Tips for traveling alone

There are a lot of people who put off their travel dreams because they don’t want to do it on their own. If you want to go to Europe, but you don’t have a partner, think about getting the courage to go alone. There are many people you can meet during your trip and single travelers often enjoy the company of funny temporary partners throughout the trip.

Traveling alone has its pros and cons – and for me the pros and cons outweigh the cons. When you are on your own, you are independent and in control of yourself. You can travel at your own pace, do what you are interested in, eat, where and when you like, and spend where you want to be stingy. You don’t have to wait for your partner to pack up and you never have to agree on where to eat or what to see. You go where you want to go whenever you want.

Of course, travelling alone has its drawbacks: when you’re on your own, you don’t have company. You don’t have anyone to send forward while you’re waiting in line to help you figure out your bus schedule or take the best table when you’re waiting in line for food.

And traveling alone is usually more expensive. With a partner, the hotel is cheaper because the price is divided into two. If a single room costs $80, a double room will usually cost about $100 – a saving of $30 per person per day. Other things also get cheaper when you share costs, such as food, travel guides, taxis, lockers in the storage room, and more.

But when you travel with someone else, of course you need to get along, arrange a time and place for lunch, and watch the sights you want to see both. Traveling by yourself allows you to be more present, to be more open to your surroundings. You will meet more people. You are more inclined to feel kindness to strangers.

On an individual trip, you can learn more about yourself at the same time as you learn more about Europe. Traveling on your own is fun, interesting, bright and exciting. Understanding that you have what it takes to be your own guide is a thrill known only to lonely travelers. Your trip is a gift from you.

Traveling alone without feeling alone

For many people thinking about their first single journey, their biggest fear is that they will be alone. Big cities can be cold and ugly when the only person you can talk to is you. And being sick and lonely in a country where nobody knows you is a sad and unhappy experience.

Fortunately, it is easy to fight loneliness in Europe. The continent is full of travelers and natural places to meet, especially in the midst of the season (in winter it is harder to find the spirit of camaraderie of other travelers).

Meeting people

You’re gonna run into new buddies every day. If you stay in hostels, you will have a new family (hostels are open to all ages). Or pay attention to small hotels and boarding houses, where the owners have time to communicate with all residents. In most tourist destinations you will meet more people in an hour than at home in a day. If you’re shy, photos are a good reason to talk. Offer to take someone else’s photo or ask to be photographed.

Take a walking tour around the city (ask the tourist office). You will learn about the city and meet other travellers. If you are staying at a hostel, check the hostel’s notice board – some hostels organise group tours.

It is easy to meet people on buses and trains. When you meet locals who speak English, find out what they think – anything.

Try meeting other travellers on social networking sites. Like-minded people can meet each other on Facebook and Instagram, groups all over the world invite visitors to a variety of activities such as photo walks, happy hours and skiing at weekends. Also consider joining a hospitality exchange network such as CouchSurfing.

Food on the street

I like the old-fashioned version of personal social networking when I just say to someone, “Want to meet for lunch?” You can invite someone to join you for, say, dinner in the Netherlands, a buffet in Scandinavia, a fondue in Switzerland, a paella party in Spain or a spaghetti service in an Italian trattoria.

If you go alone, consider alternatives to the formal dining room. Try a self-service café, a local fast-food restaurant or a small ethnic diner. Visit a grocery store and have a picnic in the square or in the park. Get a piece of pizza from the shop for take-away. Eat in the kitchen of the hostel; you’ll always have companions.

The restaurant is more fun at noon than it is at night and the maitre d’ is more likely to seat a lonely visitor (especially a woman) at a better lunchtime table than at dinner. If you like company, eat in places so crowded and popular where you need to share a table, or ask other lonely travellers if they want to join you.

An afternoon café is a great way to get some privacy; for the cost of a drink and snacks, you’ll be given more peace and privacy than a public fountain or other open space.

Journey. Night, night, night.

Feel the magic of European cities at night. Go for a walk on the well-lit streets. With ice cream in your hand, enjoy a parade of people, bustling shops and illuminated monuments. You’ll always have a sense of camaraderie when there are a lot of people around. Take advantage of the wealth of evening entertainment: concerts, films and folk dances. Some cities offer tours after dark. You can see Paris at night on a river cruise.

If you like spending the night, find a room with a balcony overlooking the square. You will have a front row seat for the best show in town. Call a friend or family (hotels almost always have free Wi-Fi). Read novels in the country you are visiting. Learn to appreciate loneliness. Lie down early, get up early. Shop at the bustling morning market, buy freshly baked buns and join the locals for coffee.