As I diligently prepared for my six week trip to Europe, I could not help but boast about my upcoming adventures and all the exciting things I would be doing. I noticed a common response after I mentioned I would be traveling for a couple of those weeks by myself. Most people were concerned about my safety or were perplexed why I would even want to venture out alone at all. When I heard this I was a bit discouraged and to be honest quite surprised. I know lots of individuals my age or younger that travel alone, for weeks, months, even years at a time! As my time at home wore thin and my trip began to approach I noticed myself becoming increasingly anxious about my weeks alone.
When the time came to start my travels solo, I was both nervous and excited. I love to push myself in all aspects of my life and was excited to experience some new things about traveling, and a little more about myself as well. After the first week of traveling, I realized just how simple it really was. Of course being alone one must always have their wits about them, but all in all, I found the experience to be really rewarding. In fact, it became one of my favorite parts of the entire traveling experience.
1. You can do whatever you want!
This was my favorite part of traveling alone. You are free to do whatever you please. Not saying that having someone else with is you huge obstacle. But when there are other people to consider during your trip, you don’t want to make the others upset and it definitely involved a bit more compromise. I mean let’s face it, you could be the best of friends but you are not going to agree on every single thing.
2. Opens you up to making new friends
This was very important to me on my trip. Sometimes it can be a bit lonely traveling alone. But the good thing about staying in hostels is the amazing people you meet there. You are guaranteed to meet other solo travelers like yourself or even a group of travelers that are more than happy to welcome you into their circle. The beauty of traveling is the similar mindset each traveler holds. Anyone that has traveled out of their comfort zone is more likely than not to be experiencing similar situations as you and feel the same things you are feeling. So don’t be shy, introduce yourself and start up a conversation. There are some truly amazing people out there and you might find a great new friend.
3. Opens you up to yourself
As I spent more time by myself I started to realize what I really enjoyed and what I didn’t. Each city I visited I woke up in the morning grabbed a map and went out exploring and found different places I wanted to visit. Throughout the day I had time to really reflect on myself and all the wonderful things I got to do that day/week. It is always positive to learn more about yourself, and when you travel alone you are able to seize more opportunities to do so. I have found myself in many different situations and always learn something new about myself by how I handle different challenges thrown my way.
1. Doing things at night.
Europe is generally a very safe place to visit. However, being a woman I found it much more difficult to do things at night when alone. Every now and then it would have been nice to go to a popular bar or club in the area, but being alone in a new city hindered me a bit. Now, I was not planning on going out and being belligerent by any means and I certainly don’t suggest that especially as a girl traveling. However, I think it is a good chance to see where locals hang out and try some local beer/liquor (especially if you are in Germany or the Czech Republic). When I was in Amsterdam I had some trouble being alone. I had men grab at me, holler at me and even followed a couple of times. Although I do think that this was a special case because I was staying in the red light district, where people are often up to no good.
2. Occasional loneliness
Although there are always new ways to make friends and keep yourself occupied on your journeys, sometimes you hit an emotional bump in the road. Traveling can be mentally and physically draining at times. It is a comfort to know that someone who knows you well and cares about you is there to have your back and simply talk. When traveling alone seeking the comfort of a familiar face is obviously more difficult. Fortunately, modern technology has provided us with a vast array of communication methods to temporarily ease our discomforts including Skype, FaceTime, Google Chat, or a good old phone call home (If you have a calling card or international plan).
All in all my time spent traveling alone in Europe was a positive experience. The people you meet along the way play a special role in your trip. Whether you keep in contact after your trip or part ways during your journey, you form a certain bond with fellow travelers.
The idea that each country has something interesting to contribute to the world and your personal growth is inspiring. Why does solo travel deserve special recognition? Is it that every city has a hidden treasure waiting to be found? (which may be different to each traveler), or the sense of adventure you feel by pushing your limits in an unknown territory, or maybe it is the satisfaction of knowing you’ve experienced a place exactly how YOU wanted to experience it. All of these aspects contribute to the beauty of solo travel, and I think that it is something every traveler shares.