Travelling solo is something I have always wanted to do. Ever since I realised that yes, it is totally fine to go somewhere new on your own, I knew that it was something I wanted to do. After the disaster of travelling last summer, I was so ready to grab Italy with both hands and have an incredible three weeks exploring somewhere new.
However, I was terrified about going by myself. I had flown by myself before and I am totally comfortable on my own at home but travelling by myself did unsettle me. I was worried about everything from getting public transport by myself to having dinner by myself. The silence of being on your own can deafening and it can be hard to imagine yourself in this kind of situation until you are living in it.
I learnt so much about myself by travelling solo. In Rome I was absolutely terrified from the moment I got off the plane as my whole itinerary was up to me. Everything would be decided by me. I didn’t have a job or commitments or other people to consider when making up my day in Italy – it was just me.
And that was 100% the best part.
It was great being able to decide when you wanted to eat and where.
How long you would spend in a museum or deciding to just do something another day instead.
If you wanted to spend fifteen minutes browsing a store or leave after being in there for two minutes.
Everything was up to me and I was in complete control which meant I could tailor Italy completely to me.
This was ideal for me as I was travelling as part of the core travel course of my degree and I was gathering background and ‘research’ for my presentation. I could do things when I wanted to do them and this meant my Rome trip was a lot more education heavy than it would have been if I was travelling with friends or family.
You can do anything – and everything. All the hours in the day are yours. One of things I particularly enjoyed was the freedom of choice around eating. I could eat a pastry on the go in the morning and stock up on snacks for munching around in the day. I didn’t need to stop for lunch because someone else was hungry or eat in a restaurant that didn’t sing to my soul because someone else chose it.
It sounds selfish but I loved this. It was great being able to eat a huge dinner at 2pm and then have a gelato around 7pm before rolling home – every day was my own to do as I pleased.
FILL THE SILENCE
You can feel lonely if you are travelling on your own, especially if you opt for an Airbnb or hotel accommodation as opposed to a hostel. I felt pretty lonely for the first couple of nights as it was a combination of feeling unsure about Rome and feeling left out from things going on at home. The silence can be overwhelming at times but filling it will make you feel so much better.
I am obsessed with podcasts at the moment so I had so many downloaded on the Apple podcast app so I could listen to one whilst sitting in a piazza, by the pool, on public transport, in my room or in the Villa Borghese. It was a great way to distract my brain if I was dwelling on feeling lonely and gave me something to focus on. Whilst listening to true crime does fill me with fear at times, I had plenty of other podcasts to listen to as well.
Taking a book around with you is a great way to keep yourself occupied if you are eating in a restaurant or sitting in the park. I always had something to read on me, whether that be a paperback or a guide book. I also love carrying a notebook as I always want to scribble something down so this was another good thing to do in a restaurant as it made me feel important and sophisticated. Hi, I’m just another tortured writer …
JUST BE EXTRA CAREFUL
You are the only person responsible for your things so avoid heartbreak by just being that little bit more careful. Keep your luggage on you at all times, use padlocks, triple check everything. Taking the time to be extra careful might feel meticulous but it just helps to prevent the risk of things being stolen or getting lost which will make you feel a hundred times better in the long run.
BE OPEN TO NEW PEOPLE & EXPERIENCES
I am not a shy person but I am also not a very outgoing person. I very much rely on my friends when I’m out and find talking to new people pretty intimidating. Staying in a hostel by myself as opposed to with friends was scaring the shit out of me until it actually happened. And you know what? It was absolutely fine.
I met some really lovely people whilst staying in the hostel in Sorrento and have traded contact details with one girl in case we ever visit each other’s home city. Chatting to the other people in my room was a lot easier than I had imagined it to be and everyone I met was open and friendly. I had dinner a couple of times with different people, including one girl from Berlin who I have since become Facebook friends with, and even did my day trip to Positano with two super nice Australian girls.
DO PLENTY OF RESEARCH IN ADVANCE
I personally like to be as prepared as possible when I travel as I just do not like surprises. I like to know how things work, what the people are like, what the dos and don’ts are, what I can expect. It just helps to soothe my travel anxiety which can flare up and has me more excited than anxious for a trip.
As I was relying completely on myself for everything in Italy, research was so much more important than usual. Thankfully the core travel course required us to submit a travel plan to the university which I found massively helpful and I would definitely plan another trip on this scale again as it made planning the day-to-day whilst there much easier as I had this to refer back to.
I love reading travel blogs for inspiration and they are my first stop when it comes to research for a trip. My favourite is As The Sparrow Flies as to me, Sam’s word is gospel, and I also really love Pack Your Passport and The Little Things. I like practical advice that teaches me things rather than where I can take a nice Instagram picture and these blogs are filled with incredible advice. Laila of Tape Parade also shared some great tips on finding cheap flights which I found super helpful for the actual logistical planning and keeping costs low.
A little trawl through TripAdvisor is also always helpful and I love having a physical guidebook to flick through as well, even if it is just to get a feel for the place. For Italy I ended up having four with me as I had one for Rome, one for Naples and then when my mum came for a week she brought another two with her for Rome and Naples! All of them were from different publishers so there was a lot of variety and different information.
READ SOLO TRAVEL STORIES
One of the most helpful things I found about preparing for solo travel was reading solo travel stories. Beverely from Pack Your Passport is a huge travel inspiration for me (it was reading her posts way back when that inspired my want to solo travel to begin with!) and her personal stories were such a big help to me in having the confidence in myself to actually do it.
Now I’m back, all I can think about is another solo travel adventure. I’ve recently narrowed down my bucket list for 2019/2020 and I have Copenhagen marked as a solo city break in 2019 as a 21st birthday present to me, from me. It was hands down one of the best things I’ve ever done and I feel it has just opened up a whole world of opportunities for me.
There is a big of a stigma about solo travel which sadly prevents a lot of people from doing it but I can’t even begin to explain how it felt being totally independent somewhere new and exploring it at my own pace. I wish I could just pack my passport and head off somewhere new right this second.
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