Most of my travels through Europe I organized with old and new friends but there were some parts that I was turning up to a new city completely alone, not knowing a soul (much to the disapproval of my parents). I know that people say this is dangerous and asking for trouble or just downright lonely but I honestly think it is the most character building experience you can give yourself and I am so proud I had the courage to do it. Not only did I have to learn to be extremely organized and savvy but I also made so many new friends, from all over the world (not just Australian although most of my backpacking friends were, you cant escape us!) who I have kept in contact with a year on and caught up with whenever we are in the same city. I highly recommend doing at least some traveling alone but here’s my advice before you do it:
- Stay in a hostel: I believe it’s safer then staying in an air bnb if you are by yourself because you are surrounded by loads of people in the same position as you. You will find heaps of other solo travelers in hostels or generally sociable and friendly people so even if you don’t feel like making friends, at the very least you have people around to recommend places, or direct you.
- MAKE THE EFFORT: Sometimes it can feel easier to slip by, unnoticed, but I dare you to say ‘hi’to a complete stranger waiting in reception, or your new roomates! I know this is extremely daunting for some people but once you do it you will realize there was nothing weird to it at all, and 90 percent of the time the receiver of your greeting will be very welcoming and you never know what it could lead to! If they are an unresponsive imbecile then they are the dick and it’s their loss, you should feel embarrassed for their poor social skills, and sorry for the dull lonely future they have ahead of them.
- SAY YES: When some randoms in your room ask you to dinner, or reception asks you if you wan to do an all day kayak safari after partying all night, or your new friends ask you to come to Slovenia (a country you hadn’t even heard of before), YOU SAY YES. I don’t care if you have other plans, don’t be such a tight-ass control freak, these are opportunities the universe is presenting to you that could lead to all sorts of magical things, like meeting your new best friend, the love of your life, eating amazing food, or discovering a country you had never even heard of.
- GOOGLE MAPS IS YOUR BEST FRIEND: Google maps will show you the quickest walking route, the exact forms of transport to catch in practically EVERY city, as well as Uber and Taxi costs for the journey.
- PLAN AND SCREENSHOT EVERYTHING when you have wifi: Before you leave the wifi of your hostel to travel to your next destination PLEASE do not leave until you have screenshot your routs, form of transport, and address for your hostel (in case you need to ask for directions from a non-english speaker). I wrote everything down in a book too as I wasn’t great with my phone (keeping it in my possession that is )
- DANGER ZONES: Train stations are where I have probably felt most unsafe being a girl traveling alone. Particularly in Rome, Milan, and Brussels. On a number of occasions I was targeted by beggars or con-men or would even have groups of guys harassing me. I obviously look weak and vulnerable being a young female tourist alone, and therefore an easy target. However the worst that came of it for me was being a little shaken up, as I made sure I walked quickly with direction and didn’t stop to look or talk to anyone, no matter what they said. If you look like you know what you’re doing and where you are going, eventually they will back off. I also had locks on all my bags. At ticket machines sometimes people will come up to you and try to “help” you and take your money BUT JUST IGNORE THEM and they will eventually move on. You have to be extremely self reliant in these situation because 99.9 percent of the time no one is going to “just help you”, there is always a catch. If you have to arrive at a train station at night, I recommend getting straight into a cab to your hostel or knowing exactly where you are going so you don’t look lost and clueless at any point.