Your Advice on Going it Alone...

Jan 30th, 2003, 09:42 PM
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Your Advice on Going it Alone...

For the past number of years I have gone to Europe for 4-5weeks in the summer. This year however, the person who I travel with is unable to take that amount of time off of work and won't be going (and also for financial reasons).
What are your thoughts on traveling alone for this length of time? I'm not worried about logistical type things and basic survival, but rather the psychological aspects of traveling alone...
My tentative itinerary is London-Edinburgh, flying into Barcelona and spending the remainder of the trip in Spain and then flying home out of Madrid.

Any thoughts!?!
_Julie_ is offline  
Jan 30th, 2003, 11:24 PM
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The longest I have traveled totally alone was a 3.5 week trip and it was just fine. That trip was mostly in northern Scotland but I also hit London and Edinburgh. I often go solo for 1 or 2 weeks at a time. If you are at all conversant in Spanish you will have a great time. Of course you don't need to speak the language to enjoy a country - but when you are by yourself it does make it that much easier to meet and talk to people.
janis is offline  
Jan 31st, 2003, 04:05 AM
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It really depends on your personality. If you are naturally a loner, then I wouldn't think you'd have much of a problem. If you are a "people person," it could be a problem to not have someone to share your discoveries with for a month or more.
RufusTFirefly is offline  
Jan 31st, 2003, 10:44 AM
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Hi Julie:
I have never travelled alone but will be in Paris on my own for a month. I have been there 3X and am familiar with the area in which I will be staying, so its not quite as challenging nor perhaps as interesting as your plans going from one place to the next. I think there will be times when loneliness can be a factor but many people have said the plus side of solo travel far outweighs the cons. I think it will force me to reach out to people and talk to strangers ; thats a good thing. Good luck. Kay
Kay is offline  
Jan 31st, 2003, 10:50 AM
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I enjoyed the few times I've travelled alone. You don't have to worry about going anywhere you don't wish to, nor about taking anyone where they don't want to go. If you decide to change plans, you can just do it, no discussion.

It also allows you to meet new people... once, while travelling alone in London, I sat in Hyde Park with my picnic lunch (and video camera) and people-watched. Shortly, a young gentleman sat down and started chatting with me. We spent a pleasant afternoon watching people together, and then we went out dancing that night. It was a wonderful little time...

Another time, at a crowded cafe, I shared a table with an older couple. We exchanged stories, and we spent hours comparing US vs. UK things. It was great fun!

Savor the alone time and take the opportunity to do things you might feel constrained from doing with a travel companion!
GreenDragon is offline  
Jan 31st, 2003, 10:55 AM
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Julie - while I enjoy traveling with other people, twice I have traveled to Europe alone. I'm naturally shy, but I find when I travel alone, I tend to be a bit more open to talk to strangers. It helps to take a phone card with you so you can call home often and talk to friends.

My biggest problem in solo traveling is in eating in restaraunts. I feel conspicous and lonely. I found if I take a journal to write my thoughts, or read a book, then it isn't so bad. Good luck.
Dutch is offline  
Jan 31st, 2003, 11:05 AM
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I love travelling solo! Have done it so often, I now can not imagine any other way!

My first trip was 16 years ago at the age of 25. It was supposed to be a 2-3 month trip, yet turned into a 6 month journey. It was an incredible experience, and really turned me on to solo travelling. I now go 2X a year, Europe & Asia, every year.

I think it does help if you're a bit outgoing. It then will be super easy for you to meet others, pretty much everywhere you go: cafes, museums, trains, hotels, shopping.

During your whole trip, opportunities to meet and possibly even travel with others will frequently arise. Don't pass up an opportunity to chat up with a local. I'm still in touch with a woman in Milan, simply because I asked to pet her dog, then we ended up talking about our love of our dogs for 20 minutes! (Yes, we then moved onto other topics!).

Or you can happily wander off alone, doing what you want, when you want to do it. I find those contemplative, journal writing, watercoloring moments, equally as special.

For me the big myth of travelling solo, is that you're never really alone, if you don't want to be.

Have a great trip Julie, whatever you feel comfortable doing.
Dolcevita is offline  
Jan 31st, 2003, 12:45 PM
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I actually am more of a loner, at least I do have a lot of solitary activities and live alone, and yet I don't think I could even enjoy that so much. The only time I've "traveled" that long alone was really when I was taking classes abroad or something where I had regular interaction with a group of people.

It sounds like you haven't ever traveled by yourself for a very long period, or you would kind of know how you reacted to it, and that you are really used to traveling very closely with another person. Personally, I wouldn't do it because I suspect you may not enjoy it so much. It would be different if you know Spanish fairly well, but being in a foreign country where you don't speak or understand the language can get isolating. Chatting with casual acquaintances in restaurants, etc, is really not the same thing IMO and is something, but is not the same thing as being with someone you know well.

You must get a lot of vacation time or aren't working, otherwise it would be natural to want to even bank some of that time for vacations at other parts of the year. I suggest a compromise -- go for about 3 weeks early in the summer. Then, take a short vacation near the end of summer (when you can really enjoy it) to another place which will break up the block of time -- if you feel you'd like another vacation. I did that last year and really enjoyed it because I was dying to get away from the summer heat by mid-August, and you can often find good deals on air fare, lodging, etc for August.

If you don't want to pay for another major air fare and that's the main reason you want to do all 5 weeks at once (other costs shouldn't be affected much), you can either look for a locale closer to home (such as Canada if you live in US), or keep an eye out for those weekend e-fares or special fare sales for August travel, I'll bet you find something.
Christina is offline  
Jan 31st, 2003, 01:38 PM
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Would it be an option for your friend to go with you for a portion of the trip? I have a friend who just took about 3 months off to travel, and though she did parts of it alone, she had friends meet her for different bits of it and that seemed to work out well.

I often travel solo, and usually enjoy it very much. (Though about 3 weeks is the longest I've traveled at a stretch.) Have done trips on my own to London, Edinburgh/Glasgow (met lots of fun people in the latter!), Paris, and Italy and found all to be great.

A text search here for "solo and <country name>" will bring up lots of helpful threads.
Lesli is offline  
Jan 31st, 2003, 02:07 PM
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I'd never travel alone until I turned 40 and went to Europe for 8 weeks a couple of years ago. I ended up having friends and family over for 5.5 weeks but the other 2.5 I was on my own in France in the Loire Valley. I picked France because I had 20 year-old school French to work with. I still read French OK and I can speak a bit, but I understand almost nothing except a stylized exchange checking into a hotel or ordering food.

I think I had some of the same concerns you did Julie. I'd been to Europe several times. I knew how to catch trains and rent cars and order food in a foreign language. However I was terrified I'd be a few days into it and say to myself, “this sucks! I want somebody real to talk to.”

It didn't happen. I kept busy. I chatted with people around me everywhere. I ran into an American couple in Blois that I spent part of the day with because they had never been to France and didn't speak a word of French other than “bonjour” and “merci.” I looked at them with a questioning face as they were trying to figure out the French-style receipt printing parking meters. They asked politely if I spoke English and it went from there.
I ended up having dinner with a lovely British couple in Beaugency. We were chatting between our tables and they finally asked me to join them.

That being said, I think I'll always travel alone in a French or English speaking country.

Maybe you should fly in and out of London. That way if you don't like Spain because of the language barrier (if there is one) you could go back to England early as a back-up plan. You'd be able to decide if you liked being alone better in the UK and do something about it without having to change a plane ticket.
indytravel is offline  
Jan 31st, 2003, 02:20 PM
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I was in a similar situation in 2001. I ended up going to Europe and touring 5 countries in a month and was actually in Paris for Sept 11 (my 3rd day!). That was the hardest part. other than that I loved it and I am very glad that I did it. I learned alot about myself and the world...go for it!
jamikins is offline  
Jan 31st, 2003, 03:23 PM
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I have traveled alone many times, and tend to get lonely after 2 weeks. I tend to stay in one place for a longer time, and get to talk to the B&B owner and others staying at the hotel, plus others on any tours I take, or even at nearby tables in restaurants.
I'd reconsider going to Spain alone. The local men consider that any woman alone is just waiting for a man to pick her up. I had problems even in public places, and at the time was an average looking woman of 45 who dressed very conservatively (I couldn't imagine why anyone would try to pick up someone who looks like a grandmother). I was told that my "Germanic" looks were partly responsible for this.
pakitty is offline  
Jan 31st, 2003, 06:18 PM
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Rufus makes a good point but it can be so situational. It depends on the opportunities you have to meet other folks. I sometimes wonder if someone who is more of a loner would have it tougher, if only b/c we all need some sort of contact and a loner may be more hesitant to reach out?

I am off the charts on extroversion, and I travel alone at least half the time - some trips are only 9-10 days, some are a month, some are months long.

I have found that if you are really a people person, you can't help but meet and make friends. true, you won't be sharing your trip with someone who is important to you - but if you stretch yourself you will be amazed at the people you will meet. One of my favorite things about traveling is making new friends or even just encountering new people, even if only fleetingly.

If you find yourself getting lonely, give yourself a jump start - seek out something you may not normally do or have never done. On the flip side, seek out the things you like to do at home but maybe don't have the time - something energetic, like horseback riding, renting a bike for a day, hiking. if it's wintertime - go ice skating or skiing. if you like to golf, go for it!

I've found that there is a trade off b/w hiring a car and taking the train. They both have their merits. With the train you are definitely going to meet more people - be sure to pack a corkscrew.

I still usually drive unless I know I am limiting myself to cities. It means too much to me to have the freedom to go exactly where I choose, listen to the radio, and haul as much luggage as I care to take.

If you find yourself in a new town and a little lonely, chat up a local, ask where a good restaurant in the area is - chances are you'll have a dinner companion for the evening.

don't forget to take a few good books.

if I think of any other tips I'll let you know. if you'd like to email me, my address is

[email protected]
flygirl is offline  
Jan 31st, 2003, 10:21 PM
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Thank you so much for your replies - I think I would be quite capable of traveling alone and having a wonderful time. My biggest problem is trying to explain the entire concept to my friends and family who can't wrap their minds around spending so much time alone in a 'foreign' place. I think it will be an opportunity to find out a bit more about myself.
I'm flying into London since I've been there twice (and loved it!) and will be familiar with how things work. That way I can warm up to the entire traveling solo experience before being thrown into unfamiliar surroundings. I am however giving second thoughts to Spain after considering your advice...
Sticking to English and French speaking countries is a good option for me since I speak both, and it seems more logical than torturing myself through what could very well be an isolating couple of weeks in Spain.

Christina - I'm in a graduate program right now and so the only time I get off is in the summer. I work at two less than desirable jobs and don't get vacation time so when I do get time off I'm not paid for it anyway - So I don't have to worry about using up my valuable (and nonexistent) vacation days! When I get a 'real' job I think I would rather spread my time away throughout the year to break up the monotony, and even just to experiece a locale in a season other than summer!

Thank you again - Your words are encouraging and I find that I'm actually getting excited at the prospect of traveling solo. Your comments have also helped me have a little less trepidation about having to spend so much time with myself!
_Julie_ is offline  
Feb 1st, 2003, 01:46 AM
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Hi Julie--

Six years ago I was in a similiar position as you. I teach, so summers are my time, but my best friend and regular travel buddy wasn't able to go away. I didn't know if I'd like the solo thing, but I decided I wasn't going to have a boring summer. I ended up going to British Columbia for 10 days because it was in my budget.

On my 3rd day away, while writing in my brand new journal on a sunny park bench in Vancouver, a woman a little older than myself started to talk to me. It ended up we both work with special ed. kids and were both on our own. After chatting for a bit, we decided to meet up later for dinner. It turned into a crazy night of food, wine and cute guys. I had a blast and knew then I would be taking more solo trips.

This past summer, I went away by myself for 4 wks. That trip ended up being the best one yet! Once again, I met many wonderful people and saw some fabulous places. I might be going to Cyprus for the wedding of some friends I made in Australia. How crazy is that?

It always amazes me how far a smile goes when I'm travelling on my own. You'll find people to be more friendly and helpful when they see you're alone. I tend to be on the reserved side til I get to know someone but when I go away by myself, I'm not like that.

Even though you will meet people along the way, I should warn you that you'll probably have moments of loneliness. For me, having dinner alone was the hardest thing to adjust to, but I have figured out ways around that. I'll order my meal sitting at a bar, just so I can chat with people. I'll choose casual restaurants with closely spaced tables for the same reason. If those around me want to keep to themselves, I always have my journal or a book to read. It's also a great time to write out postcards--something I never get around to when I travel with others. I'm directionally-challenged so when I'm alone I spend a lot of time getting lost. That's not always a bad thing, but it can be a tad frustrating when I've been walking in circles! Then again, it can be another opportunity to talk to someone.

Have fun and good luck!
OneWanderingJew is offline  

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