Coming into this semester, I had promised myself to spend at least one night of one weekend trip alone. I admit I am one of those people who don't like alone time, but I felt I owed it to myself to at least try. Since being here, I have spent not one, not two, but three nights alone in a hostel and in a hotel. It turns out that one of my traveling buddies has class on Monday while I don't, occasionally leaving me with the option of staying an extra night. Traveling alone has easily been the most intimidating part of this entire semester, but I'm proud to say I have completed a goal that to me seemed a little bit far-fetched. Some simple, some tactical, some a little more abstract, here is my advice for those of you planning on going solo.
Don't spend more time than you need to in your hostel/hotel.
When you're traveling alone, it's easy to tempt yourself into tucking in early. I admit that my last trip in Zürich was one of these times that I caved into my nervous tendencies. It was raining and just dreary outside and everything seemed to be closed on that particular Sunday night. So in that case, yes I was in bed by 8 PM. But usually, I can assure you that unless you have the absolute coolest roommates with insane travel stories, you just don't want to be hanging out and feeling lonely in your shared dormitory. So don't do it. Instead, explore the city nightlife.
Book a hostel/hotel in the absolute center of the city and stay where the crowds are.
That being said, make sure you book your hotel or hostel or Airbnb in that absolute center of the city. It may be a couple extra bucks, but super worth it for two reasons. 1, you don't have to deal with cabs to get to and from your room. I am not going to lie to you- cabs can get a little sketchy at night. Also, save the extra money and put it towards staying in a better area. 2, you don't want to be losing track of time in the center of the city after exploring just to find that you're stranded because there aren't any cabs or Uber's around to get you back. Do yourself a favor and stay where there are lots of people and you won't feel so alone or worried about your surroundings.
Always, always, always carry a portable charger with you.
This is good traveling advice no matter where you are or who you are with. We are so lucky to have devices that can contact anyone in the world and direct us to any place we want to be. Treat your phone nicely and charge it when it needs to be charged! I can't tell you how many of my friends went out and got a charger just a couple weeks into studying abroad. Europe just doesn't have a ton of outlets at your disposal like the US.
No one cares if you’re eating alone.
The first time I went out to dinner with little old me, myself, and I it was very awkward for the first 5 minutes. Then I got off my phone, looked around, and found zero eyes staring at me. Zero. No one even noticed I was alone, let alone cared. It builds character to feel comfortable in your skin and sit in a crowded room all by yourself. Extra bonus: if you're going to eat alone, you don't have to worry about compromising on a place that the whole group only kinda agrees to. And! People! Watching!
Start your day early and get out there. Do some sightseeing and activities that appeal to YOU.
Along with the last point, traveling alone is a lot of fun because you get to choose exactly what you want to do. As for nightlife, it can definitely seem intimidating to go to a club, a bar, or a pub alone. If you choose to forego the late night, wake up early and spend the day how you want to. Of course it's obvious and easier said than done, but make a plan of all the places you want to hit before you head out for the day. This way you'll have motivation to keep on going even if it's just you.
Interact with other people.
Ask someone to take your picture, speak to people in stores you walk into, make friends with the people in your hostel. You get the point. Whatever interactions you have with others will likely make your day. I find that locals are always much friendlier than I expect them to be.
Make sure your lodging has free WiFi.
We become so reliant on our phones that we forget that many places we may be traveling to don't have cell service. My abroad plan didn't include 3 of the countries I have traveled to. That being said, getting off your phone for a majority of the day is a much needed break. Just be sure that at the end of the day you can find comfort in contacting friends and family as well as mapping out tomorrow's moves.
Tell someone where you’re staying.
I'm definitely an offender when it comes to forgetting to tell my parents where I am going. Being abroad has made me much more independent, but at the same time I have to frequently remind myself that I am across the world and my parents want to know where I am staying. Also make sure your friends know if you're going away for the weekend so they don't worry if you can't respond to texts and messages.
So the next time your friend tells you he or she won't be able to make their schedule work perfectly with yours and you may be a day off in your travel plans, don't fear the worst. Book the trip you want and spend a day and night alone. Better yet, if you're feeling brave, spend the whole weekend alone. You'll be happy you got a little extra "me time" doing all the things that may not be at the top of your friends' to-do lists.