Chances are that traveling Europe solo is not your first choice. When you first pictured backpacking Europe, it was probably with some of your closest friends, having the time of your life, right?
Months go by, and you realize you’re the only one who has saved up the money to actually afford it. Or maybe you’re the only lucky one who can take the time off work or school. Whatever the reason, you are still dying to spend the summer traveling Europe, but have nobody to go with.
That’s around the time when the idea of going solo starts creeping it’s way in. You’ve probably heard or read about others who have backpacked solo and LOVED it… so you’re thinking maybe it’s worth considering. Yet you still can’t shake that gnawing feeling in the pit of your stomach when you think about backpacking Europe alone.
Well, push aside that horrible, gut wrenching feeling because there really isn’t any reason to be scared to backpack Europe alone. Honestly, it’ll probably be one of the greatest and most rewarding experiences of your life.
Traveling solo is a great way to grow as a person.
The idea of traveling alone tends to terrify most people. If you think about it, most people feel uncomfortable doing pretty much anything alone. Most of us wouldn’t dare go out to a restaurant or movie alone. If we’re forced to wait by ourselves in public, we immediately feel the urge to pull out our phones in order to feel connected, instead of sitting awkwardly alone. It’s no wonder that the thought of traveling to a completely foreign continent alone seems terrifying.
If you’re thinking about traveling Europe alone, you probably have at least one of these concerns:
1. “I would have to figure everything out myself, without the comfort and support of someone I know with me. I don’t think I can do that.”
2. “I feel I might be judged by others, such as my friends, my family, other travelers, or even locals in a foreign country, for traveling alone (“Does that girl not have any friends?”).”
3. “I’m scared about feeling lonely, and not having any fun while traveling solo.”
Theses are all valid concerns, and I had them too.
What I can tell you is this:
1. You ARE capable of figuring everything out by yourself, even if you don’t think you are. When traveling solo, you’ll be put in situations where you’ll be forced to come out of your comfortable “bubble”, and do things you wouldn’t normally do. Facing those kinds of challenges by yourself, and overcoming them, is a great way to break free of any insecurities you may have.
Traveling solo is a HUGE growing experience. By the end of it, you’ll have gained a new self-confidence, and you’ll finally realize that you’re capable of doing just about anything you set your mind to.
“Life begins at the edge of
your comfort zone.” -N. Walsch
2. As for those people judging you…”Who the F*** cares what they think? This is YOUR life, not theirs.” Okay, so this is really the attitude you should have, right? Of course, it’s not quite that easy. Just know that after experiencing solo travel for yourself, and realizing how incredible the experience is, you really won’t care what other people think anymore. Also, keep in mind that if you constantly live in fear of what other people might think, it will hold you back from doing some incredible things in life. Don’t let it.
3. There is no way that traveling through Europe won’t be fun. Europe is full of new experiences, friendly people, amazing architecture, and so on. I’m not going to lie, there WILL be times that you will feel lonely. You will be spending a lot of your time in Europe traveling from one city to the next – alone. You will also be spending a lot of time getting lost while trying to find your hostel – alone. There will be times where you won’t make any friends at hostels, and you’ll have to sightsee – alone. Yet, those are the times when you have a chance to reflect on yourself, on your life, and grow as a person. It really all comes down to what you make of things. Just know that the good times FAR outweigh the bad times.
You WILL learn the ropes quickly.
You’re probably feeling uneasy about the idea of traveling Europe alone because, well… you’ve never done it before. Just like with anything new you try, the first time you do something is a little scary. It’s even scarier when you’re doing something for the first time alone – in a foreign country.
The first few days of your backpacking trip will probably be the most exciting, but also the most uncomfortable. Essentially, you’ll be learning how to “backpack”. Once you prove to yourself that you can manage your own way from an airport to your hostel, easily navigate your way around a city using the metro, live in a hostel dorm room with 9+ other people, make friends with other travelers, and sight see – all on your own – you’ll start to feel more confident and a lot less uncomfortable.
In no time, you’ll feel like a pro!
Loads of people travel Europe solo every year.
It may be encouraging to know that there are loads of people from all over the world who travel Europe solo every year. They are people just like you and me, who are going through the exact same emotions. They are also leaving behind their friends, families, and everything that is familiar to them in the hope of having an incredible experience in Europe they’ll never forget.
You WILL make friends.
If you are a friendly person, there’s no way you won’t make friends while traveling Europe. Since there are so many similar minded people traveling, you will instantly have lots to talk about, and will probably have the same interests when it comes to sightseeing and partying.
Hostels are the absolute best way to make friends, but it is important to choose the right hostel. (Read: How to Choose the Best Hostel While Traveling Europe.) Some hostels are more laid back while others are known as party hostels. The party hostels tend to be the easiest to make friends because they offer Pub Crawls. By morning, you’ll have 20 new friends!
Another way to make friends is by meeting people on the free walking tours offered in almost every major city in Europe. It’s the first thing I do when I arrive in a city because it’s a great way to get yourself oriented, and there are always a ton of backpackers on the tours. (You can read about my experience with Sandeman’s Free Walking Tour in London.)
The hard part about making friends can be starting the conversation. Most people don’t like to be the first one to start the conversation. I used to be one of those people. After traveling for awhile, somehow I got over the “fear”, or whatever it was, and just started talking to people. I mean chances are the other person traveling alone is also looking to make friends. So even if you’re nervous, just start talking. It’s actually really easy to start a conversation with another backpacker. Just ask them where they’re from, if they’re traveling around Europe, where they’ve been so far, and where they’re going. The conversation usually just flows from there. Next thing you know, you’ve got a few friends to sightsee around London or Prague with!
(You’ll probably get so tired of having the same exact conversation with hundreds of different people by the end of your trip, but there’s no way around it if you want to be social!)
There are helpful people wherever you are.
If you get lost, or are in a tough spot, just know that there are helpful people wherever you go. You may not have your friends and family with you, but you’ll be surprised to learn that most people in the world are actually really kind and helpful.
One time while traveling, I didn’t have access to any money for a couple days, and was pretty upset trying to figure out how I was going to eat. One of the receptionist at my hostel saw me and then offered to loan me money after I explained my situation. I mean, how nice it that?!
I also can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten lost trying to find my hostel. Instead of asking for help right away, I would just re-trace my steps and continue searching – knowing it HAD to be somewhere near by. Let me tell you, carrying 20-40 pounds of weight on your back for an extended period of time is not fun – in the slightest. I didn’t ask people for help right away for fear that they wouldn’t understand English, or that they wouldn’t help me. That left me standing on the corner of a street in a foreign country (completely lost, exhausted, with back pain, sometimes trying not to cry), hoping someone would come up to me and help me.
Lesson learned. Just ask for help as soon as you need it. Duh, right? I finally starting asking locals for directions out of pure necessity. (I couldn’t just stand on the corner of the street forever.) Almost all of them will make an attempt to understand you, or point you in the right direction. If they don’t stop, it’s probably because they feel uncomfortable with their English to speak to you. Don’t take it personally. Just ask the next person.
Europe is a relatively safe place to travel.
If you’re concerned about your safety and the safety of your belongings, you’re not alone. I get a lot of emails about people wondering about safety in Europe, especially for solo female travelers. I can honestly say I felt pretty traveling alone in Europe. There were only a few times I felt just a tad unsafe. For tips on how to keep yourself, and your valuables safe, check out this article: “Is it Safe to Travel Europe Alone? – Solo Female Traveler”.
Don’t let the fear of traveling Europe alone prevent you from an incredible experience.
Just do it.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines (the ropes for holding back a sail boat). Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”