When I told people I was going to travel solo around Europe over the summer, their first reaction was usually: is it safe for a girl to be travelling alone?
In a way this irritated me. You wouldn’t hear this question much if it was a guy in question. But I’m a girl, and it’s sad that I was brought up to fear the world. But I refuse to let my gender be a chain. (It’s not, by the way; don’t take that sentence the wrong way.) I knew that at least once in my life, I wanted to travel alone.
I’m not dead yet, so I’m guessing it was safe enough for me. I didn’t go to dodgy countries—but to be honest, I didn’t even bother to research how safe the countries were. I kept a bunch of people updated on my locations and how I was doing. Plus, it was summer. 14 hours of sunlight. I figured I’d be okay so long as I got to my accommodations before the sun set, which I sometimes failed to do. On those unlucky nights, I’d be walking down deserted streets with panic rising in my chest. But those happened only 5 times during the whole trip, and once it involved me sprinting up a hill to the hostel with my luggage hitched over my back while the clock ticked towards midnight. That was one of my bad experiences. But you can’t have the good stuff only.
Another thing people asked me: aren’t you going to feel lonely?
Yes. But mostly you won’t. How can you, when you meet people everywhere: in hostels, during walking tours, when couch surfing? So much people to talk to, and everyone so different. Growing up in my country, I saw the same people for 18 years. I’ll be honest here: it gets boring. It’s comforting, but it’s dull. Sometimes I wonder why it felt hard to breathe there: was it the humidity, or just how nothing ever changed?
When I did feel lonely, usually it was when I ate out at a restaurant. I’d look around see couples everywhere, which just made me feel like shit until the food came. But being alone had an upside: it gave me time to reflect on myself, which I’ve never really done before because there were always other things to do, other people to talk to. Distractions. Whenever I found myself sitting across an empty seat I would take out my journal (I kept a journal for the whole trip) and write down whatever I was thinking of. My entries were mostly just details of the days’ events, but sometimes they provided insight into who I am as a person. I think.
The question before is usually followed up by: why don’t you travel with your friends?
Because I hate the idea of travelling in groups. A pack of people moving from place to place, all together, always together. The only way it could ever work was if everyone was on the same page, and I would say that rarely happens. Although I guess it’s more cost-effective, if you’re going to stay in AirBnBs or hotels, and eating out every night. And you do get to nag someone to repeatedly take photos of you until you’re satisfied with it. And you’ll always have company.
The thing is, what if it’s company you’ll get sick of? I didn’t want to travel with friends I might get annoyed with—it could potentially break the friendship. I didn’t want to lose friends over petty things (like my attitude). And travelling in groups makes you closed off to other people, which takes part of the joy out of it. It’s not just about the sights, it’s also about the people you meet. I talked with a lot of people I wouldn’t have if I had travelled in a group; and it made my whole experience a lot better. Also, I got to be selfish. I didn’t have to compromise. I scrimped on food (hello Nutella and bread for 3 days straight!) and splurged on museums and plays. I didn’t have to listen to anyone whine or complain about things, which frankly always ruins any trip. I did things I wanted to do in my own time, and that was a damn good feeling.
But who am I to put words into your mouth? Go ahead, try it yourself. Whatever your final opinion of it, at least you can proudly say “I’ve travelled alone before.”