Preparation and an open mind can help make travelling alone less scary
I have travelled quite a bit throughout my life. My mom worked for airlines, so we went on trips almost every year. I’ve also gone on trips with friends and school, but when I graduated from high school I decided to take a gap year to work and travel alone. In April 2013, I went backpacking in Europe for three and a half weeks.
At first, my parents weren’t crazy about it. It took a lot of research and convincing, but eventually I got them on board. The most important part of travelling alone is the research you do beforehand. I had never been outside North America before so I tried to figure out the safest places for a solo, female traveller.
Ireland seemed to top many of the places I researched, so I decided to start there. In the end, my trip consisted of Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales, and France. I could speak the language in all of these countries, which made me feel comfortable finding my way around and asking for directions.
Safety is key while travelling alone. You have to be aware of your surroundings at all times. I wouldn’t walk alone at night and I’d always make sure I knew a few subway or metro stops around my hostel so I could ask people for help if I couldn’t find my way back. I also kept a lock on my backpack and never put it down in public places. On trains and buses, I put my arms through the straps of my bag and held it in front of me so that no one could easily grab it in case I fell asleep. It may look ridiculous, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Hostels are the absolute best way to meet people and learn about the area when you’re wandering a new city on your own. I did all my booking through the website Hostelworld, which is a valuable source for researching hostels. They have reviews, lists of amenities, and everything else you need to know about the hostel you’re searching for. Hostels have events almost every night and lounges that make it easy for you to mingle with other travellers who may also be solo. Some even have bars on site. I met tons of people in the dorms and at hostel events, so even though I was travelling alone, I was rarely ever lonely.
Freedom was my favourite part of travelling alone. You can do whatever you want and change your plans for the day depending on how you feel. I really didn’t like the Louvre in Paris, so I only spent about two hours there, but I loved the Beatles Story museum in Liverpool, so I spent almost my whole day there. You have complete freedom and flexibility to change your plans each day to suit how you feel without having to worry about your friends’ schedules. No compromising necessary.
While travelling alone, keep an open mind. Don’t be afraid to talk to locals about their favourite spots and city recommendations. If you hear about something that sounds interesting when you’re there, add it to your schedule. If you hate something, don’t force yourself to spend any more time there than you want to. Travelling alone is all about you and being as selfish as you want. It’s an amazing experience to meet new people, learn new things, and to get to know yourself.