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20 year-old female planning solo Europe trip -- advice??

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Hi Everyone,

This is my first time on these forums, so I apologize in advance if I'm posting this in the wrong place. I actually stumbled upon this site while researching tips for a young woman traveling solo, and I hope that you all will be able to help me!

First off, here's a little background info: I'm a 20 year-old college student who recently studied abroad this summer and who has caught the travel bug. I'm American and reside in the Midwest, and my trip abroad was to Quebec, Canada for a short immersion experience. I absolutely LOVED IT and never wanted the trip to end. I met so many incredible people who were so interesting and so different than the people in my area, and I also learned so much French. This trip was the first time I ever left my state and it was also the longest time I was away from home, so it truly did help get my feet wet.

Basically, I know that people will tell me that I'm young enough to have time to travel the world, but I want to do so NOW and do this trip next summer. I want to do it while I'm young and while I'm not tied down to anything. Ideally, I'd like to visit a few of the central European countries like France and Germany and maybe even Britain and Spain as well. Also, some distant family members reside in Poland, so of course I'd plan on staying there for a bit of time. I have a decent nest egg saved up to travel (about 17k) and have an entire four-month summer during which I can travel, which gives me a good amount of flexibility. Additionally, I actually made a European friend on my Quebec trip and I have the distant family that I mentioned, so I will have people to visit while I'm abroad.

So, I've got the time, money, and passion to do a solo trip to Europe, but I feel like my youth interferes with my goals. I traveled to Quebec with a classmate and so wasn't TRULY on my own, and I feel like that helped me make friends and get around. It's always easier to go at something when another person is by your side, and I worry that I won't be as friendly and open if I'm by myself in a country in which I'm lost and cannot speak the language. I do suffer from anxiety and had an initial problem adjusting to my classes in Quebec, but I distracted myself with friends and activities and eventually got over it.

I've read that hostels are the way to go for young people since they're cheap, flexible, and usually are a great source to make friends, and I think that's the way I'd like to go. However, I really don't know too much about them except for the limited information I gathered from my friends in Quebec, so can anyone elaborate on their booking/staying experiences and pass along any tips?

In general, I feel like this post is all over the place, but I guess what I'd truly appreciate the most is perhaps anecdotes of other young travelers and any tips for someone who is still rather new to traveling. I probably can fit in a few solo trips to other states or Quebec again during my longer school breaks, and I'd assume that would help prepare for this one and would give me a better idea of how to handle such an experience.

I just really want to get out of my boring hometown/state and do something with my life. Also, I'd really like to practice my French again, which I know I could do in France and a few other countries as well. Spending a semester abroad is DEFINITELY a strong possibility (I'm considering a program in France for as early as the fall of 2015), but I feel like taking a solo trip is something that I need to do for myself on personal and emotional levels. My family is very simple and has not done a lot of traveling, so I'm not receiving a lot of support from them and so am turning to other people who are more knowledgeable.

Thank you so much for reading and thanks in advance for any replies!! If I need to provide more information or anything, please let me know!!

- scrabbled

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