I’m not going to tell you it was easy because it most definitely was not. I’m also not going to tell you that you should never do it, because you most definitely should. However, I am going to let you in on how traveling alone will forever and always be the best decision of your life, whether you’re down and ready to try new experiences or just need a cleanse from your everyday life, traveling alone will give you a sense of clarity and certainty as to why this life is yours and you need to live it your way.
Ok, not going to lie, I balled my eyes out before I boarded my plane. I MEAN STRAIGHT OUT UGLY TEARS, BALLED MY EYES OUT. My mom drove me to Toledo, where my first plane was taking off to Charlotte, and I broke down. I lived up at school for a year in an apartment with friends so I was used to not seeing my family every second of every single day, but man, being across the world by myself for 42 days was getting to me, and I hadn’t even left the country…
Montornés del Vallés, Cataluna, Spain
Step 1. Leave The Nest
Traveling alone was hard, I had never flown by myself, LET ALONE OUTSIDE OF THE COUNTRY. I had a lot of growing up to do in a little amount of time. I knew that I could take care of myself, I’m not incompetent, but I’m certainly not the type to ask for help…and BOY, that is the number one rule about traveling. DO NOT BE AFRAID TO ASK FOR HELP. That train is not going to yell at you and say “hey Jacqui, you bought a seat on my train!” when you’re aimlessly looking through the train station, or “yo Jacqui, apparently we’re on strike today and I will not be able to get you from Milan to Paris, so looks like you’re out of luck”.
When the random tragedies of traveling strike you, ask for HELP, or if you don’t speak Italian, French or any other language in Europe and you’re v confused (v = very), you ask for HELP. I know, that ego of yours, must really suck to ask for help, but when you’re about to miss your train that’ll then cause you to miss your flight back to America and you’ll be stuck in Europe forever (or at least until you get on another flight) help is not going to make you any less of a man or woman.
Step 2. Be Aware
Now that I got my HELP rant over with its pretty smooth sailing from there. Don’t be an idiot and walk around with your phone in your face, keep all your belongings close, and try to blend in. I didn’t say be one of them, because most likely you are American and the Europeans will be able to sniff you out, no exaggeration, we stick out like sore thumbs. So to make you a little less obvious wear some fashion-forward sneakers, stay away from sports caps and do yourself a favor and look at a fashion magazine before you go.
Pair of white sneakers with jeans and an oversized cardigan. Simple enough!
A nice tight fitted dress with trainers will also do the trick (I added a belt to snatch the waist and add a little extra pizzazz)
Let’s cover hostels! So, I would highly suggest NOT getting a coed room. Not very relaxing at the end of a long day, after you’ve walked 20 miles, have a bazillion blisters on your feet and just honestly feel like pure CRAP, to then have a guy try to talk to you and ask you to go out. LIKE NO THANK YOU. I think girls just walk into the room and understand that if you don’t talk you probably don’t want to talk and therefore you should not talk. Simple is as simple does.
So moral of the story when you are traveling alone I HIGHLY suggest staying in either an all-female room or an all-male room in a hostel, and if you’re thinking…why wouldn’t I just stay in a hotel? Because you’ll quickly realize that you’d rather be spending your money on something else besides a bed that you sleep in for maybe 8 hours and isn’t even as comfortable as your own. You are welcome, this will help you a lot when you’re trying to be smart and want to spend your money on something worthwhile (food).
Brunch & Cake in Barcelona
Step 3. DO NOT go out at night ALONE
I’d hope this is pretty self-explanatory. As little kids, we learn that the dark can be a scary place, and no matter where you are, whether it’s the safest place on the planet STUFF can still happen. Go out with some hostel buddies if you want to go out, but please please PLEASE do not do it alone.
Step 4. Learn how to eat by yourself
Since you will be ALONE you will be eating ALONE. Don’t pull the..I’m just going to eat gelato for every meal because I don’t want to sit down and look like a loner. Yes, maybe people will think that because you are sitting by yourself but you are also in Europe and it’s not uncommon to see someone doing that. In Europe people take their time to enjoy meals, they don’t run-up to a McDonald’s and order a cheeseburger when they’re on the run (well actually some do).
Enjoy a nice meal for yourself. TREAT YO SELF. I ordered a nice fancy breakfast in Paris after I had a pretty chaotic travel night. It was a three-course meal, IN THE MORNING (didn’t eat the rest of the day because I needed to save money lol), and it was the best decision I made that whole trip. The waiters and waitresses were so nice to me and the place was so stinkin’ cute.
Claus in Paris
Step. 5 Make friends or meet up with friends
Yes, I enjoyed traveling alone but I did get a little lonely. When I made friends or called up a friend that I knew would be in Europe, I hung out with them!! It was a breath of fresh air to be able to talk to someone that wasn’t me or not have to people watch for entertainment (even though we all know it’s a lot of fun).
Step 6. Learn how to love spending time with yourself
I’m not saying talk to yourself out loud and pretend that there is someone else standing next to you, I’m saying get comfortable with being with you and only you. So many people get scared of traveling alone because they think that they will be LONELY. When you become comfortable in your shoes you become your own best friend, a person that can cheer you up, motivate you and simply enjoy. It’s one of the many things people don’t take into consideration because they feel like they should be spending special moments with special people, BUT YOU ARE A SPECIAL PERSON WHO DESERVES SOMEONE WHO CAN ACKNOWLEDGE THAT aka you:). Your confidence will grow and you will begin to feel on top of the world, free 0f anything holding you back when you simply learn to enjoy the presence of yourself.
Montserrat, Cataluna, Spain
Last but certainly not least…
Step. 7 ENJOY
Traveling ALONE meant I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted to. So if I wanted to go back and relax in the middle of the day I COULD. If I wanted to hit everything from the Louvre, Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, Champs de Elysees, and the Arc de Triomphe all in one day I COULD. The freedom of doing simply whatever you wanted with no instruction besides the ones coming from yourself was one of the many beautiful treasures of traveling by yourself.
Don’t let people scare you and put the images of Taken in your head (never phased me because I never watched the movie, so HA). I think traveling by yourself is one of the many things that you HAVE to do in your lifetime. My neighbor said working as a waiter or waitress is another thing you have to do but I’m still a little skeptical about that one. ANYWAYS, do yourself a favor, take a chance, and travel the world ALONE. The opportunities are endless and the thrill of only relying upon yourself is…quite amazing actually.
Go, grow, prosper.
See ya later!
Jacqui M. Green