To be quite honest, I’ve lost track of time. I guess it’s now almost my second full week of traveling solo through Europe, or really without a set partner or friend. For a refresher, I headed out to London on June 19 with my family for a week, then we flew to Spain for another week. When they headed home, I met a friend from school in Prague, where we stayed for 2 nights and then headed to Budapest for 3 nights, after which he left. Luckily, I met some amazing people in Prague and traveled with my new friends to Croatia for a weekend. When they headed home, I went from Split in Croatia to the Plitvice Lakes, then up to Zagreb for a night. Then through Austria to Rome, where my Italian adventures began. Spent a few nights in Rome and Perugia before heading to Florence for four nights. Now, I’m in Paris for four nights and meeting up with a friend I met in Prague, and his sister. Since I left the people that I was technically traveling with, whether it be my family, friend from school, or the people I met in Prague, I’ve just been catching up with people I’ve met along the way in new cities, making new friends, or exploring on my own. I was lucky enough to be able to extend my trip, so instead of going home on this coming Tuesday, I’ll fly back to the States on August 7th. Yeah, that’s right. I added a week and a half to my solo travels. OooooooOoooOoooooOoo.
Before I left, I knew I had about 2 weeks of solo traveling to do. It was a bit scary, really. I have a wild imagination so everything from pick pocketing to Amanda Knox was on my mind. The worst was that whenever I told someone I, a 22 year old female, was traveling alone, it seemed as if they wanted to give me a round of applause and buy me some mace at the same time. They commended how “brave” I was for traveling alone in big, scary Europe. After awhile, it started to piss me off. Did people do this to guys around the same age as well? Wouldn’t you think two girls traveling together could be even more of a target? Am I not smart enough to travel alone? Whatever it was behind their ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs,’ I didn’t like it. I made it through four years in New Orleans without even losing my student ID card or phone and spent a semester abroad where I had many nights walking back from the train/bus station without a friend by my side. Having people constantly give me this response made me second guess the adventure I was about to embark on. I was excited for my 5 and a half weeks (now 7) in Europe! But now I was questioning myself. “Should I have waited for a friend to go with me?” “Will I even come back alive?” Quickly, I shook these thoughts away. Yes, I would come back alive. And no! Don’t wait for anybody. You have the money, you have the time, you have the drive. GO! Screw the people.
Not to go all Eat, Pray, Love on you, but traveling solo has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. And I haven’t even really been alone! From hostels to making new friends to seeing old ones, I almost treasure the hours on trains or the rare nights I get to spend without a bunkmate. For all the hype around a girl traveling alone, it really hasn’t been that much to fuss about. What is to fuss about is how much you learn about yourself and what you can, and can’t, do. With less than two weeks under my belt as a solo traveller, I already feel mentally and physically stronger than I was before. I know what makes me happy and what doesn’t; however, I am much more likely to give someone or something a second chance just for the hell of it, or because I’m alone and hey, some things are just better shared with another human being.
So there’s the rant. Next time you talk to someone traveling alone, ask them questions about where they are going or what they are most excited for. Don’t act surprised about what they are doing based on their age or gender. If someone is going traveling by themselves, they probably have enough guts and wits about them to come back alive.