Travelling Alone For the First Time: Frightening or Exhilarating?

Hello lovely people,

After making the decision to travel alone to Milan I had a mixed response from my family and friends. Some thought I was insane for undertaking a week of loneliness and danger, others thought it was a great choice to explore a new place exactly how I would want to. Regardless of what people thought though it felt like the right decision. I’m a pretty seasoned traveller at this point, and I don’t want to restrict myself from seeing new places just because I don’t have anyone to travel with at that point in time. So, here’s how I feel after my first trip alone.

travelling alone

My journey to Milan was, quite frankly, a bit of a trek. I had to take a 2.5 hour train to Manchester Airport, go through the airport experience on my own for the first time, fly to Bergamo, take a 1 hour bus to Milano Centrale, and take the metro to my hostel. It was time-consuming, but I can’t say I found anything too difficult. It’s really not that different to being in a group, you’ve just got to have more awareness of your surroundings. My main tip for this part is to account for the possibility of things going wrong, because when there’s only one brain working solving problems can be more difficult. My train to the airport was cancelled whilst I was on it (love our fully functional privatised rail network), but I was able to get on another one and still had time for a drink in the airport because I’d accounted to have spare time.

I opted to stay in an 8 bed mixed dorm at Meininger Milano Lambrate for a number of reasons pertaining to being a solo female traveller. I know and trust the brand, so I had the peace of mind of going to somewhere I knew would be safe. This particular hostel was located across the road from a train station too, so it meant I never had to walk too far at night. Staying a dorm was a new and interesting experience. I didn’t feel unsafe or uncomfortable at all, as most of the other people in my room were young solo travellers too. I even got chatting to a few of them, shoutout to the linguists from Oxford who quizzed me on my degree a bit too much for it to be normal. I obviously kept my belongings padlocked away at all times to make sure nothing was stolen or lost.

Being able to do exactly what you want whenever you want is such a liberating way to travel. I’ve travelled in a big group before, and whilst it’s obviously so much fun to hang out with your friends, it’s also enjoyable to be completely on your own agenda. I was able to go to museums that my friends perhaps wouldn’t have enjoyed, and didn’t feel like I was ever letting anyone down by things like getting up earlier or later on a certain day. I was also a big fan of sitting on benches or in cafes and watching the world go by for far too long, something I doubt other people would tolerate!

Eating and drinking surprised me as being one of the hardest things. I didn’t eat out very much as I felt the social stigma of being in a restaurant alone and I have a bit of anxiety surrounding ordering food (sounds ridiculous because it is). I also didn’t like that I couldn’t drink as much as I usually would on trips, because I definitely didn’t want to be even slightly drunk whilst alone. I did save money as a result of this though, so it wasn’t all a loss.

Now for the important bit – safety. I don’t think I once felt at risk. Obviously Italy is a very safe country, but it’s still dangerous to be alone anywhere at certain times of day or in certain places. I was catcalled a little bit here and there, but the sad fact is that I almost expect that now when I’m in a big city, regardless of if I’m alone or with female friends; #whyimafeminist. To stay safe I just took the normal precautions you would expect – not being out late at night, not having valuables on show, not walking around with earphones in and not giving away personal information. It can be more dangerous to travel as a woman alone inevitably, but I think as long as you take suitable measures to protect yourself you shouldn’t let it stop you.

I actually thought I would be a lot more lonely than I ended up being, as in the end I really enjoyed my own company. I was still in contact with friends and family back home as well which helped, but I was mostly distracted by all the culture and exploring so I never really got lonely. I also chatted to a lot of people in my hostel. I spent most of my evenings chilling in the communal areas, and got chatting to travellers about where they’d been and where they were headed – my favourite kinds of conversations. If I had spoken Italian I’d probably have spoken to more people when I was in the city, so perhaps socialising would’ve been more likely if I had been somewhere I spoke the language.

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Look at me with all my pigeon friends

So if I were to sum it up – travelling alone was the best thing I’ve ever done. I learned a lot about myself and how I cope with things, as well as growing in confidence even after such a short length of time away. It really was the best bit of relaxation before university and spending almost all my time with other people. Have you ever travelled alone? Would you, or would it worry you too much?

-Megan, listening to Brave New World by Iron Maiden (I rediscovered this album today and remembered how much I love it)

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My Europe Bucket List

Hello lovely people!

Can I get political for a second? Fuck Brexit. I hate it and everything it stands for, whether that be nationalism, anti-immigrant sentiment or economic liberalism. I hate that it stands in the way of defining myself first and foremost as a European citizen, and I hate that it’s almost certainly going to restrict my future. I absolutely adore Europe with all my heart, and I want to continue roaming around it’s streets forever.

My trip to Milan this week has inspired me to keep travelling, regardless of what my government want to do to stand in my way. Travelling alone has helped me find my feet and discover some amazing things and places; if I’m honest I just want to drop everything right now and disappear across Europe on my own for a while. I’ve spoken to people doing round-the-world trips, interrails, or travelling for work, and I want to do it all. So, this is where I want to go.

europe bucket list

1. Copenhagen, Denmark
Milan was very nearly Copenhagen. The flights were just as cheap and even more convenient, but accommodation and mere existing was a little out of my budget for this trip. Scandinavia isn’t an area I’ve ventured into as yet due to the aforementioned high prices, but for some reason I’m drawn to Denmark. Perhaps it’s the canals, perhaps it’s the Scandi lifestyle; whatever it is I’m determined to make it there.

copenhagen

2. Rome, Italy
Having visited Milan, Como, Verona and Venice I’ve absolutely fallen in love with Italian culture. The people are always welcoming, aperativo is the best idea anyone ever came up with, and their relaxed approach to life is something I hugely envy. I’ve chosen Rome because I’ve been recommended it a thousand times over, and it’s historical sights look amazing. Perhaps this is a linguistic trip for if I ever learn Italian…

rome

3. Andalusia, Spain
Considering Spanish is my third language I’m honestly ashamed that the only time I’ve ever visited Spain was to a holiday resort when I was about 12. It’s just never quite made it; too far off-route for my 2017 interrailing trip and too expensive for this month. My current vibe is for the region of Andalusia. After studying Frederico Garcia-Lorca in first year and getting deep into Andalusian history and culture it’s been somewhere I’ve been dying to visit.

cadiz andalusia

4. Bordeaux, France
If you know anything about me, you’ll know that my heart is firmly in France. I aim to settle there and after 3 years of exchanges over in Brittany I have a huge group of friends in that area. However, I’ve never been further south than La Rochelle, which is a huge regret of mine. Add my love of wine into the mix and Bordeaux just seems logical to me. It’s near the coast and next to a national park too so I’d love to do a more relaxed holiday there someday.

bordeaux

5. Moscow, Russia
This is the only place on this list that I’m not wholeheartedly down for. Russia (quite understandably I think) absolutely terrifies me. As an overt member of the LGBTQ+ community I’m not sure if I want to visit a country that still persecutes people like me everyday. However, I’m also big into my cold war/communist history, and Moscow really is the centre of that. Maybe someday.

Moscow

7. Cologne, Germany
I loved visiting both Munich and Berlin, but I’ve never been further west in Germany. I’d really love to see how that compares to the Bavarian culture of Munich and the heavily modernised Berlin, as well as explore the Rhine valley whilst there.

cologne

8. Barcelona, Spain
I keep saying that I don’t need to go to Barcelona, because as a linguist it’s pretty useless to me, being that its inhabitants speak Catalan. However, I don’t speak the languages of most of the countries on this list, and that doesn’t make them any less viable as destinations. I really want to see the sights of Barcelona, and after hearing stories from countless friends and family members I’d love to see how great it is for myself.

shutterstock_barcelona_sagrada_familia

9. Kosovo
Kosovo is politically quite turbulent, which I think is a great shame. It has a pretty negative image as a result of its civil war in the late 90s and self-declaration of independence from Serbia (which, as an aside, Serbia still doesn’t recognise, that’s nuts), but if you take just one look at it’s geography all of this blurs into insignificance. The countryside of Kosovo is absolutely stunning, and whilst it’s not the conventional walking route I’d love to hike in it’s mountains.

kosovo

10. Paris, France
9 is an annoying number so I’m adding Paris because it’s my favourite city in the world and I constantly want to be back there.

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This is by no means an exhaustive list, as given the chance I’d love to visit every corner of Europe. It’s just the places I’m dreaming of right now, as year abroad saving has pretty much halted all my travel plans until summer 2019. Have you visited anywhere on my list? Where do you want to visit next?

-Megan, listening to the new The Story So Far album (hint, it’s awesome) in Milan airport (guess who got inspired after a week off)

 

*all pictures in this post were sourced from Google Images, except the final image which is my own