When I initially announced that I wanted to travel solo across Europe, I got mixed reactions from my friends and family. Granted, I had just gone through some pretty substantial loss, so the heightened worry in everyone’s tone was understandable. However, I have always talked at length about wanting to travel, so I think the timing was the biggest concern. And to be honest, I wasn’t even sure if the timing was right or not. But, I felt an overwhelming pull to get up and run, so I went with it. It was scary at times, but incredibly freeing. That being said, it wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine.
People will continually remind you…
… how “brave” you are. I use this term loosely. While I realize most people mean this as a compliment, it surprised me every time I heard it, especially from other women travelling. Part of me felt proud hearing this, but a small part of me also feels a little frustrated. I heard it before I left from family and friends, from men and women I met throughout my travels, hotel employees, tour guides, everyone. It made me think that maybe women setting out on their own isn’t as popular as I thought it was (although it’s reportedly been on the rise in recent years). Still, there were people I met that said “Wow, you’re brave. I would never do that without my boyfriend/husband/brother/man friend/mailman/buff guy at my gym”. (Okay, so maybe not those exact examples, but you get my point 😉 ). Want to know what did make me feel brave? I felt brave for deciding to do it even though a lot of people insisted I couldn’t do it. I felt brave for selling my belongings and my car (I’d had emergencies pop up before I left, significantly depleting my bank account and calling into question whether I could go at all… up until one week before I left). I felt brave for having only planned the first few days – just enough to get me to Austria to meet my relatives for the first time, for going out on a limb (hello, ambiverted self!) and making friends as I went, for going with less than $4000 to my name… I felt brave because going meant that I was moving from a process of grieving to one of healing. But I did not feel brave for simply going.
You will get lonely.
Let this be a source of motivation to keep going. Sure, your loved ones at home are moving on with their lives while you’re away, but even a bad day travelling is probably better than a normal day at home. But still, I get it. There were times that I spent 3 days not speaking at all; there was no internet communication, no one else in my hostel, nothing. I tried to ignore the loneliness and reminded myself that alone doesn’t equal lonely. Instead, I took a few days to recharge in my hostel and Skyped with my mom when time allowed. And hey, if you don’t get lonely, that’s okay too.
You will learn to love being alone
The great thing about travelling solo is that you are your own boss; you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. Changed your itinerary last minute? No biggie. Need to spend a day in bed watching Netflix because you just need to chill? Sleep in too, you deserve it! Because (even though some people may gawk at you for saying this) travelling can be very stressful and it’s exhausting. There, I said it! You may not be rocking the 9 – 5, but you’re allowed to be tired just like everyone else. When I came home from my first Europe trip, I had two days to get over the jetlag and re-pack before I was off for a month of courses with the Canadian Forces, immediately followed up by a 2 month contract away from home. I thought it would be fine, but it was a total shock. Suddenly, I had to worry about the people I worked with and I had zero down time or privacy. I had gotten so used to being selfish and loving it that I had a very hard time adjusting at first. Give yourself time.
There will always be safety concerns
“But Katelyn, there are so many bad people in the world!”
“But there are so many more good people in the world!”
Let’s face it, safety is always a huge concern when you travel, no matter who you are. Family members were quick to remind me of the above, and they are right. But it’s important to note that bad things can happen to you no matter where you are. In fact, I was never pick-pocketed in Europe (which is one of my greatest accomplishments), but I have had my phone stolen multiple times (always right beside me with me in the room) and my wallet stolen from right out of my purse, four blocks from my house. Yes, you need to be aware of your surroundings and use common sense, but please don’t let those fears stop you from living your life. I understand the worries and appreciate that everyone is thinking of my well-being, but the overall message was that I was either brave or crazy for going alone because I am a female… How frustrating is that?! To quote Justin Trudeau… “it’s 2016!”