Thinking of taking a trip by yourself? Going solo can be a bit scary, but I promise it’s worth it.
While you study abroad, there are plenty of opportunities to partake in cheap flights and jump on an airplane to another country. Almost every weekend I have been so privileged and grateful to see different areas of Europe I thought I would never have the opportunity to see. One weekend, however, I had no plans and thought it might be fun to do a trip by myself.
As someone who is fiercely independent and enjoys many moments of alone time, I jumped at the opportunity to spend a whole weekend traveling and doing whatever I wanted, so I booked a flight to Brussels, Belgium. Here are a few tips that really helped me feel safe and allowed me to get a lot done!
- Make an itinerary and map guide!
- Prior to leaving for my trip, I did research on restaurants, monuments, churches, food, drinks, museums, and experiences that were must-hits in Brussels along with Bruges where I took a train for a day trip. As I found recommendations, I added them to a guide in Apple Maps I made that plotted out each spot in one file. Then, once I had everything plotted out geographically, I set out to make an itinerary that made sense. So, on each day I planned things that were close together, and because I was alone, I could spend as much time as I wanted at each location. I found that this was the perfect way to travel. Then if I had extra time, I could look around on my map and see if there was anything random close by that I hadn’t thought of visiting. For example, when I was in Bruges, I finished all of my itinerary early so after a few minutes of looking on the map, I found a museum all about Belgian potatoes and fries along with a chocolate museum—I wouldn’t have known about that otherwise!
- Stay somewhere you feel safe and connected.
- Traveling alone you definitely have to be on guard a little bit more, because you might stick out as a solo tourist. I was fortunate enough to stay in a hotel close to the European Commission which was such a fun area to be in. It was also very connected to public transportation so I could easily travel through the city. As a single woman traveling alone, it can be dangerous. But because I had a safe location to sleep, I felt really secure and ready for my travels.
- Take advantage of your time alone.
- I found that being alone gave me the chance to not only do things on my own time, but I could really just take a few moments to be with my own thoughts and reflect on my study abroad experience thus far. Study abroad can be very overwhelming—full of new friends, new experiences, and new knowledge gained during your semester. So, these moments of quiet are really important. Especially as my time abroad sadly comes to an end, I have really appreciated the little moments of reflection and journaling I get to do on my own.
I encourage everyone to do a solo trip. Not only do you get to see the things you really want to, but you are forced to sometimes be in awkward situations and learn how to deal with it. I found that I really never eat alone in restaurants so doing that for almost every meal felt a little odd sometimes, but by the end I felt confident walking into any place and asking for space for 1. Pushing yourself to be in sometimes uncomfortable situations without another person to help out can be really healthy.
If you haven’t traveled alone yet, give it a try. I think you’ll surprise yourself with how capable you are.
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My name is Tatyana Masters and I'm from Washington D.C. I can often be found with a book to read and camera on hand, looking for a new adventure or stranger to meet. I go to school in New York City, so in my free time, I like to ride the subway to different areas of the city and interview interesting people I meet for stories!