Sridarsh Vinnakota takes us through the moments of his first ever solo backpacking trip to Tomorrowland.
From dream to plan
Vacation is the time when one shuts down from their daily routine and gives themselves a space to explore. After reading travel blogs for months, I was rather fascinated by the idea of travelling solo. Being a fan of Electronic Dance Music (EDM), I always hoped to attend Tomorrowland at least once in this lifetime. As luck would have it, I managed in securing both, a Global Journey ticket for the festival, and my parents’ encouragement.
I began planning by revisiting the idea of a solo backpacking trip. On a cold night, in January, I looked online for travel dates and hostels on www.hostelworld.com. The plan was a 20 day trip in July so that I could use my annual vacation from work. I chose to start in Croatia, then head to the Czech Republic, the Netherlands and finally attend Tomorrowland in Belgium. As a new solo traveller, Hostelworld helped me in altering my itinerary as it has a free cancellation policy up till 7days before date of arrival. After booking hostels in every city, and two tours in Croatia, I was set, excited and nervous at the same time.
I flew on KLM from Delhi to Amsterdam and finally to Split in Croatia. Following the suggestion of a travel blog, I went to the city center by bus, where I met a few backpackers, and students, on vacation. After an exhausting travel, I checked into a 20-bed hostel.
The experience, and the mix of people there, was quite interesting. I met many who had been a solo backpacking trip for 1 to 2 months, which I felt was quite hard to plan. Every hostel gives out city maps and the reception was helpful in guiding me on the places to visit. I walked around the city center that had narrow streets and a unique architecture. Since it was summer, I could see many people walking outside and dining with a waterfront view. The next two days I took tours in Split and even visited two UNESCO heritage sites. I met people from Australia, the Netherlands and the UK with whom I really bonded well.
My next stop was Dubrovnik, an old town in Southern Croatia, which is popularly known to Games of Thrones fans for King’s landing. The 14th-century architecture, the beaches, and a hike to the hilltop, with a panoramic view of the town, islands and the sea bring in visitors from around the world. I had the pleasure of staying in a family run hostel, where people were very helpful in guiding solo travellers. The next day, I flew to Prague which is known for its vibrant history and for welcoming millions of tourists each year.
My stay in Prague was for three days, and so I booked one of the best reviewed hostels. called The “Hostel One Miru”. It is run by fellow travellers who volunteer there for 1-2 months. They had daily events in the evening and a free vegetarian dinner where all hoteliers gather and get to know each other. There were around eight Australians in my hostel room who were welcoming. We played card games and later went to see the Charles Bridge at night, as during the day it gets busy with thousands of tourists. Many cities in Europe offer free walking tours and the next day I went on a 4 hour walking tour through the history of Prague and the Czech Republic as a country. We saw many churches and cathedrals in Prague; however we were surprised to learn that currently 80% of the Czech population are atheists. One thing I fell in love with was Prague’s architecture and their dedication towards preserving their heritage. I also tried their local cuisine such as Cesnecka, a garlic soup, and a fried Trdlo, that is a funnel cake topped with ice cream and cinnamon.
My next destination was The Netherlands, a country famous for its tulips, utilisation of wind power and revolutionary ideas. I had three days in The Netherlands where I explored Rotterdam, Utrecht and Hague which have a strong history and growth story over the years. At my hostel in Hague, I met a Harvard graduate who was exploring the Netherlands before starting her full-time job in the US. I also met a teacher from London where he taught History to middle school kids.
We had arrived in Hague during the same time, so together we took the bus, tram and walked to find a hidden beach that is only known to the locals. A dip in the ocean rejuvenated us, especially as there was a heat wave across Europe during that time. We later had Dutch fried cheese, at a beach restaurant, and also tried some fascinating Indonesian food at a cafe.
Trip to Tomorrowland
Buying an OV-chipkaart, a public transport smart card, was the easiest way to commute in trams, metros and buses, as well as trains, between the cities in The Netherlands. I took a train to Amsterdam where I met 10 other solo travellers who were going to Tomorrowland. We stayed at the same hostel and did The Heineken experience, Adam’s lookout (panoramic view of Amsterdam) and a river sunset cruise. We all became good friends by the end of this trip and currently plan for a reunion in 2020.
I could go on about the trip, the people and the experiences, but I’d summarise to say that one should do a solo trip in life as it gives an opportunity to get out of the comfort zone, talk to people, establish connections and make friends around the world. I was stressed at the start, but having met many who had been on a solo backpacking trip for 2-3 months, far away from home was motivational. Their stories have motivated me, and I’ll surely go on more solo backpacking trips.