Advice for First Time Solo Travellers

Dublin 4

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

Dublin 5

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

Bruges

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

Romania 6

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

Bucharest 2

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.

Advertisements

How People React When I Travel Solo

Bucharest 2.jpg

A while ago I wrote a sort of ‘FAQ’ of what people ask me when they discover I’m a K-Pop fan [x] so I thought it’d be fun to write a similar one for when people find out I’m going somewhere by myself. I’m sure most solo travellers can relate.

“Won’t you get lonely?”

This is probably the top thing that people ask me and the simple answer is no, probably not. I’m quite used to spending time by myself and truthfully I feel lonelier when I’m in the company of the wrong people rather than by myself. I’m a bit of an introvert so the interactions with people who sell attraction tickets, food, souvenirs etc. is usually more than enough for me. If I do particularly want to talk to someone I can get in touch with my friends and family, I’m not completely cut off from the rest of the world.

If I’m going out for food then a book is more than enough company for me. If I’m travelling abroad I’m normally far too busy throughout the day to begin to feel lonely. In the evenings when I get back to my hotel I’m fine to just chill by myself, I don’t particularly need anybody else’s company. In fact it’s often quite nice to get away from people for a few days.

Romania 5

In the rare occasions I have felt lonely it’s fleeting and normally caused by something else. I usually feel quite lonely in the moments between the airport and checking into the hotel because I’m worried about not being able to find it and I would wish there was someone there to help me. Other than that, I’m normally fine!

“There’s safety in numbers!”

This is something my Dad said the first time I told him I was going abroad by myself. I suppose it’s true to an extent because although my Mom keeps in touch with me regularly it could be hours before she finally twigged that something had happened to me (although nothing has as of yet, fingers crossed!). But equally I’ve been in dodgy situations with my friends – probably more than I have by myself.

Ultimately, the case I argue is that, if we apply this logic to every situation then I am in danger just walking to work in the morning. Popping to the shop. Weirdly, my Dad’s quite chill about me visiting London but the moment I have to get on a plane he hits the roof. London’s just as dangerous as any other city, probably more so with everything I’ve been hearing about the place lately. I’m not an idiot, I do take safety precautions but you have to accept there is risk no matter where you are.

“Aren’t you nervous?”

For a trip to London or anywhere around the UK no, not really. Going abroad, yeah sure, I do get nervous. I’m a nervous flyer and going to countries where the spoken language isn’t English does give me anxiety. It won’t stop me from going though.

I usually find that all I need is to spend the first night in my hotel and then by the next day I’m all good. I still get nervous when doing stuff like ordering food, asking for tickets to attractions etc. but like you just push through it for the sake of having a good time. I never look back at a trip and think ‘oh God I was so nervous the whole time, it was horrendous’ I always leave having had an amazing time.

20180206_161743.jpg

“I could never do that.”

I get this phrase a lot and most of the time it doesn’t bother me. If I’m talking about a solo trip abroad or even to London at a push then sure, fair enough. But when I tell my colleagues my after work plans are a trip to Wetherspoons by myself for dinner and they respond with this I sort of wonder like… How they live? If you’ve nipped out to do some shopping by yourself and you get hungry, do you not like… Go and get food? By yourself?

During a recent conversation with my friends they revealed they can’t even go to Shrewsbury (which is a short train journey away from our home town) by themselves and had a laugh about it and questioned how I can do things alone. It’s weird how they don’t understand yet I can’t understand how they can bare not being able to do something as simple as that on their own.

I’m someone who actually really values their alone time like every couple of weeks I love going out by myself to have dinner and then going to watch a movie. I know it’s literally none of my business but it does stress me out when people are like “OOOOOOH HOW DO YOU DO THAT!?” like sis, how do you not?

“You’re so brave!”

I’ve never particularly thought of it as being brave. It’s just part of life. We can’t be with people 24/7, we all have times where we’re on our own – why is it different if I spent that time alone in Romania rather than here in the UK? I know people mean this as a compliment but truthfully it just freaks me out. When every single person says it when you tell them your plans it gets in your head and you start wondering if you are putting yourself in danger. Well, that’s how I find it anyway.

“Did you hear a tourist got stabbed whilst in ‘country I’m visiting’?”

This really winds me up because crime happens in literally every part of the world. Nowhere is a crime free zone. People are stabbed or killed in my home town, why would I stress about it anymore than usual when visiting a different part of the world? Especially since often the story involves the tourist going back to a stranger’s house – something I have never and doubt I will ever do.

Similarly a couple of weeks before we went to Japan I was met with comments from colleagues and family of “Ooh have you seen there’s a typhoon there at the moment, you’d best be careful!” People were getting stressed a full two weeks before I was due to travel. Maybe it’s a British thing to be fair as our weather is normally quite mild so just the thought of a typhoon makes us freak out. But believe it or not Japan have typhoons regularly and know how to deal with them. Whilst in Japan we had a typhoon and it was interesting because all the foreign news outlets were like “THIS TYPHOON HAS DEVESTATED JAPAN” whereas Japan were like “It happened, time to move on now”.

I’m sure people mean well when they warn me about murdered tourists and potential holiday-ruining weather but honestly it just winds me up. It gets me all stressed out completely unnecessarily.

20171011_164345.jpg

“What made you pick that country? It’s not somewhere I’d like to visit.”

Probably the best thing about humanity is that we’re all individuals and all like different things. I don’t understand how you can survive on just a yearly two-week long holiday to Spain year after year Belinda but I don’t question it as that’s your choice.

I’m being a bit harsh, some people ask because they’re genuinely curious and don’t mock your answers. My Dad asks because he’s a bit racist and can’t understand why I’d want to visit countries like Poland and Romania. He makes comments about places I’m visiting when he himself has never set foot in them. Really winds me up. He made so many comments about Poland and I found the people there were some of the nicest I’ve ever met.

I got that a lot with Japan, especially from old people “Why Japan? Why do you want to go there?” My explanations of the culture being very different to the UK simply didn’t satisfy their questions. I don’t know! I just wanted to go to bloody Japan! I’ve wanted to go for years! And then when you’re done explaining and they’re like “Nah, it’s not the type of place I’d like to go.” Okay, so don’t go? I’m not asking you to change your mind, I’m just explaining why I’d like to go.

Again, I am being a bit harsh, when most people say stuff like this it doesn’t bother me too much. But some people do really irritate me with their questions. My Dad and my Nan (on my Dad’s side) are both guilty of this.

“If I was your age I’d probably do the same.”

I’m 22 and although I’ve travelled around the UK solo since I was 18 I’ve only began abroad travelling at the age of 21. But I don’t see why my age should be a factor.

Okay, sure, some people older than me do have things to think about that I wouldn’t. For example childcare, they can’t just get up and go somewhere as they please. But those who don’t have children or whose children have grown up now – why don’t you just go? Nothing winds me up more than when someone says “I really wanna go to this place but no one wants to come with me” THEN JUST GO ON YOUR OWN IF YOU REALLY WANT TO GO THERE! I’ve said it before but like fair enough if you don’t want to get on a plane and go off by yourself, I can see why. But just going to London or something, even if it’s just for the day, shouldn’t be that difficult.

This especially gets me when older people are like “I’ve always wanted to visit [country]”. I feel like asking why they haven’t. I’d always wanted to visit Japan and the moment I had enough money I went. What’s the point in wasting time? If you like the look of somewhere and have been thinking about it for a while then get up and go.

I can see why some people can’t which will lead me into my next frequently asked question…

“How can you afford all these trips?”

I suppose other than the loneliness question this is the top question I get asked. The main factor is that like most of my friends I still live with my parents. I buy all my own stuff and pay my parents rent but it’s still significantly cheaper than if I moved out – which is why I’m currently in no hurry to get my own place even though it would mean getting away from my dickhead step-dad.

Secondly, I work. Like an awful lot. My main job is Monday – Friday 9 – 5 and now that I’m no longer an apprentice I earn a decent amount. Nothing annoys me more than when people moan about how much I earn – I suffered for a year on £3.50 an hour to earn what I earn now and it’s not tons as I’m still only admin. On top of that job I’m also a care worker – I do casual work for an agency but also get paid for looking after my older brother with learning difficulties so I pick up any extra shifts that I can.

Thirdly, I know how to get good deals on flights and hotels. When I went to Poland it cost me £30 for flights and around £18 for a hostel. The main factor was spending money and I took about £150. It was a relatively cheap holiday. Sure not everywhere is so cheap but as I’m not fussy about where I will and won’t go I can get some good deals. I know what I’m looking for and what I’m doing.

Finally, I prioritise travelling so of course I can afford it. I’m not fussed about having expensive, designer clothes or shoes, I don’t wear make-up etc. I prioritise spending my money on flights, hotels and spending money for trips. I can afford it because I want to afford it.

Bucharest 3

So there we have it, I think that pretty much covers the frequently asked questions – other than the obvious like “ooh where are you going” “what time’s your flight” but those are destination specific questions. If there’s any questions/things people say to you when you tell them you’re travelling then feel free to leave a comment!

Pros and Cons of Travelling Solo

Poland 3.jpg

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

20180422_113459.jpg

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

Lithuania 8.jpg

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

20180206_132854.jpg

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.

Amsterdam 9.jpg

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

Amsterdam 10.jpg

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!

Greece 9.jpg

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

20180205_092036.jpg

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

Luxembourg 6.jpg

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

Poland.jpg

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!