Thursday 20 September 2018

My first time travelling solo

Before this year, I’d never travelled solo – not because I was scared or didn’t want to, just that the opportunity had never come up. I’ve always holidayed with my family and then as I got older, travelled with college and university courses and also with partners. But earlier this year I found myself in a position where I wanted to go away but had nobody to go with – my friend Holly and her other half, Mike, had planned a 2 week European adventure and asked if I wanted to join them on their last stop, in Belgium. Of course I did, but if I’d arrived the same day as them my holiday would have only been about 2 and a half days long which for me just didn’t feel like enough time. So I made the decision to head out a few days earlier and do some solo travelling…

Solo travel wasn’t nearly as scary as I thought it might be – obviously I wasn’t scared enough to not do it, but in the weeks leading up to my trip I definitely felt a bit nervous. Having always had someone there with me to remind me to pack my passport, or to hold the map while I try to work out which direction we need to go in, I was worried that I would mess something up/get lost/forget something important. But honestly, I found solo travel to be liberating and really a lot of fun. It meant that there were no arguments about doing what and doing it when – I didn’t have to stick to anyone else’s schedule and if I wanted to stop and have a drink, I could. If I wanted to go yet another museum, I could. I once went to Amsterdam for the day with a group of friends and I was desperate to visit the Anne Frank museum, but not everybody wanted to and it’s quite far out. In the end, we couldn’t decide on one thing that the six of us wanted to do and ended up just mooching around the city centre for the day, not really experiencing much of what the ‘Dam has to offer. So being on my own in Belgium meant that whatever I wanted to do, I just did it.

I thought that maybe I would feel unsafe at times, but I really didn’t – I was sensible, and the latest I was getting back to the hotel was around 8pm when it was still fairly light so I wasn’t walking around the city on my own at night. Being on my own really made me aware of my surroundings – maybe because I wasn’t being distracted by having somebody to talk to, or maybe I was just being hyper alert, but it was the first time I’ve ever been able to successfully direct myself back to where I’m staying from the main part of town without the use of a map. I think it’s definitely important to make sure you know where you are when travelling solo! I took a tote bag to use instead of my rucksack, because capital cities can be a hotspot for thieves and I wanted to keep my belongings close to me. I also made sure I had my passport at all times (safely tucked into my document wallet) in case for whatever reason I needed to prove who I was; you just never know. In terms of money, I budgeted a set amount for each day and took that with me in my purse, leaving the rest in my suitcase in the hotel room so that if I did lose my bag, I wouldn’t be left completely without cash.

Another thing I was a bit worried about was getting bored, because I’m an absolute chatterbox and the thought of having nobody to talk to was frankly terrifying – more so than getting lost/kidnapped/murdered. Jokes aside, I did think I might get a bit lonely but I really didn’t. Brussels is such a bustling and busy city that it’s hard to ever feel alone, and I found myself chatting to people in bars (bumping into two people who live a couple of towns over from me in an Irish bar funnily enough) and asking questions in the museums that I probably wouldn’t have bothered to ask if I’d had someone with me. I also made sure to keep in touch with my loved ones back home via text/social media so if I ever did feel alone, I always had someone to have a quick natter with. By night time each day I was bloody knackered, so not going out partying didn’t bother me; I’d taken my laptop with me and made use of the hotel’s free WiFi to watch Netflix and Youtube. Again, hard to feel alone when there’s someone on your screen telling you what they bought in Primark that week eh? I did worry about getting photos of myself in these amazing places, but when I was there I actually wasn’t too bothered about getting pictures of myself and when I did want one, I just asked the nearest kind-looking stranger. And both times, they really went to town with the angles.

Some of my top tips for solo travel are to make sure your phone is always charged (portable chargers are a lifesaver for this, of course) and to plan your days in advance as best you can – for example, I knew I was going to spend my Monday taking a day trip to Ghent, and with all the planning and travel that was necessary it kept me distracted. And don’t be afraid to eat in restaurants alone; Belgium was the first time I’d done this and I was a bit apprehensive but I had such a nice chilled out meal in a friendly little pizzeria which I was so glad I’d done instead of heading back to the hotel with a bag of Lays and a bottle of Pepsi.

If you have any other solo travel tips I would LOVE to know, so feel free to leave them in the comments.

For my GdaƄsk travel diary, CLICK HERE

1 comment:

  1. Awh thats amazing! I'm not sure I'd be able to go solo travelling, but did explore a lot of London on my own when I stayed there for a few months. I think I should give it a go one time though! xx

    Jessie | allthingsbeautiful-x