Solo traveling

As I am writing this, I am sitting on a train in the Netherlands, heading on my first solo backpacking trip in Europe. My plans currently are Antwerp on Monday, Ghent on Tuesday, Brugge on Wednesday, and then Paris from Thursday to Sunday. I’ve booked hostels in all these cities, and everything I’m taking with fits in a backpack. I’m listening to the podcast by Conde Nast Traveler on the not-so-glamourous-side of Solo Travelling.

This is actually my second solo trip ever. My first one was in New York. After my semester abroad, I decided to stay in New York for a week, mid-December. Prior to the trip, I had spent numerous hours looking at places to go, and things to see, finding a suitable place to stay, and different types of tickets for the metro and museums. This time, I did some research but I’ve left a lot of space for just walking around and improvising.

Recently I’ve come across numerous sources discussing the pros and cons of solo traveling as well as their opinion on it. Here are some of them:

Paulo Coelho in “The Pilgrimage”

Try to travel alone or – if you are married – with your spouse. It will be harder work, no one will be taking care of you, but only in this way can you truly leave your own country behind. Traveling with a group is a way of being in a foreign country while speaking your mother tongue, doing whatever the leader of the flock tells you to do, and taking more interest in group gossip than in the place that you are visiting.

Conde Nast Traveler on their Instagram profile

We’ve said it once, and we will say it again (and again): Solo travel is one of the most empowering ways to explore our world. You get to do what you want when you want to; you can secure a spot at some of the world’s best restaurants with ease (thanks to that solo seat at the bar); and most importantly, you get to know yourself better. But, it’s not all perfect, and sometimes, even the well-traveled Travel editors get lonely on the road.

My own personal list of pros and cons are:

Pros:

  1. Easy to get a table.
    Whilst in New York, someone had referred me to the Hard Rock Cafe. It was a freezing cold night, and there was a really long queue waiting just inside the door. Everytime that someone new came in, a blast of cold air would hit the poor folk at the back of the queue. The seating manager had started to move up and down the queue to find out how large the groups where, so they could place them more easily. When she reached me, and I was just one, she said I could skip the queue and just take a seat at the bar.*
  2. People watching
  3. Walk and explore at your own pace
  4. It’s really easy to get a reservation for one at a hostel
  5. You are on your own schedule and you don’t have to do things that you don’t feel like. If you feel
  6. You can eat whenever and whatever you want.
  7. No-one notices when you wear the same outfit again.

 

Cons

  1. You don’t have anyone to take photos of you or to take photos with (you can, however, take selfies or ask someone to take some pictures of you).
  2. You can’t reminisce over a past holiday with someone else (all those ‘you had to be there’ moments can’t be cherished by anyone else)
  3. No-one to share jokes with, and it gets lonely sometimes

That’s it for now. I feel like I’ll have some more to add after this week, so I’ll try to do a part 2.

*This story as a kind of hilarious ending. Reaching the bar, I had to present my ID, which showed me to be under the age of 21, the legal drinking age in the States, and I had to go sit at a ‘faux’ bar, which was just as wide as a normal bar, except for where the bar tender would have stood there was a mirror. So I was joined by my own reflection for dinner

 

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