In 2010, burgeoning student loan debt coupled with the onset of the biggest economic crisis since the Great Depression panicked millennials across the country—finding a job was certainly no easy feat. But Jeremy Foster says he considers himself “lucky” to have graduated from college in the middle of a recession.
Why? It forced him to think outside the box when deciding what to do with his life. He got a job in IT but bought a one-way ticket to Australia with “literally zero plan” shortly thereafter. The only thing he knew for sure was that he was going to travel, and he was going to travel alone.
“I think anybody can make it work—we’re functional, intelligent, resourceful human beings who, when put into a bind, find a way out,” he says. “That’s pretty much what happened to me. I started traveling and working in bars to support myself for a number of years. I was traveling as blogger by day, bartender by night… until, a couple of years ago, I made the official transition to blogger by day, blogger by night.”
Foster has since traveled about 35 countries almost entirely solo, and his blog, Travel Freak, reaches 220,000 readers and social followers each month. Travel, he says, is a platform for self-discovery and self-growth, and that’s an underlying theme throughout most of his written work.
“When you’re on the other side of the world and nobody is watching you, you come face to face with exactly who you are,” he says. “My goal is to help people not only discover the far reaches of the globe, but also the far reaches of themselves.”
While Foster admits that he didn’t necessarily feel ready to take the leap to indefinitely travel himself, he adds that nobody ever does; it’s never a right time—you just have to throw it all to the wind and welcome spontaneity. Of course, going alone can seem intimidating, so we caught up with the expert globetrotter for his advice on how to travel the world solo but never feel alone.
1. Force Yourself Outside of Your Comfort Zone
“I like the fact that [in solo travel] I can be selfish and do whatever I want, whenever I want, wherever I want,” he says. “When you travel with somebody else, you always have to consider their needs and their wants. Traveling solo, you don’t have to—it’s a very selfish endeavor, but it’s wonderful. The hard part is not knowing anybody, but it’s also the best part because it forces you out of your comfort zone and it forces you to talk to people who you’d never otherwise talk to.”
2. Consider Where You Call Home Base
“Youth hostels are a fantastic idea,” Foster says. “Hostels have shared rooms where they offer 12 beds that are really cheap—it’s really annoying and a lot of fun all at the same time. Those are great, especially if you’re traveling on a budget. But you can also get a private room in a hostel and you still have the social aspect… Youth hostels have a community.”
3. Take to the Internet
“There are also a lot of meet ups around the world. Let’s say you are staying in a hotel or you’re just having trouble meeting people, Couchsurfing has meet ups all the time in all different cities all over the world. That could be a really, really great place to meet people even in your own city—if you live in New York or Washington DC or Los Angeles, go to a Couchsurfing event. You’ll meet tons of people who just love travel.”
4. Don’t Be Afraid to Make a Fool out of Yourself
“Talk to everybody—absolutely everybody,” he adds. “The thing I love most about traveling is that, in a lot of cases, you’re never going to see 99 percent of those people ever again. So you can say whatever you want and you can act however you want, and it almost doesn’t matter… It’s really about opening yourself up, talking to everybody and saying yes whenever the opportunity presents itself. If you close yourself off, you’re going to have a very closed off kind of travel experience.”
5. Reach out to Your Social Network’s Social Networks
“Traveling has this sort of snowball effect in that you keep meeting people from around the world, and then maybe you end up in their city, then you stay with them and they become your local guide, and then you meet a bunch of their friends who become your friends and it just kind of spirals out of control,” he explains. “A lot of people discount their own ability to create their own ‘Couchsurfing’ networks… If you’re traveling longer term, you can build these relationships up over a couple of weeks.”
6. Take up a Volunteer Opportunity
“There are really excellent volunteering opportunities, so if you want to give some purpose to your travel beyond just enjoyment and discovery, you can volunteer somewhere and you’ll be surrounded by other volunteers and will often get free accommodation,” Foster says. “You’ll instantly be dropped in a social circle, so you don’t even have to try. You have pretty much everything provided for you, and those volunteering opportunities can be everything from a week to six months to a year… It can be a great opportunity for people who are extroverted and who are introverted.”
7. Physically Put Yourself in Social Settings
“It’s a part of overcoming fear—the fear of being judged, the fear of looking silly,” he says. “If you were able to overcome your fear to buy a ticket to go travel, if that was a fear, then this should be a walk in the park. You just have to push yourself and, even if you’re shy, if you’re staying in a hostel, you could just sit in the common area. Just sit there. Somebody is going to come up and talk to you; that’s the kind of environment that it is. If you have a hard time starting the conversation, just put yourself in a physical location where a conversation could easily be started, and somebody else will start it because that’s just the nature of travelers.”
8. Understand What You Want to Get out of Your Travel Experience
“It’s very important to know why you’re going traveling, and why on two levels: Are you going to escape something, are you going to find yourself, are you going to go on your own Eat Pray Love journey, or are you going so you can discover the world?” Foster asks. “If you first determine why you’re going, then you can start to piece together the details after that… If you’re just going because you want to party (and a lot of people do!), know that and recognize that, and you’ll have a great time. You’ll know the kinds of people you’ll want to surround yourself with and you’ll manifest that. Once you know those things, you can create the rest of it.”
Photo Credit: Travel Freak