It's been 10+ years since I have solo travelled, and about 5 since I've done any kind of 'traditional' backpacking. I'll be 33 next summer when I travel around South America (postponed a year...) and I'm more scared now than I ever was the first time I put on a backpack for the first time at 21. I'm also recently single so that is also adding to my apprehension. Worried about making friends/being too old//being alone/standing out like sore thumb.
I'm hoping it won't take long to get back into the swing of things, but the thing I am most nervous about is meeting people if I don't stay in dorm rooms. I'm not completely opposed to them but I'm hoping the days of 10 bed dorms are behind me. I would typically just make friends by asking room-mates out for food/drinks. What other ways are there to meet people?
(And I'll start on the anti-wrinkle cream now so I don't look THAT out of place in a dorm room if I do choose to stay in one...)
Thank you so much, such a lovely reply! Reading reassuring things like this does really calm my nerves. 💚
Hey, Laura! In South America, many hostels are actually not dorms anyway but lots of private rooms (often with shared bathrooms), largely because it was easier to do it that way in historic neighborhoods when redesigning those old colonial buildings. Most of my experience is in Ecuador and some hostels off the top of my head there that are like this include L'Auberge Inn in Quito, Hostal Colibrí in Puyo, Hostal Limoncocha in Tena, Plantas y Blanco in Baños, Hostal Chasqui in Otavalo, and Casa de Cecilia in Mindo. And any hostel I know of that has dorms also has private rooms with plenty of common space for socializing, like Secret Garden. Also, South America is on average an older backpacking crowd since it's often seen as more "advanced" (it's still easy to backpack, this is more just a reputation than reality, and I supposed because the infrastructure is maybe not as set up around backpacking like some other more "beginner" places). So you would NOT stand out like a sore thumb. I also want to direct you to a reply I posted in response to rodknutton about being worried about backpacking and age! Honestly, with all your previous backpacking experience, I don't think any of my suggestions for ways to make friends outside of dorms would be news to you, but of course there are so many ways you can meet people outside of dorms and without feeling out of place. Common spaces in all hostels, guesthouses, etc. are filled with other travelers looking for friends. And you can meet and bond with other travelers by joining in on activities organized by the hostel, whether that be day tours, hiking, free walking tours, or bar crawls, or by signing up for group day tours through a tour company where you know you'll meet others. Also, just looking up where backpackers mostly hang out or what they mostly do in a particular destination, and you'll meet plenty of others looking to connect.
Seriously, you totally have got this. The older I get, the more I love solo backpacking because I'm more confident in myself and more knowledgeable about my own travel desires. You will have no shortage of great private rooms in places where you can still meet other travelers, both your age and younger and older ❤️