So you have been contemplating a solo trip, but unsure whether you’d cope? what is the worse thing that could happen? You meet loads of amazing people? You visit some incredible places you have always wanted to go? Sounds awful.
To quote my favourite philosopher Marshall Bruce Mathers the third,
If you had, one shot, or one opportunity
To seize everything you ever wanted. In one moment
Would you capture it, or just let it slip?
So why don’t you capture it. I know a few people who are toying with the idea of travelling, or wanting to do a big trip but don’t have a likeminded friend to do it with. My advice to anyone reading this is just do it. Don’t let the fear of travelling alone put you off the trip of a lifetime. I spent a week alone this summer, now a week hardly qualifies me as a solo traveller, so why am I writing this post? Well I guess I am not qualified, so here is someone that is…
So let me Introduce myself. My name is Mel and I am Australian currently backpacking solo around Europe for 6 months. I know what you’re thinking, “oh god ANOTHER Australian traveling for a ridiculous amount of time!” Cue eye role. I get this reaction a lot, and I think it’s just because you are all jealous of what I am doing! But there is no need to be! You could be doing it too!
I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel quite a bit before. But these trips had always been no longer than a month. It never felt long enough and I always wished I could go on an extended backpacking trip. The one thing that prevented me from doing this was that I was afraid to go on my own and I never had a friend that was in the same position as me to be able to go. Eventually I decided that this wasn’t a good enough excuse to not do it. I put mind over matter, bought a ticket to Rome and tried not to panic.
After I had finally made the decision to do it the thing that most worried me was that I would get really lonely. There are a lot of hours in a day when you have no commitments. I had heard other people’s stories about traveling on their own and they always spoke about the fact that they met lots of awesome other travellers. But I was afraid that that just wouldn’t happen to me. I was of course completely wrong. Backpacker hostels are full of other travellers, both solo and in twosomes, threesomes or groups who are just as worried about being alone as you are! (George practically followed me around for a week after we met!) I have found that it is really easy to make friends and in fact the hardest part was something I hadn’t anticipated. It was saying goodbye to people that I had made really strong connections with in a really short period of time.
Don’t get me wrong, there will be times when you will feel really lonely and the whole thing just feels too hard. Although this sounds quite cliche – while traveling solo you experience a rollercoaster of emotion. One day you are canyoning at Lake Bled with your new best friends, full of adrenaline and having the time of your life. A few days later you are stuck in Budapest, alone, with no clean clothes because you dropped them off at the laundromat which you didn’t know doesn’t open again for another day and a half which means you are stuck in a shitty hostel longer than you’d planned and all you want is for your dad to come pick you up and take you home. In those moments where you want to throw in the towel just remember that around the next corner is another new friend, another beautiful town or city and another incredible experience. I certainly would have regretted going home early.
Something that people also ask me quite often is whether I feel safe traveling alone, particularly as a girl. Obviously some countries are safer than others and I chose Europe for my first solo trip because I figured that it would be one of the safer places to travel alone. The overall answer though is that yes I do feel safe most of the time.
I like to think that I am generally an approachable person, but when I’m feeling uncomfortable I suffer from something known as RBF or Resting Bitch Face. This means that my facial expression conveys the message ‘don’t f*** with me’ – this often happens without my realising it. I knew this about myself before I came away and I was worried that I would miss out on meeting interesting people or on awesome opportunities because of it, so I made a conscious effort to smile more and acknowledge people.
This nearly got me in trouble one day though when I was in Italy. I was on a small local train going from Rome to Naples. It was completely packed but I was lucky enough to get a seat. Sat opposite me were two older Italian guys around 45. One of them started talking to me in Italian. I could tell he was asking where I was from so in keeping with my new philosophy I smiled and told him Australia. He continued talking in Italian but I couldn’t understand a word of what he said so I resolved to just smile and nod. After a minute or two some young people across the aisle who had been listening began to giggle. This made me a bit nervous. Then another younger guy told me in English that he was asking me if I was traveling alone and and that I could stay at his place and he would take me out for dinner. My stomach dropped – I had been sitting stupidly smiling and nodding while this guy had been laying the groundwork to kidnap me and make me his foreign mistress. Eventually the train arrived in Naples and I got off as quickly as possible. I thought I was out of trouble so I stopped to look at a subway map when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I turned to find my kidnapper repeatedly saying ‘una cafe’ and trying to take my arm and get me to follow him. I firmly said ‘No!’ And practically ran into the nearest bathroom. I waited there for a good ten minutes and when I came out he was, thankfully, nowhere to be seen.
I don’t think this guy was a psychopathic serial killer. Just a creepy Italian man with too much confidence and a liking for younger women. I think that in the end you just have to be cautiously open to whatever comes your way.
So overall, it isn’t easy to travel solo and I give my props to all those who have done it before me and all those who will do it after me. I have found that the friends you make, the beauty you see and the sense of accomplishment you feel when you have traversed the length of Europe on your own make it an incredibly worthwhile experience.
What plans do you have alone, have you done it before? Would you do it again? Let me know. 🙂