Loved up couples cuddling on the Eiffel Tower, group pics in the sun at the Trevi Fountain… but what about those lone travellers, hitting the track with just themselves and their backpack for company. Are they crazy or what? Read on to find out why travelling alone can be the best way to travel, and get our tips in staying safe.
Interrailing with a friend, or friends, is an amazing experience – I mean just look at all those Instagram pics! But what about going solo. Is it advisable? Is it good? Dangerous? Will you just end up crying yourself to sleep in a dorm full of people you don’t know (but are probably all great mates of course), like that time at school when you were the last one picked for footie?
Of course you won’t. In fact, travelling alone can in many ways be more enjoyable, and a hell of a lot more rewarding, than in a group (or with your other half). Here’s why.
When there is a majority of one, hey, guess what – that majority is you! Don’t feel like queuing for tickets at the Colosseum at 6am in the morning? Or maybe you’re trying to wake up your hungover mates because you’re ready to go exploring and they’re all still tucked up? Don’t bother, you’re on your own schedule and you can do as you damn well please.
See that raucous group over there in the hostel pub? They don’t need anyone else – they have enough people already. You, on the other hand, sipping your beer on your lonesome are a lot less intimidating and you’ll find that means lots of people (hostel staff, other travellers, friendly locals) are much more likely to say hello, have a chat, invite you to join them and just generally take you under their wing. And, yes, while you do have to be careful, that can be a good thing – travelling alone makes you more open, more willing to reach beyond your own little group and make new friends – and that means more adventures, more unexpected little moments.
There’s that old cliche – travel alone and you’re on a discovery to you. Okay, maybe you’re not exactly out to “find yourself” but travelling alone means you are dependent solely on you and it is an amazing – and sometimes scary – experience. Whether you want to or not, you will discover just how strong a person you really are. That time you got lost in the centre of Budapest? Well, hey you dealt with that situation and you found your way back to the hostel safe and sound. Got to catch that train? You did it – found the station, the platform and despite the rush got yourself on and into a window seat. All in all, you’re just fab.
So, maybe Instagram is full of happy couples and groups looking amazingly gorgeous and having like “the best time” on their travels. But you know what? Man up, take a selfie at the Mona Lisa and show the world that you’re having the time of your life – because you’re rowing your own boat in life and you’re damn well enjoying it.
And to help you get started, here’s our top tips for flying solo (and most importantly, staying safe) on the Interrail trail:
- Ensure that someone, be it your mum or a friend back home, knows where you’re going, when you will arrive and where you are staying. Check in with them regularly so they know you’ve arrived safely and are okay. Give them copies of your travel docs, including your passport, to store in case of emergency.
- Trust your instincts – if another person or a situation feels uncomfortable then don’t worry about being offensive, just get yourself away, even if it means ignoring someone and walking on. Your safety is paramount.
- It’s great to make new friends but you also need to be wary too, look at the whole situation – where did you meet them, are they being subtly persuasive (almost too charming) and leading you into a situation which may be dangerous.
- Keep to open and public places, particularly at night – don’t take silly risks or shortcuts.
- As a solo traveller, unfortunately you may find that some unscrupulous types think they can take you for a ride by overcharging you or pushing you to look in their shop, or cafe. Be on the look out for tourist traps and don’t rush in somewhere unknown.
- Don’t be afraid to tell a white lie if it would be helpful, for example “I’m meeting my friend at the museum”
- You probably can’t hide the fact you’re a tourist but try to look a little street savvy, walk with confidence and check your maps etc before you leave the hostel or pop into a cafe to have a quick look rather than on street.
- Be friendly – don’t be afraid to ask for advice from your hostel staff or other travellers. It’s great being independent but everyone can do with a bit of help, even if its just letting you know common tourist traps, which taxi firms to avoid because they might overcharge you, or which parts of town are best avoided.
- One for all travellers really is don’t be too flash – stash the iPod, don’t pull out big notes and go easy on the jewellery and designer gear.
- Be prepared – plan your journey, have an idea how long it will take and try to check ticket or fare prices before you go just in case someone tries to “take you for a ride”. If you’re a bus or train, ask the driver or ticket inspector where your stop is. If they can, many will even call you when you arrive at your destination.
Travel easy (and be safe) guys!