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first time solo traveller

Old Jan 2nd, 2006, 06:23 PM
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first time solo traveller

I'm thinking of travelling solo this spring to Paris and/or London. I've done quite a few trips to Europe before (Dublin, London, Barcelona, Rome, Lisbon), but always with someone.

This year my travel buddies are all tied down *sob* But I don't think my travel experiences should have to be dependent on other people!

Any advice for someone soloing the first time? My main concern is not feeling out of place in restaurants, or getting homesick, as I'm not the most outgoing person in the world Is it really easy to meet people? (And no, I'm not going to stay in a hostel, I'm 36 and I need my sleep lol)

Thanks in advance for any advice folks

Brian
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Old Jan 3rd, 2006, 09:32 AM
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Brian, I love traveling solo and have yet to be homesick, but I guess everyone's probably different in that regard.

I don't try to meet people really, so I can't help you with that part of your question either, because the feeling of being alone in a new city is incredibly invigorating and inspiring for me.

To feel more at ease in restaurants, stick to casual places, cafes, bars with food, or try a restaurant that has communal tables to seat singles if you're feeling sociable. Bring a book or local newspaper to read helps me feel comfortable.

Alternately, make use of pre-made sandwiches from a bakery and eat lunch on a park bench if the weather's good. Some evenings I'll get something picnic style from the grocery store with a bottle of wine, have dinner in my room and watch local TV!

So I don't get lonely, I stop into internet cafes fairly often and email friends and family at home, and pick up messages from them.

Taking photos, keeping a travel journal, shopping (book or music stores are good), grocery stores, post office, libraries, etc. are all great activities for someone traveling by themselves to better get the local feel of a place.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2006, 12:49 PM
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I've visited both Paris and London solo and have found everyone from waiters to taxi drivers to be friendly, helpful and willing to chat with a solo traveler. It seems like everyone is more interested in learning if the USA is really like what they see on TV, than in snubbing tourists, as is the popular belief.

One concern I have for you is safety -- one late night in Paris on my way down the Trocodero to view the Eiffel Tower, I witnessed a man thrown down and robbed of his video camera as the mugger ripped the shoulder strap viciously from off his neck. I realized then how important it is to always be somewhere well lit and well traveled. That was my only scary episode in all my travels, but feel it's never a bad thing to be wary!

Also, make friends with the concierge for help finding other friendly folks/establishments during your stay.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2006, 02:18 PM
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The best advice is to just go and do it. At the very least, going somewhere interesting alone is usually better than staying home alone!

Since you're going to Europe, you're probably much less likely to feel out of place as a solo than in the US. Europeans don't attach the same stigma to solo travel that Americans do, so restaurants will probably welcome you because they have lots of solo customers. On your previous trips you probably saw lots of people eating lunch or dinner alone, even if you weren't specifically paying attention to them.

As for meeting people, it's probably something you can't count on but it's nice when it happens. Traveling in the US, you're at a definite disadvantage as a solo male, since the couples and families you'll encounter might see you as threatening or unsavory. There may be less of that in Europe, where solo travel is more accepted.

I have never stayed in a hostel myself, but my (male) friends who have say it's about the best way to meet people. If you're not interested in hostels (and I don't blame you if you're not) you might have better luck at less-expensive hotels, or at pensions or bed-and-breakfasts. My experience with bed-and-breakfasts is that they encourage guests to socialize in the evening; that can be an interesting experience or a bore depending on your luck. Also, the more expensive and luxurious the hotel, the more "sterile" the atmosphere the the less likelihood of interacting with other people. So save your money.
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Old Jan 3rd, 2006, 04:12 PM
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I felt that being in London solo was no different from being solo at home in the US.

Paris, on the other hand, was very different. The language barrier was more difficult to surmount than I anticipated. Because of this experience, I've decided not to travel solo to places where I don't speak the language. I'd much rather travel as a single member of a tour group.
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Old Jan 4th, 2006, 07:37 AM
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A couple of tips I've found handy for traveling solo:

Eating out is the most intimidating part. Fight the urge to eat in your room. Everytime I force myself out I find an adventure. Eating in a pub or bar is often the easiest. You can eat at the bar and the barman will chat with you. The atmosphere is less formal. In Paris, cafes are almost always comfortable for solos. If you bring a book you isolate yourself more. A newspaper or journal (or writing your postcards) makes you more approachable. And as a single traveler you will find yourself incredibly approachable.

If you are starting to feel too isolated, join a walking tour or day excursion. You'll hook up with other travelers and may find yourself meeting with others for a meal later. London Walks are great for this. In Paris, check out the Fat Bike tours.

You are likely to find that you love solo travel and are hard pressed to want company on your next trip!
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Old Jan 4th, 2006, 07:39 AM
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Femi, You might find that if you try another destination the experience will be different. I've traveled solo to lots of countries and haven't had a problem. Paris is a bit more isolating.
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Old Jan 4th, 2006, 11:48 AM
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if i didn't travel solo to places where i didn't speak the language... that would seriously limit my choice of destinations -lol (having no interest in joining tour groups myself)
;-)
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Old Jan 4th, 2006, 12:30 PM
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Thanks everyone for your replies I feel more confident about giving this a shot!

My plans have changed and I may actually wind up going to Athens for a week now!
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Old Jan 4th, 2006, 05:15 PM
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I have also traveled solo many, many times. I enjoy it a lot, but I agree that I dread solo-dining.

I find that the more casual a place is, the easier it is to start conversation with others. OTOH, at expensive restaurants, people usu mind their own business.

My last solo trip was in May 2005, and I had a great time chatting with my fellow diners at a restaurant in Amsterdam (4 Italian guys on one side, and 2 Dutch guys on the other).

My Swiss trip in May 2004, I ended up talking to the Chinese chef and a couple (he's Swiss, she's S. American) at a Chinese take-out in Interlaken. I also chatted with numerous folks at a restaurant in Lugano.

Another suggestion is to stay at a B&B that includes breakfast. It's quite easy to meet fellow travelers that way also.

I'm sure you won't have a problem meeting locals or fellow travelers in Athens! Have fun!
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Old Jan 4th, 2006, 05:39 PM
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Catbert,
That's a point I had not considered. Thanks for taking the time to point it out. Food for thought.
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Old Jan 4th, 2006, 05:50 PM
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Femi, Try Amsterdam (everyone speaks English), Italy (Italians go out of their way to be friendly), Switzerand (lots of English spoken) or Croatia. I had a fantastic time in Croatia solo.
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Old Jan 5th, 2006, 12:27 AM
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Catbert: I did Switzerland and Italy as part of a group tour. I don't currently have solid plans for Croatia, but it is definitely on my list of places to go. You just gave it a little bump up the list.

Thanks for the info!
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Old Jan 5th, 2006, 10:52 AM
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Hi Brian,

Athens for a week? I hope that you'll have some day trips planned. I've been there three times and will say three full days will give you ample time to see Athens. If I go back (if on a cruise) I will definitely do a day trip or stay on the ship. I enjoyed visiting Athens, but it's not one of my favorites.

I'm also doing a solo trip this year - Italy for 2 weeks. It will be my first real solo trip (did a Baltic cruise solo but met a lot of nice people that I hung out with). I've been reading up on "how to solo" - if you Google "solo travel" you'll come up with lots of information, in addition to the good advise here.

Have fun!

Monica
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Old Jan 5th, 2006, 06:21 PM
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I endorse everything that has been said here. Personally I find staying in hotels quite isolating and find it's easier to meet people in B&Bs or pensions, especially the ones which have communal facilities for making tea etc. In Crete I tend to sit outside my pension on the street with a glass of wine and talk to whoever comes past. Language doesn't seem to be a problem, most holidaynakers in Europe speak some English and I can manage with a few words of other languages. A smile goes a long way. In small restaurants people at the next table usually strike up a conversation (especially if they're 'older'). I also don't go in for any kind of tours as I have more than enough that I want to do without accepting any other suggestions. Read the guidebook and set off. Have a great time in Athens, one of my favourites, hope to be there later this year!
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Old Jan 6th, 2006, 09:53 AM
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You've all convinced me to give this a try! Thanks!

While I don't think I'm going to give the hostels a try, I will go with your other suggestions. Hopefully I'll meet up with some other solo travellers to do things with, but hey if not, I am capable of having a good time all by myself
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Old Jan 6th, 2006, 10:25 AM
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I'm not sure if it would be different for a guy, but I have found it is easier to get "adopted" by a couple (like to join them for drinks or dinner) than finding other singles, for some reason.
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Old Jan 6th, 2006, 11:03 AM
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Brian, if you do go to Athens for a week, consider taking one of the hydrofoils to Hydra or Aegina. I always meet other travelers on transit. Also, you might want to sign up for one of the 2 night tours to Delphi and Meteora. Not only are they absolutely fascinating, I met another solo traveler when I did that.
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Old Jan 14th, 2006, 06:34 AM
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I would think that for a single guy, it is much easier to travel solo than a single gal like myself. I'm 39 and am ready to get a movin' with travelling already. Haven't done much in the past 6 yrs since I had started my own business, but now I'm just ready to get movin, but do not want to travel alone at all as I am intimidated by the thought of eating alone in restaurants...even though most who know me say that I'm a very outgoing, confident person. Any suggestions are appreciated. Those of you giving Brian advice seem like great, supportive folks, so I look forward to hearing from everyone.
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Old Jan 14th, 2006, 09:50 AM
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Some trips I've enjoyed doing solo--American & Canadian cities, cruises, gambling & spa trips, London.

I've also done some tours--most recently to Thailand & a Russia river cruisetour. The Thailand tour was very flexible--6 nights in Bangkok and 6 nights in Chiang Mai (Northern Thailand). The way that the tour was set up you could do as much or as little with the group as you wanted.

For me the logistics and language of foriegn travel are a challenge so I like doing mostly tours overseas. I also enjoy the social aspects of the tours.

Good luck in whatever you choose.

Faith
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