Thursday, August 15, 2013

Traveling Solo

{High tea at Harrods}

I had such a great response last week to my post on fulfilling my dream of traveling through Europe alone {see post here} that I thought I would tell you a little more about my journey, and give some advice to ladies {or gentleman} who are thinking about doing it themselves!  While these recommendations are by no means foolproof, they are simply what worked for me.  I think the best rule is just to listen to your gut and follow your heart!  You know better than anyone else what is right for you.
  • Sleeping: This for me was my biggest decision.  Since I never had the opportunity to study abroad in college, I also never had the experience of staying in a hostel.  Now this was something I went back and forth on.  I was interested in it because obviously it's cheaper, but also because it would have been a great way to meet people.  However on the opposite side, I am very affected by my surroundings and like to wake up somewhere that is both aesthetically pleasing and cosy.  I was worried that if I stayed in hostels the entire time I would be unhappy and not feel comfortable if I wanted to stay in for a rainy afternoon and read.  I was also worried that I was already going so far outside of my comfort zone by traveling through Europe alone that I would push myself too far and not be able to enjoy myself.  Ultimately I decided on a mixture of staying in guest houses and renting flats, which turned out to be perfect for me.  I had my own studio in Paris, and by the end of my two weeks it truly felt like home.  It was definitely more expensive than staying in hostels {but much cheaper than your traditional hotel} and thankfully I had saved up enough that I could afford to travel the way that felt most comfortable to me.
  • Eating: Have you ever gone out to eat alone?  Thankfully I have before so this wasn't as uncomfortable for me as it would have been for some.  At lunch I would sit at a cafe with my favorite book and watch the people pass by--definitely one of my all time favorite activities while traveling!  Dinner was a bit different and I would be lying if I didn't say that I did feel strange at times being the only solo diner in a restaurant, so many nights I would sit at the bar and make friends with the bartender!  But ultimately you are your own best company, so just enjoy the time to relax and take it all in.
  • Meeting People: The last time I was in a completely new city and forced to meet all new people was when I was a freshman in college.  That was nearly 8 years ago {even though it seems like only yesterday}, so I was definitely a bit rusty in this area.  But I'm happy to say I met some amazing people along my trip.  How did I do it?  Signing up for free walking tours was a great way to get oriented in a new city as well as meet fellow travelers.  I also took a cooking class in Paris where I learned how to make croissants and pain au chocolat {photos here} and met an absolutely darling girl from the UK who I ended up spending quite a lot of time with over my two weeks there.  Again, if this is your number one concern then I think the best way to meet people is staying in a hostel.  However, I was lucky in the fact that I had friends in both London and Switzerland, and my mom decided to come visit me for a few days in Paris!
  • Safety: As I mentioned in my post last week, I was definitely concerned about my safety while traveling abroad.  I did some research, and to appease my fears purchased a few "personal safety" items to bring along with me.  I can't tell you if these would actually help keep you safe {thankfully I didn't have to use them} but they did make me feel more confident which is half the battle!  I brought a door stop alarm {to alert you if someone is opening your front door}, neck stash to keep my important documents during travel days, personal alarm, and a self defense keychain {not sure if this actually would do anything, but Amazon recommended I add it to my cart so I just went with it}.  Paranoid a little?  Probably.  But I always believe that it's better safe than sorry!
  • Staying in Touch: For me, this was simple!  I started my blog as a way for friends and family to follow my adventures.  I didn't get any kind of data plan, as I simply didn't use my phone {except for those few times I was absurdly lost and had to turn on my Google Maps, which unfortunately cost me an arm and a leg in roaming fees}.  And Skype really is a modern miracle!
  • Averting Pickpockets: Europe has a reputation of being full of thieves and pickpockets, and while in most areas this isn't true it does have quite a few more folks that are praying on unsuspecting tourists.  The best way to protect yourself from this?  Don't be a "tourist."  It is always important to be cognisant of your surroundings and your belongings, especially while on public transportation or at any popular tourist destination {i.e. the Eiffel Tower}.  Nose behind a map?  Wearing a fanny pack?  Yelling in English {in non-English speaking countries}?  Yeah, most likely a thief will be able to pick you out of a crowd.  My best recommendation is to simply act confident and try to blend in.  Do as the locals do.  And just be aware.  If you do that, I believe you can prevent nearly 90% of robberies...as most likely there is a "tourist" ripe for the picking next to you.
  • Documenting Your Travels: Bring the best camera you can afford and be sure not to forget a charger, extra batteries, memory cards, etc.  I love to sit down and look through old photos of my travels, and know that the older I get the more I will cherish them.  Also, I brought along a journal for me to write down memories, save mementos, sketch, etc.  I didn't use it to simply document my day to day activities, but rather wrote down small moments throughout the trip.  I believe it's the little things that are the most important, so it is critical to find some way to remember your special moments and feelings.  And if you like blogging, that is a great way to document your journey as well!  
  • Other Pieces of Advice: Have fun!  Go outside of your comfort zone and strike up a conversation with a stranger, you never know where it may lead.  Take mental photographs.  Eat {and drink} local specialities.  Go off the beaten path.  Notice the big things and the little things.  Remember, it is not always the destination but how you get there that is the most important part of the journey.  Push yourself to try something new every day!  Live life with no regrets!
PS - Follow Dreams in HD on bloglovin' here!

8 comments:

  1. These are great tips, Molly. I have never traveled alone before and I envy your courage!
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  2. These are very helpful tips and I agree that safety is a priority whilst at the same time going out of your comfort zone. Having a studio in Paris must have been a treat and taking the cookery class sounds like fun and as you say a way to meet people too. This is an experience which you will remember forever.

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  3. Sage advice from a seasoned traveller. Loved this post!

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  4. this is a great resource! i don't know if i'd ever be brave enough to do something like this, but these are great tips! i enjoyed reading it.

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  5. Molly {Dreams in HD}August 30, 2013 at 9:36 AM

    thank you so much quyen!

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  6. Molly {Dreams in HD}August 30, 2013 at 9:37 AM

    it truly was a wonderful experience, and i am glad that i could help you out a little bit!

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  7. Molly {Dreams in HD}August 30, 2013 at 9:37 AM

    thank you!

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  8. Molly {Dreams in HD}August 30, 2013 at 9:37 AM

    thanks so much kerri!

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