There is something so liberating about traveling alone and being completely anonymous in a city you have never been before. You are free of categories, expectations and conform – you can find your legs and lose the razor for them. There is such internal joy in self-sovereignty, booking your own trip as you go and having complete freedom. Not to mention the counter-intuitive romance in going out to dinner alone, asking for an alfresco table for one and having the waiter bring you out a giant bread basket with only one lonesome roll. To sit and fully enjoy the atmosphere, unsullied. It is wonderful to stay in hostels and be completely open-minded to meeting new people and to be approachable yourself. I got to know some extraordinary people on my travels whom I would have otherwise overlooked if I were with friends.
It has been a whole year to the week since I first embarked on my European escapades. Yet here I am this weekend, bestowing my patronage upon Peter Alexander and their mid-year winter pyjama sale with such ardent enthusiasm. I come to a realisation (amid a plethora of designer dressing gowns at half price), I need to get a life, and one in a sunnier sojourn.
Deep in the depths of winter and at the mercy of the elements, I have been finding myself indoors googling the symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder. ‘Fatigue, hopelessness and social withdrawal’. Looking down at my hot-water-bottle strapped to my chest via means of a pull tie from a rather unyielding dressing gown (from Kmart not from Peter Alexander- as MUST SAVE for next trip) and scrolling on Instagram for travel pics on a Saturday night, I google-diagnose myself.
I open the well-worn journal that I kept throughout my travels last year and flick through the many pages of memoirs that I recorded every day over a span of my 8 month travels. I open to a page that has a photo stuck on it. It read this:
This photo was taken in Dubrovnik – when the soles of my shoes resonated with my soul. *Sigh*
I find myself living vicariously through my old entries and that exciting epoch of my life. I have learnt so much about myself and the world from traveling solo. I want to encourage other young women to have the courage, confidence and spirit to travel alone. On my journeys and since being back home, I have had so many people say to me, “That was so brave, I could never do that!”
I can’t reiterate enough, how you CAN and should do it. Trust me, I never thought I could do it alone either as I’ve never been too independent (just ask all the different boys who put my IKEA furniture together!!) I had never even entertained the idea of going alone, but when my circumstances changed and the friend I was meant to travel with could no longer continue, I was put in a situation where I had to choose – go home or carry on.. solo! I chose to keep on, and it was a blessing in disguise and the best thing I have ever done.
I have had some lovely people recently email me expressing interest in some travel tutelage. Feeling flattered by this, as I am no expert and rather a keen dilettante, I would love to share with you my experiences. Over the next few weeks I will release some travel photos, share some hot-spots and anecdotal acumen for the countries I traveled. For now, this post will feature my itinerary, followed by some tips for traveling solo and then some mobile phone aps that literally saved my life. If it wasn’t for the Google Maps ap I can assure you I would be dead in a gutter – and if it wasn’t for the Wine Searcher ap, I would have never been in the gutter. For both experiences, I am thankful.
HOT TIPS FOR SOLO TRAVELLERS//
~Stay in hostels – you meet so many more people (I recommend booking via: Hostelworld.com)
~Go on a free walking tour in every new city (I recommend booking via Freetour.com)
~Always carry with you a good book
~Keep a diary / journal and write in it EVERY day
~ Pack light – you don’t have a companion to lug your suitcase up the stairs for you
~Don’t be afraid to ask for a table for one! Go out to dinner and toast a wine to yourself
~Get a coffee and people watch
~Learn the basic language in each country, attempting to say hello, excuse me and thank you goes a LONG way! (And “what beer would you recommend?” also goes a long way.)
~Exchange contact details with fellow traveler’s – many are doing the same ring route of Europe
~ Keep a folder with all your train tickets, flights, museum admissions etc (I’m a tad sentimental)
~Flick through Tinder to get an understanding of the local names of the region (and the local talent of course) but be safe if you are to go on a date with Gianfranco. PUBLIC PLACE PEOPLE
~Get some flamboyant tourist sandals just because. (TEVA actually have really cool ones!)
~Catch buses from place to place, even country to country! (I recommend booking via FLIX BUS) super reliable, affordable and the views are better!
~Don’t let age stop you – I made friends with a 19 year old and a 90 year old in the same hostel! – Every one has a story to tell
~Read Bill Bryson’s travel books for a laugh and some travel anecdotes and tips
~Rent a bike in every new city
~Pack a picnic for one and eat ALL the cheeses
~Take photos but be PRESENT in the moment. Delete Snapchat. Travel for yourself.
APS THAT SAVED MY LIFE//
XE Currency Converter
Tinder (didn’t save my life but taught me exotic names like Guillaume and Moritz)
Spotify (for music and podcasts!)
Serial (season 1)
This American Life
Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History
Under the Skin with Russell Brand
Stuff You Should Know
My Dad Wrote a Porno
GOOD BOOKS TO READ//
While in the UK: Notes From a Small Island – Bill Bryson
While in Spain: The Sun Also Rises – Ernest Hemingway
While in France: Down and Out in Paris and London – George Orwell
While in Czech Republic: The Unbearable Lightness of Being – Milan Kundera
While in Italy: Eat Pray Love – Elizabeth Gilbert
MY FAVOURITE PLACES//
Bay of Kotor – Montenegro
Dubrovnik – Croatia
Tuscany – Italy
Positano – Italy
Paris – France
Rothenburg ob der Tauber – Germany
Amsterdam – The Netherlands
Cesky Krumlov – Czech Republic
Skye – Scotland
PRAGUE, CZECH REPUBLIC//
Stay tuned for more travel posts!