’t believe that all of those vastly different areas could coincide within a one hour drive! There was even snow near the peak of the volcano! I took a cable car up, and found my friends at the top of the island.
After exploring near the summit (permits are required to go all the way up) and taking in the 360 view of the island, we made our way back down to a local town just under the forest region. Here we sat down for a well-deserved pint of Canary beer.
When we got back to the hostel we were reunited with a French friend that we had met 2 nights before. We managed to entice her into treating us to some French cooking, and we all ended up with delicious steak dinners. It’s so great to meet new friends.
And that’s exactly what my thought was the next day as I drove my scooter back to where it came from, took the bus to the airport (still no hitchhiking), and flew home. Travelling alone is definitely not a lonely thing to do. It sparks new friendships, adventures, and I would recommend it to anyone and everyone. Especially if it scares you.