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What I’ve Learned from My First Solo-Trip

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at TAMU chapter.

At 15 years-old, I remembered seeing a writing prompt that had asked what were some goals that I wanted to achieve in 5 years and in 10 years. As my mind wandered aimlessly desperate to be anywhere, but the stuffy Geometry class that seemed to drone on and on, I took up the writing prompt. I scribbled away at the idea of swimming in the rivers of Texas, visiting my home country, becoming an excellent cook, and finally solo-traveling to Europe. I didn’t think much about what I was doing, but I would like to say that was my earliest form of manifestation. 

Years later, as I’m sitting in my college apartment, I received a wedding invitation from a high school teacher. She was an impactful and supportive role-model in my teenage years and I was ecstatic to attend her wedding. The wedding would take place in Edinburgh, Scotland because that was where her husband is from along with the rest of his family. The months leading up to the wedding were an internal back and forth battle, with the question of if I was going hovering over my head. Every day felt like it was cementing itself as final. I had heated arguments with concerned family members and friends over finances and safety, ultimately their support won over their worries. My itinerary was for 11 days and I would be traveling from Edinburgh, London, Paris, and Barcelona. All of my clothes and toiletries were packed away in a 30 liter backpack. 

Here’s an in-depth explanation of some of the tidbits that I learned along the way and what I gained from this wonderful experience of solo-traveling. 

Inevitably Feeling Lonely

Although one of my favorite things to do is to find someone new to talk to and learn of their life story, I still crave to be alone and to catch up with myself at the end of each day. I thought I wouldn’t experience the effects of loneliness because of my free and independent nature and my ability to befriend strangers. However loneliness crept up on me in between flights, the moments before I’d fall asleep in hostels, and watching families travel together. Loneliness was a reminder of my transition into adulthood and was the absence of my family’s presence by the phone or in-person. So in the periods when loneliness would hit the hardest, I would allow myself to wallow in it. I sobbed on the plane trip to Paris from London while whispering to myself the words, “Ăn quả nhớ kẻ trồng cây”. A Vietnamese metaphor that roughly translates to, “When you eat the fruit, remember who planted the tree”. I felt that the opportunities that I’ve been fortunate enough to receive have been with the help of my parents and brother that put forth everything to ensure that I’d have the highest quality of life that they could offer for me. So there I was experiencing the most life-changing moments without them being able to witness it with me.

Check the big screens for the Boarding Gate

A typical experience at any American airport would be to print out a boarding pass. The pass will have printed the gate number at which the plane is departing from, plane number, and time to board. While frantically rushing to get to my flight to Paris from the London Gatwick Airport, I expected this part of the process to be the same. I was very wrong. I learned that with airports in Europe, it is crucial to know the plane number, airline, and time of departure as you scour through the seemingly endless list of flights displayed on T.V. monitor screens that show the boarding gate number. The boarding pass that you receive will not have it displayed online or printed. I assume they do this to avoid later confusion if a plane switches boarding gate numbers. It can be quite overwhelming as there may only be a few places that these screens are located throughout the airport and it may be crowded with people. I learned this the hard way. 

Put those paws DOWN in France

After a long and hot walk around Palais Versailles, I was ready to hop onto the train that would take me back to the city center of Paris. I wanted a quiet dinner that would let me unwind and relax. I met a female architect from Mexico, we quickly became friends and were engulfed in each other’s conversation. Until a French police officer came up to me with a commanding voice and said, “Madame, you are not allowed to put your feet up on the seat. That is a 60 Euro fine. How are you paying?”. I was shocked at the cost and had forgotten that I had kicked my feet up on the seat. I was in no mental state to negotiate my way out. My friend immediately jumped to defend me and shouted at him that I was a broke college student and tourist that didn’t know the rules. All of which were true. However, these remarks did not work on this well-seasoned officer who seemed familiar with this routine of preying on unsuspecting tourists. He persisted in asking me how I was going to pay. I paid by Apple Pay, if you were curious. 

Pick an understandable Cell Phone Plan

In the weeks of planning before the trip, I was online shopping for an e-sim cell phone plan. I needed a plan that would have full coverage for the countries that I’d be visiting and to have data while using Google Maps, Whatsapp, Spotify, or other necessary apps. I chose the cheapest and most promising plan based on other people’s reviews. After purchasing the plan, the company sent an automated email that included instructions for how to set up the e-sim for my phone. I made sure to re-read this several times before I arrived in Europe. When I finally landed in Edinburgh, I followed the instructions, but for some reason the data wasn’t working. I panicked. I couldn’t connect to the airport wi-fi to google what to do, the app for the phone carrier was only in French, and calling their contact phone number was fruitless as their automated voice machine was only in French as well. Although I figured out that I needed to toggle the switch to “Data Roaming On”, I could’ve probably saved myself the stress by picking another cell phone service provider that was in a language that I know. 


Some museums and clothing stores will offer a student discount with some form of identification for being a student. I always like to have my essential cards in my wallet, so my student I.D. was always with me. I bought new shoes in London’s Soho District that offered 10% off as part of the student discount. I visited the Museum of Contemporary Art of Barcelona, they offered a student discount there as well! I assume many other museums follow a similar protocol, but it may be difficult to apply this online if you are not a student within the European Union.  

Thank you so much for your time and attention in letting me share my crazy stories that allowed me to learn all of the things that I get to share in this article. Solo-traveling has allowed me to witness how adaptable I can be and has helped to break the mold of my own self-limitations by repetitively being confronted with unfamiliarity and discomfort while solving solutions to minor and major issues that may come along the way. I hope this article helps to convince you to solo-travel if it’s been on your bucket list. Solo travel doesn’t necessarily have to break the bank, it could also look like being a tourist to your own city or choosing to walk instead of taking the bus. Life is made up of small moments that look like this, so choose your own adventure. Cheers!

Phuong Anh Pham is a new member of the Her Campus TAMU chapter. She is excited to be part of a platform that seeks to inspire, motivate, and expand the minds of other young women. She looks forward to finding her writing style and honing her communication skills. She is currently a member of the Public Relations committee, where she will help in the creation of t-shirt designs and facilitate brand events. She is currently in her third year of the Landscape Architecture program at Texas A&M University. She has previously held internships at firms within the field of Landscape Architecture which has allowed her to explore other cities in Texas in depth of their culture, beauty, and history. She’s worked for firms in San Antonio and Austin where she has felt the most connected to her artistic and musical freedom. She has also worked for the Office of Sustainability that is part of the University. She is deeply invested in the practice of design with intention and care for the preservation of existing ecologies and helping cities become vibrant and living hubs for both humanity and organisms to coexist. When you can’t find Phuong Anh hunched over her desk in the Architecture building, then you probably won’t be able to find her at all because she enjoys unpredictable and spontaneous adventures whenever they arrive. She enjoys traveling to new places that allow her to expand and explore her understanding of the world, as well as learning about herself through this way. Some of her favorite simple activities that could make any day meaningful to her are: long walks with access to nature and people, visits to art museums, sipping a warm latte with oat milk on a sunny morning, being in the presence of family and friends, jumping on her trampoline, and playing with her little dog. She loves learning about how the world is interconnected through art, music, coffee, food, and language.