My Experience Traveling Solo in Europe

The idea of traveling alone is very alarming to many people in the United States, especially when it comes to the idea of a woman traveling alone. Last year, I backpacked Europe by myself and it changed my life. While planning, everybody I told was extremely concerned. I could not escape questions like: aren’t you scared? why don’t you wait until someone can go with you? and haven’t you seen the movie “Hostel?” I always answered with a laugh and let them know that I wasn’t afraid at all.

(I amsterdam sign in Amsterdam, Netherlands)

Where I went:

I traveled through Western Europe for about a month and I spent two to five days in each city I went to depending on how many things I had planned to do there. I visited London, Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, Barcelona, Capri, Naples, Florence, and Berlin.

How did I plan my time:

I did not plan my itinerary ahead of time— once I got to a city, I began planning my next stop. This may be seen as stressful to many people, but this was one of the more enjoyable things of my trip. It made me feel free. If I decided later that I wanted to make changes to where I wanted to go or how long to stay, I had complete control to do so.

What transportation did I use:

Between cities, I traveled by plane or train, depending which was cheaper at the last second that I was booking. Most big cities in Europe have a public transportation system that can get you most anywhere you would be looking to go. This can be daunting at first, but I definitely encourage doing your research and, if you’re lucky like me, you might even find someone who will show you how it works! 

Where did I sleep:

I stayed in hostels for my entire trip! NEWSFLASH: They are not even close to scary as they seem— I never felt unsafe or uncomfortable. I booked using the Hostelworld app on my phone, which was super easy. My average cost per night was $20-45. Again, do your research because some hostels are different than others. It is also important to find one in a location that is going to be convenient to you, whether that be close to the airport, or near the sites you’re looking to spend a lot of time at. Hostels throughout Europe were so clean and professional. It is kind of like a mix of a hotel and a dorm room. A lot of hostels have an option to be mixed gender or females only. I did both, but found the female-only were more expensive and it was not worth it to me.

How did I stay safe:

I decided to pay to have my phone on data in Europe the entire time, just in case I was ever put in an emergency situation. I had locks on all my bags and the hostels all had some sort of locker/safe to keep my things safe while I was out exploring. While walking, it was super important to be aware of my surroundings. In big cities, pickpockets are very sneaky and can take things without you even noticing. I even went out alone at night to get pictures and never felt unsafe!

How I spent my days:

I researched every city I went to so I had lists of must-do’s while I was there. I typically got up whenever I naturally woke up ( about 9 a.m. or so) and got ready for the long day ahead. I would be gone from the hostel anywhere from six to 12 hours. Throughout the day, I always had snacks and my travel water bottle on me. For lunch, I either would have somewhere in mind that I found online or I would ask someone working one of the sites that I was visiting. I preferred to eat at unique and small places rather than big restaurants near sites.

(The Louvre, Paris, France)

Making friends:

The best part about hostels is they are filled with people traveling alone too! I had no problem meeting people in every city I went to. I typically made dinner/going out plans with people I met at hostels so I could make sure I saw the things I wanted to. I did end up exploring with some people as well. I found that people traveling alone are very adventurous and are always interested in doing things even if it wasn’t their original plan. I always said yes to plans! It made the trip more exciting.

Challenges I faced:

I came across many challenges throughout my trip. A lot of them were due to language barriers between myself and the people in each city. In Paris, the Parisians basically refuse to speak English, so I struggled getting around and ordering food in restaurants. One of my flights changed where it was going before boarding and I didn’t know until we landed. I missed a boat because I didn’t clearly understand the direction I was given. Although these were all frustrating, they were easily fixed and helped me learn to be more careful.

(The Heineken Experience, Amsterdam, Netherlands)

What I learned/my takeaway:

Traveling solo made me so confident! I did so many things that nobody thought I would or could. It feels so good to talk about all the amazing things that I did completely by myself. I got to take in so many amazing sites and views while learning how wildly capable I am.  

    

I encourage everyone to take a trip alone. It doesn’t have to be as crazy as a month in Europe, but take a day or weekend trip somewhere a few hours away. It is amazing the reflection you get to have when you’re by yourself.