If 15 year old me saw 22 year old me, she genuinely wouldn’t recognize her. My mom used to have to escort me into events because I was nervous (only child problems). When I was in preschool, I hid in a corner and asked if I “could be shy for a few minutes.” I mean seriously, I was as shy as all come. And now, I’m 22 years old. I moved by myself halfway across the world not knowing a single person. When I arrived, the thought of taking a trip by myself terrified me. I hated being alone! Why would I choose that when I could go with friends? Wouldn’t I be lonely? I’m a generally anxious person – wouldn’t the anxiety get the best of me?
The fact that it terrified me so much is the reason I told myself I had to take one solo trip before I left to go back to the US. I knew that the worst case scenario was that I would be lonely and not have a good time, but regardless, I would have pushed myself out of my comfort zone and grown from it. As it turned out…it was the best weekend of my life, and I’ve already planned the next one.
Traveling solo is really just bada**. Especially as a female. Of course, being a female makes it more difficult (prepare for endless catcalling, or you might end up at a pub crawl being literally the only girl…that was an interesting night). Anyway, the fact that it is more difficult is what makes it a better experience. If it weren’t a challenge, we would just be stuck inside our little bubble of comfort, which is way less exciting. This is a good place to add in, however, to please obviously use caution. I don’t know if this is common knowledge, but don’t walk alone at night (I’m overly cautious and ordered an Uber for a 10 minute walk at 2 am, but you really never know!) Also, keep watch of your stuff at all times. Being a female solo traveler, especially if you are clearly foreign, makes you a perfect target for pickpocketing.
Anyway, aside from pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, it is genuinely extremely enjoyable. You can make all of your own decisions. Does that café look like a good place for breakfast? I don’t know, but I’m going to try it without having to ask anyone else if they want to. Do I want to skip this monument that I don’t really care about, even though it’s supposed to be important? Great, next. It’s literally all up to you! You can go to sleep and wake up when you want, eat when you want and plan tours as you please.
My last point is that you will make twice as many friends as you would make if you were with a group. We often don’t find the need to branch out when we have companions by our side, but as a solo traveler, I talk to almost everyone I encounter. I stayed in two hostels, and left both feeling like I had known my new friends for ages. You’re forced to meet cool international people from countries all over the world – in fact, I met a British girl and a Dutch girl who had met in a hostel years ago and had stayed best friends through annual meet-ups. There’s literally no way you won’t make friends.
So, what went from me forcing myself to go on one solo trip to Prague and Budapest – which, by the way, I would 100% recommend for first time solo travelers -- , turned to booking two more to Lisbon and Vienna immediately after I returned. If you need a push to do it, this is your sign! If you really need cushion, just make sure you have enough money to book a flight home if you’re not enjoying it (but trust me, I don’t think you’ll want to).