Advice for First Time Solo Travellers

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On my most recent trip abroad to Dublin I realised how much I’ve improved since my first solo trip abroad to Poland last year. I’ve recognised the parts of solo travel abroad that stress me out, that I love, the things I need to do to make myself feel better. Because of this I decided to write a post with some advice for anyone going abroad by themselves for the first time!

Don’t Judge the Trip by Day One

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When I landed in Poland last February I remember thinking ‘why have I done this? What do I do now?’ and for most of the day I felt quite overwhelmed. I didn’t understand the language, I struggled to know which travel card to buy, I nearly burst into tears as I tried to find my hostel (Google Maps kept telling me I was there but I couldn’t see it and my phone was on like 11% at this point), I was too nervous to order food and I didn’t really know what I was doing.

That night I had dinner at a McDonalds in a shopping centre (the only place I wasn’t too nervous to order food as I knew what I was asking for), went to see a 4DX movie at the cinema then went back to my hostel for a good night’s sleep. And by the next morning I felt a lot better. I set off to do some sightseeing feeling a lot more confident and ended up having an amazing trip.

If you feel completely overwhelmed on day one then don’t stress, I promise the entire trip won’t be like that it’s just you’re somewhere new by yourself and you need time to adjust. It was easier in Dublin as at least everyone spoke English but I’ve realised that I know what I need to do to help myself adjust to a new country more easily and I managed to apply this logic when I visited Romania in January too. And it really helped!

Getting to my accommodation from the airport is always the worst part for me as I worry I won’t find it but of course I always do so I just tell myself to relax and then I calmly follow Google Maps until I find my accommodation. After checking in I go and have my first meal in the country, even if it does end up being at McDonalds. I have a chill first day and then after having my first sleep in the new country I feel a lot better by the next morning and I’m ready to start some proper sight-seeing.

When I travel with my friends we have a running joke that our friend Hirst always decides she hates whatever country we’re staying in on day one due to something small. We landed in Lithuania quite late and on our way to our accommodation we bumped into a couple of weird people and she was like “I’m not a fan of this country!” By the end of our trip she’s usually changed her mind and actually quite likes it.

If you land in a new country and start getting stressed or overwhelmed just keep calm and trust me that after your first night you will feel a lot better. Don’t let the first day stresses define the rest of the trip!

Pick Accommodation That Suits You

Abbey Court Hostel

A lot of people I see that write about solo travel are like ‘get a hostel, you meet new people, it’s the only way to solo travel’ etc. etc. If you like meeting new people and staying in hostels then great, you do you until the cows come home. However I’ve quickly realised that I much prefer hotels.

I’m an introvert and my trips are a great way to recharge my social batteries. My interactions with people selling tickets to attractions or food etc. are enough to keep me going, I don’t feel the need to go out and find a new best friend. And at the end of a day of sight-seeing I like to come back to my room and have some downtime to myself.

In Poland I stayed in a hostel to keep costs low and ended up sharing a room with a talkative girl who was lovely but didn’t understand that once my headphones are on that means I don’t want to talk. Although she was lovely and I was glad to share with her because it was better than sharing with someone who’s miserable it did get a bit irritating when I just wanted some down time whereas she wanted to chat. In Dublin my downtime seemed to come easier as I watched stuff on my Amazon Fire Tablet and everyone pretty much left me alone – they were still nice, we’d smile at each other but none of us were keen to initiate a conversation. I much preferred this.

Find the accommodation that best suits you or your needs. It may be an Airbnb, a hostel, a hotel, whatever takes your fancy but don’t listen to anybody who thinks you should be doing it a certain way.

Public Transport is Good

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I’ve never understood people who touch down in a foreign country and immediately head outside to find a taxi. How do people afford that? It’s expensive enough getting a taxi from home to our local airport which is why I always catch the train if I can and I’d only get a taxi if I was desperate.

Although I hate the moments between getting from the airport to my accommodation due to the stress and anxiety, I also love it as hopping on the bus to get the city centre is your first glimpse of a new country! I suppose you get that in a taxi but the bus takes detours, allowing you to see things you might not have seen had you gone straight to your accommodation.

Personally I’ve always found public transport gives you a better feel for the country. My favourite form is trams as although we have some in parts of the UK I don’t really use them in this country. There’s nothing I love more than a country with a tram system – Amsterdam’s is probably my favourite so far.

Also public transport is a hell of a lot cheaper. In most countries you can get a card that gives you unlimited transport for a set amount of days in most forms, for example bus, tram and underground. Most of the time they’re not expensive and they’re cheaper than getting taxis everywhere. Equally walking is even better as that’s free but it depends on how big the town is. I probably could’ve walked everywhere in Dublin, and did on the first day, but on the second day when my legs were aching I decided to start making the most of public transport.

Not only is public transport cheaper it’s also a lot better for the environment. We’ll have already contributed enough pollution to the earth by catching a plane (unless you got abroad using a different method in which case good on you!) so why contribute more by getting cars everywhere?

Obviously in some places the choices are limited. In Crete we rented a car because they just didn’t seem to have a public transport system. But in most capital cities they have a perfectly good transport system already in place. Give it a go!

Take Appropriate Safety Precautions

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Whenever I go abroad anywhere my Mom always makes me send her the name, address and telephone number of the accommodation I’m staying in. Not to be precious but just so she has someone to call to check up on me if I’m not responding to her texts or an address she can send the police or an ambulance too.

I would personally recommend you allocate someone to send this information to and keep in regular contact with someone. Usually people know I’m okay because I update my Instagram story throughout the day, send out tweets and respond to people relatively quickly if they message me. If you’re in a country where you can’t get data for whatever reason then just be sure to send that person a message when you go out in the morning and when you get back in the evening – assuming where you stay has Wi-Fi.

When booking your accommodation check the reviews. If most of the reviews are positive and the only bad things the negative ones are saying were ‘oh the bathroom was too small’ then go for it. If there are negative reviews of people saying they didn’t feel safe for whatever reason then it’s probably best to avoid this particular place. When booking Poland I panic booked the first hostel I found but once I checked the reviews people were saying all sorts of dodgy things had happened. I immediately cancelled the room, lost my money and booked a new hostel with better reviews. Safety always comes first!

In Romania my room had a safe where I could enter my own code and nobody else could get in so I kept my passport in there whilst I was out and about but if that’s not an option I always keep my passport on me. Make sure you either have a paper copy stored somewhere or an electronic version on your phone, in the unlikely event that you lose it – it’ll make life much easier.

Just basically use a bit of common sense while you’re away, it’s not too difficult to know which security measures to take.

Let your trip be YOUR trip

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When me and my friends go away we tend to get up early and cram in as much as possible. And that’s fine, for some places where you want to experience everything that’s pretty much the only way you can do it. But sometimes by myself I like to have a lie-in and take the day a bit more easily. A great example of this was in Dublin. Being in a hostel I didn’t sleep great at night and also, Dublin’s not that far away from where I live so anything I didn’t tick off I was bound to go back and do eventually. So I slept in a bit, got ready slowly and made my way out.

Don’t get caught up in how other people have done their solo trips and think that you need to perfectly model theirs. For another example, I knew that after Dublin I was going to have a busy few days and there was a movie I wanted to see but I was worried it would go out of cinemas before I had the chance. In the end I realised I could just watch it in Dublin – I was worried as it felt like a waste to watch a movie abroad but at the end of the day I don’t do much in the evenings anyway, I wanted to see the movie and also weirdly I find doing ‘normal’ things in other countries fascinating. I like to see what their cinemas look like, their supermarkets, their theatres, all the normal stuff!

Plan your itinerary around YOU and what YOU’RE interested in doing, not the things you’ve seen everybody else doing. Even if everyone has recommend the Museum of Typewriting until they’re blue in the face, if you’re not interested in type writing then just don’t go! It’s YOUR trip, nobody else’s.

I hate those ridiculous posts that are likely ‘avoid all the big tourist spots, they’re traps!’ If you’re not a big fan of the big tourist spots then fine but I think you need to experience them at least once. Going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower would be bizarre. Tourist spots are popular for a reason but if they’re not for you then feel free to give them a miss.

That’s pretty much all of my advice other than have an amazing time. Also, double check the weather before you go. I never bother and always end up massively failing.

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Travel Fails: Romania Edition

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My first trip of 2019 was to Bucharest, a trip that I booked shortly after returning from Asia and Paris last October. That was my last trip of 2018, I was sad it was all over and I wanted something to look forward to. I’d hated January in 2018 so I decided that to brighten up the month a bit I’d book a trip away. I’d been on about Romania for a while so without overthinking it I booked the flights and hotel, and soon I was off!

I was quite proud of myself on that first day. The bit that stresses me out the most about solo travel is getting from the airport to my hotel – I get into such a panic like what if I can’t find it and I just have to walk the streets for three days? That’s never happened of course but that is the most stressful part for me. I could’ve booked a shuttle from the hotel to the airport but since I have car anxiety I wasn’t going to risk the person picking me up driving like a maniac. So I decided to catch the bus.

After a moment of stressing I found the bus station and asked the driver if he was going to my stop to which he just looked confused and shook his head. I started to get worried but bought my bus ticket and sat down anyway as Google Maps had advised me this was the correct bus. Luckily there was a list of stops on the wall outside the bus so I checked those against the ones on Google Maps – although my stop wasn’t listed outside the stop before mine was listed. Crisis averted, I’d just get off there instead and walk a bit further. I was proud of myself for figuring that out.

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As it was quite late I didn’t do much on my first evening, I checked into my hotel, had a general nose around the area and got some dinner before heading back for an early night. It was the next morning when crisis struck.

The morning didn’t start out great when I woke up and realised my phone hadn’t charged overnight. The plug converter had popped out of the socket at some point and my phone was now sitting on 30%. I plugged it in while I went down for breakfast but forgot I was in a room where the electricity didn’t work unless the card was in the slot. Luckily my new phone charges quite quickly and doesn’t drain fast so when it got to 70% I decided to risk it. I hadn’t brought my power bank with me ‘cos my phone had lasted every day in Japan and I was certain it would in Romania. I’m such an idiot.

I set off for my first destination which was something I’d seen online. It was an umbrella alley – I’d seen one similar in Lithuania with my friends and was keen to see another one because I think they look so pretty. Google Maps advised it was a 30 minute walk away so I set off. I wasn’t keen on attempting public transport because I didn’t know how to get another bus ticket etc. so I set off on foot.

When I eventually made it to the destination I looked around but couldn’t see how an umbrella alley could be in this area. After some frantic googling I realised I’d misspelt a word and was now in the wrong place. It would take me another 30 minutes to get to the actual location. Annoying but whatever, I’ll just walk to the other place.

30 minutes later I’m in the general area so I have a look round for this Umbrella Alley. Can’t find it anywhere so I decide maybe it’s seasonal or it was only there briefly and now it’s gone. I’ve wasted over an hour trying to find something that probably isn’t here. Again, not great, but whatever. I’ll just do the next thing on my list. Visit the Old Town.

Luckily this isn’t as far, it’s maybe a 10 minute walk away so I set off. I was doing a good job at following Google Maps and I was so glad I’d got a new phone, my one in Poland had been relatively useless so I was still feeling pretty good. Until Google Maps advised I only had to turn one more corner and I would be in the Old Town. Unfortunately I couldn’t walk down there ‘cos there were three men and a van blocking the corner but even if they hadn’t been it wouldn’t have led anywhere. I walked up and down, absolutely confused, until throwing in the towel. Great, I’d spent the whole morning looking for things that I couldn’t find.

Okay the Umbrella Alley I can accept but it surely shouldn’t have been so difficult to find the Old Town? I have no idea what happened there and I don’t want to know.

The next item on my list was the Romanian Kitsch Museum and as that was an actual building and not just a vague area I figured I’d be more successful and luckily I was. The museum was in a nice area and I was feeling hungry so I sat down to get some food.

One of the things I’d noticed in Poland was that I was mostly too afraid to order food so for those few days I mostly ate chocolate peanuts I’d brought from the UK and ordered food if I was absolutely desperate. I think I had McDonalds three times because everywhere else made me too nervous. So in Romania I was determined to try harder with food. The woman who took me to my table spoke English so I was put more at ease.

I ordered some crepes with Nutella and vanilla ice-cream and upon reflection I wish I’d just ordered normal food, they had like ribs and stuff on the menu that I regret not going for. They brought the crepe over and I’m not sure why but I suddenly didn’t trust it. On the menu there’d been sweet crepes with cheese in and when I cut into my crepe all the vanilla ice-cream poured out. I knew it was vanilla ice-cream but part of me didn’t trust that there wasn’t cheese snuck in. I don’t know, okay? It was a weird experience.

When I was finished I thought they’d bring the bill over but they did not. I sat there for maybe half-an-hour trying to work up the courage to ask for the bill. Luckily in the end I pushed my cup towards the edge of the table and when a guy came to collect it I was like “THANKSCANIHAVETHEBILLPLEASE”. Even then it took another ten minutes for it be brought over but out of British awkwardness I didn’t pull a face.

Luckily the rest of the day went smoothly, I saw the rest of the stuff on my list and had Taco Bell for dinner (which I’ve only had twice but actually love, why don’t we have Taco Bell in the UK?). I went back to my hotel for an early night because I had a day trip the next day to Dracula’s castle and other places which I wanted some energy for.

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I barely slept all night. I was so worried about sleeping through my alarm or not being able to find the meet-up place for the tour that I kept having stress dreams and waking up. I even got out of bed at 4AM to check my phone and make sure I hadn’t overslept. I was relieved when my alarm eventually went off so I could just get on with things.

When we’d been on a day tour in Tokyo the meet-up point was in a hotel which had been really convenient as you could go inside and there were plenty of people around to point you in the right direction so there was less stress. As this tour was smaller the pick-up was in a car park and I’d arrived at about 7:35AM for an 8AM pick-up because I was so worried about being late. I stood around panicking that I was in the wrong place for 15 minutes because I couldn’t see any sign that a tour was going to leave from here until eventually a minibus pulled up with the name of the company on the side. I went over and luckily the guide was like “Hi, you must be Hollie” so disaster was averted. You have no idea how relieved I was.

The day tour was amazing, I may write a longer post about it at some point, but it was awesome. The tour guide was really sassy and the other people on the trip were nice. There were two boys from Canada, two girls from Cyprus and then a boy and a girl from Italy. It’s just as well they were all nice because one of the stops on our tour was a fort – it hadn’t been on the itinerary when I booked but hey it was an added perk so why not?

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The entire thing was made up of hills and of course it was January in Romania, it had been snowing. The snow had now turned to ice. I did most of it okay until finally we got to one steep point where I ended up with my hands on the ground and one leg out as if I were posing. I was completely stuck and the Italian guy came back down like “Hey, do you need help?” I’m so awkward that normally I’d be like ‘no, no, I’m fine’ but it was so bad that I had to admit I needed help. He helped me get out of the bit where I was stuck and I tried to carry on like normal.

When it was time to leave we headed down a steep hill and again I couldn’t figure out how to get down and got bloody stuck yet again while half the group trotted off. This time his girlfriend was like “Do you need help?” so I was like “Um maybe” because I didn’t want to bother them but God knows I did need help. She sent her boyfriend back up and I had to hold his arm the entire way down the hill. I tried to make light of the situation by saying “We don’t get much snow in England” to which he responded “We don’t get any at all in the south of Italy.” … Oh.

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After that the trip went quite smoothly, although other places we went had snow and ice it wasn’t as bad as the fort as there weren’t any steep hills. I was a bit embarrassed walking up to Dracula’s castle as it was up a hill (luckily all the snow had been cleared away), the rest of the group briskly walked up and when I got to the top we had to climb some steps into the castle and the tour guide was like “… Do you need a minute?” so I shook my head and powered through. I’d been worried there would be tons more stairs inside but luckily there wasn’t.

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The only other unlucky thing that happened was with the flights on the way back. The plane was slightly delayed and we were all stood in the gate with no information. I have no issue with delays and wouldn’t dream of getting mad at the staff, these things happen, but I get really annoyed when we’re just left waiting with no information. There was an announcement telling us all to ‘go to gate’ but nothing was actually happening at the gate, I was just stood in a big crowd of people as my bag threatened to break my back.

I got a bit worried when my friend messaged me to ask if my flight was going to be cancelled due to the snow but luckily we were soon on the plane and it took off. The flight mostly went well until we were back in England when the air hostess announced we had to circle the airport for 30 minutes. Although I’m a lot better than I used to be I am a nervous flyer so my mind instantly went “oh my god, we’re gonna run out of fuel and crash land.”

We didn’t crash land obviously but as the plane went down the air hostesses turned off the lights as they usually do and after a while they then switched on the light to illuminate the emergency exit sign. It was probably just something they’d forgotten to do and realised they probably should just in case but my mind was like “… Did they switch that on because we’ll need it?” So I was paranoid enough when I heard a soft but fast beeping noise and I was proper on edge then but we landed safely at Birmingham Airport.

Due to the delays I’d missed the 9:50PM train and had to wait for the 11PM train which didn’t bring me back to Telford until 12:30AM. Luckily I don’t live too far from the train station so managed to collapse into bed at 1AM – I was exhausted at work the next day, I need to learn to either come in late or take the day off after a trip.

To be fair if those were the most disastrous things to happen on the trip then it was a relatively successful one. I’ll probably be writing a couple more posts about Romania and how much I loved it over the next couple of weeks. If you’ve been then feel free to let me know some fails you had whilst you were there!

Pros and Cons of Travelling Solo

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I’ve travelled solo a few times, mostly around the UK but I have been abroad on my own too. I do love going by myself but equally there are things I miss about going within a group. So I figured I’d write a list of the pros and cons I personally found when travelling alone. Here we go!

Pro: Setting your own budget

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Me and my friends all earn different amounts of money and we all have our own commitments to pay for like rent, petrol, car insurance, vet bills, transport and a ton of other stuff so we can often have different expectations for budget. This can cause stress when I know I’m getting a bad payday that month and my friends are telling me I’ll need £100 for a hotel, £300 for spending money and at least £50 for transport. The benefit of travelling solo is that you can set your own budget!

This doesn’t necessarily mean going for the cheapest options which I did when booking my first solo trip abroad to Poland. For my solo birthday trip to London I wanted to stay in a decent hotel so I spent more than I usually ever would on a hotel room and travelled first class on the train, something my friends wouldn’t necessarily have wanted to do or been able to afford to do. I also saw five west end shows that weekend, another factor that my friends might not have been able to afford.

Setting your own budget makes the trip way less stressful as you can sort the budget out yourself without having to worry whether your friends can afford it or whether you can afford it!

Con: No candid photos

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I’m pretty sure this began because Hirst took a photo of me, Becca and Jess looking out across Telford that we weren’t aware of. We all loved the photo so since then we always try to get cute candid photos of each other whenever we’re on a trip.

But when travelling solo there’s no one to capture those candid moments for you and the only photos you can take are selfies or if you’re truly feeling brave you can ask someone to take a posed photo of yourself. And these are amazing photos, don’t get me wrong, but there’s something I love about the effort my friends go to so that we all get cute unposed photos. Even though a lot of the time it’s just the back of our heads I still love them so much because usually you can tell we were happy in those moments or in some occasions that we were irritated which can be funny to look back on.

Pro: Planning your own itinerary

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I mentioned earlier about seeing five west end shows across the weekend – for some people this would’ve been too much and they’d have no interest in that whereas it was my idea of a perfect weekend!

When travelling with friends you often have to make compromises which should work both ways, you should see stuff they’re interested in that you don’t care about and they should visit things you care about that they don’t. However, sometimes this can be an advantage because you can enjoy things you wouldn’t have visited had your friends not suggested it. For example in Amsterdam Hirst insisted we visit the ice bar which I was a bit salty about because I didn’t want to but it was actually one of my highlights from the trip.

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Going by yourself though means you can focus on the things you’re definitely interested in seeing and you don’t have to run it past anyone else. You can also take as long as you want or as little as you want. If you visit a particularly boring museum you can make the executive decision to just leave instead of asking your friends politely if they want to go. If you have time to kill before the next item on your list you can choose where you want to kill that time.

Con: If you’re stuck there’s only you

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There have been a few times I’ve been with my friends on a trip and we’ve gone into a complete panic because we thought we’d messed something up or we’re lost or whatever else that sends us into a bit of a panic. At least when we’re together we can all try and sort the problem out together, or in some circumstances you can just let yourself get stressed until your friend comes up with a solution. When you travel alone though there’s only you to sort yourself out.

I was coming home from London one evening and as I sat on the train they announced they’d cancelled it. I had maybe £20 in my bank account and Telford is three hours away. No one was going to come and collect me so I needed to sort the problem out myself. Very luckily anyone travelling towards Birmingham could get the train from Marylebone with their ticket – I hadn’t heard this announcement but a man had heard me stressing to my Mom on the phone and very kindly told me where to go.

This must be a lot worse when travelling abroad. Like if my plane got cancelled and I was by myself with little to no money I’m not sure what I’d do. I did have a bit of a panic where I thought I wasn’t going to catch a bus in time and potentially miss my flight but luckily I got to the airport in plenty of time and I was fine.

Travelling solo means having to sort out your problems alone which isn’t necessarily always a bad thing because it gives you a bit of independence and proves that you can do pretty much anything if you put your mind to it. But it can be quite scary not to have someone to lean on and help you sort out the problem.

Pro: No arguments!

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Me and my friends go on a lot of sightseeing holidays and although I love the lot of them to pieces it’s safe to say that after a day of walking around my legs hurt, I’m tired and usually hungry, and often feeling a bit grumpy. So if one of my friends starts getting on my nerves I will snap at them. And they will snap at me. And that’s fine because we all know we’re just tired and grumpy but these ‘snaps’ could lead into more serious arguments.

Luckily we’re all used to each other now so we kind of know when to leave each other alone but there have been times we’ve gotten into proper arguments and spent a while sulking before eventually making it up with each other. The benefit of travelling solo is that even if you’re tired, grumpy and hungry there’s no one to snap at so you can just spend time recharging and you’ll feel better again with no harm done.

Con: Less confident days

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I have days where I either feel quite confident and can talk to anyone, or I’ll have a day where I have no confidence at all and I get terrified at the thought of just ordering dinner. When travelling with my friends if I’m having a less confident day I can rely on them for a while until I feel okay again and vice versa. But when travelling solo there’s only me and I have to suck it up and get on with it.

Usually in England I kind of get over myself and get on with it but in Poland I did struggle because I found my anxiety was a lot worse because I worried no one would be able to understand me. Because of this I found I didn’t eat as much as I should’ve because I was worried about attempting to order food. It helps having my friends around because I know they’re in the same awkward boat as me but alone it’s completely different.

Pro: Continuing with your routine

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It’s safe to say that me and my friends have fairly different routines. For example they get up super early to do their make-up whereas I would prefer to sleep in until the last available second. Becca pretty much never eats whereas me and Jess will eat breakfast and then an hour later be hungry for something else. And that’s fine, it’s not the end of the world having to plan your schedule around other people but let’s face it, it can be nice to just continue with your own routine.

Even if it’s something as simple as being able to shower as soon as you get back to your hotel room. In Greece it was so hot we’d all feel a bit gross by the time we got back to the hotel but since there were four of us we had to take it in turns to have the shower. Since I take the longest I generally go in last. Not when I travel solo though, I can hop in the shower without worrying that I’m being selfish for using it for too long.

Con: Everyone assumes you’re going to die

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When I booked my first trip abroad I went to my Dad’s house with two pieces of news. I was getting a tattoo and also I was going to Poland by myself. He freaked out so badly about Poland that I was terrified to tell him about my tattoo – when I eventually did he didn’t even care. It was bizarre.

Even those who had reacted calmly to my news were not chill while I was away. Apparently Sue, who sits next to me at work, asked several times if I was okay whilst I was away in Poland and Shirley had to yell “It’s okay, she’s put pictures on Facebook so she’s not dead!” I was literally not put in any danger throughout the entire trip yet you would’ve thought I was being held at gun point each night. However the moment you’re with a friend everyone assumes that everything is absolutely fine.

So there we have it, my cons and pros of travelling solo. Feel free to comment any pros or cons you’ve found!

Learning to Do Things on Your Own

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I kind of feel like an expert on the subject of doing things alone because I’ve been doing things by myself since I was about maybe 15 or 16 and I’ve learnt to love it. At first doing things alone was a little daunting but you quickly get used to it and then it suddenly doesn’t feel strange anymore. In fact if I couldn’t do things on my own I don’t know what I’d do.

I’m writing this because the amount of times I’ve told people I’m doing this, that or whatever by myself and they’ve looked bemused or shocked it astounding. I’ve heard it all from “I could never do that by myself” to “You’re so brave” to “Don’t you get lonely though?” I’m here for those who want to try doing things alone and for those who don’t understand why I’d want to go out and do things by myself rather than with friends or family.

I want to confirm that when I say ‘do things on your own’ I mean things that until a certain age I’d assumed you shouldn’t do alone. For example going out for a meal, going to the cinema, going on a day trip somewhere, going abroad, things like that. It can range from something quite simple like a meal or something quite big like exploring a new country.

It’s interesting because there are certain things that people find sort of ‘acceptable’ to do on your own – for example I like to go shopping by myself occasionally. I have more fun with friends but if I know what I want and I want to get it quickly then shopping alone is more convenient. But this isn’t strange. People go shopping by themselves all the time and apparently that’s the time that it’s almost ‘acceptable’ to be alone.

I think there are two reasons why I learnt to do things alone. The first being that my Mom had complete confidence in me to do whatever what I wanted within reason. As a teenager I would ask her permission to do things, for example going shopping in Birmingham or going to a concert to which she always responded “Yes, as long as a friend goes with you”. But I found that whenever I asked my friends it was always “My Mom said we can’t go without an adult, sorry.” My Mom became increasingly frustrated because when she gave me permission to go to a concert she would also give me permission to get the train home with a friend whereas my friends Moms would not give them permission. So a lot of times my Mom ended up driving us to and from concerts, much to her irritation. When the time came to do something by myself my Mom didn’t freak out, she just shrugged her shoulders and let me get on with it – I got a few safety warnings of course but she didn’t forbid me.

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The second is that by the time I reached 15 my best friend had gotten herself a new boyfriend and I suddenly found that the weekends were coming around and I had no one to hang out with. It’s not like I didn’t have any other friends but I realised no one was asking me to meet up anymore and soon I was spending every weekend alone. I’m a big fan of Harry Potter so when ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part One’ came out at the cinema I wanted to go and see it. No one asked me so I decided to go by myself.

It’s funny now because I’ve been to the cinema alone tons of times since then but that first time I was so nervous. I was convinced that everyone from the man who sold me my ticket to the people also going to watch the movie were judging me for being alone. I thought I’d feel lonely. I thought it’d feel strange. And it did at first. But ultimately once the lights were down and the film had started it was easy to forget I was there alone.

It was a relatively easy starting point because you don’t particularly go to the cinema to socialise, do you? You go to watch the movie and that’s exactly what I did.

I can’t remember some transitions. For example I don’t have an issue with going out to eat on my own but I imagine the first time it was a bit nerve-wracking. That’s normal! For the first few times I did things alone I was worried I was being judged or people were looking at me and wondering whether I had any friends or not. Trust me when I say that no one cares. No one is looking at you. No one cares that you’re on your own.

A couple of years later in my first year of college I decided to step it up a little bit – I took my first day trip to London by myself. It’s very stupid, I had a day off work one Thursday and I accidentally opened the weather app on my phone. Bare in my mind my weather app is always incorrect but I didn’t know that at the time. I noticed in Telford there was a little thunder storm sign. I am terrified of thunder storms. But when I flicked to the next location, London, I saw there was a little sun sign. I didn’t want to be around when the storm hit and I loved spending time in London. It seemed like a win-win.

Since then I’ve gone on so many solo trips to London that I don’t even bat an eyelid anymore but at the time I was terrified! What was I thinking? Going off by myself meant I was vulnerable and anything could happen. My hands were shaking as I booked the train tickets. On my first trip I just went for the day and all I did was see ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time’ at the theatre.

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It’s important to mention that I’d had experience in London without my parents being there before that – me and Jess had been down a couple of times for concerts so I had experience on London public transport etc. If I had never been to London before and I’d just gone for it I might’ve been a bit overwhelmed.

What I like about doing things by yourself is that you learn not to be dependent on other people and you sort of learn what to do if you’re ever in an emergency situation. Obviously that doesn’t apply if I go to the cinema alone but there have been times I’ve been in London by myself and I’ve been left in a couple of dodgy situations. One of them being a tube strike that started in the evening. I made it back to Hammersmith but I was still a few stops away from my hotel in Turnham Green. The tube stopped running and I had to walk back to my hotel in the dark in an unfamiliar area by myself. But because I knew what to do I didn’t get lost once. I followed the signs for the tube stations I’d have stopped at and soon found ‘Turnham Green’ so I knew my way back to the hotel.

I can apply that logic to a lot of different situations so if I was ever separated from my friends on a trip I’d be able to make it back to somewhere familiar. On my first trip to London I remember Jess looking at the tube map and being like “We’ve gotta go here, change there, change there and then we’re there.” And I was like “What, how do you know?” I don’t like being 100% dependant on other people, I want to understand how it works so I got her to explain it to me and now I can read the tube map as easily as if I was reading the back of a cereal box.

I felt nervous all over again the first time I stayed in a hotel by myself. I chose a relatively cheap one with good reviews that was a bit of a journey away from Central London but it was a good hotel. That night I slept with the light on and every time I heard the slightest bump I was alert and wondering if someone was going to break into the room to murder me. Now I switch the light off and just go to sleep.

Just over a month ago I stepped up the game by quite a lot and went on my first trip abroad by myself. I went to Poland for three nights. I don’t speak any Polish and I’m terrified of flying but I decided to do it. Partly because I had some annual leave left at work and partly because I wanted to prove to myself I could do it. My friend Becca went on a solo trip to Sweden last year and I think hearing about the amazing time she had made me want to try a solo trip abroad for myself.

This was strange because last year I went on four trips abroad so by that point I was used to going through airport security but the moment I had to do it alone I was suddenly terrified. What helped me was talking through what I needed to do in my head and also remembering being there with my friends. What doesn’t help is the moment people know you’re going abroad by yourself it’s all “Oh my, you’re so brave!” and “I could never do that by myself” and “There’s safety in numbers, how can you go alone?” So you’ll find yourself doing something relatively simple but your head is screaming ‘danger!’ the entire time. But you’re not in danger and it’s fine.

I went and there were times where I felt a bit overwhelmed or homesick but ultimately I had a great time and I never once felt unsafe. I never felt unsafe because I wasn’t in any danger. It’s 2018, solo travelling is a lot bigger now than it has ever been. As long as you have some common sense you’ll be absolutely fine.

For anyone hoping to try doing things alone let me break some advice down into bullet points for you –

– Start with something small the way I started with going to the cinema alone. Try going to the cinema, going to the theatre or going for a meal on your own and you’ll soon find it’s not that scary.

– Always make sure your phone is charged, this especially applies to any trips you decide to go on. If you get lost or you need to urgently get in touch with someone only you and your fully-charged phone can fix that.

– If I go for a meal or on a trip alone I take enough to keep me entertained. There’s no one to talk to so I generally take a book to read. I’ve also taken notebooks, my laptop, my DS or even just looking at my phone.

– Remember that no one’s judging you. Honestly. No one cares that you’re by yourself.

– When I travel alone I always make a travel sheet before I go that I save on my phone. My most common trips are to London to go to the theatre so this sheet usually contains my train times, the hotel I’m staying at, where the theatre is and any other important information. It just saves me having to hastily google things.

– You are going to have to spend time with yourself for the rest of your life so might as well learn to enjoy it. Doing things alone is good because if there’s a film on that no one you know wants to see you can just go! Somewhere you wanna visit but your friends aren’t interested? Who cares, just go! Life becomes so much easier, trust me.

– If you’re thinking of doing something alone don’t over-analyse it, just do it. You do things by yourself more often than you think.

I hope this advice is helpful! If anyone else has any advice feel free to leave it in the comments or let me know the first thing you did by yourself, I’d be interested to hear!