When I told my family and friends that I was going on a trip on my own, a short pause of silence always followed my statement. They would look at me with a mixture of suspicion and alarm. ‘Like, completely on your own?’, they would ask.
To put this in context (as translators and linguists often feel the need to do), I come from a culture where mundane instances of everyday life are often turned into opportunities for socialising and doing things on your own is usually looked down at as some sign that your social life (or mental health) is suffering. Didn’t I have a friend that would like to go with me? If I couldn’t find company why was I going in the first place?
Truth is sometimes the stars (along with friends’ schedules and budgets) do not align and one is faced with the following life-or-death question: How badly did you want to visit Copenhagen?
A lot. After my MA year, a year that I spent learning intensively but also yearning for more trips and adventure, I wanted to explore new places and did not mind the idea of doing so on my own. I consider myself to be very comfortable at deliberately spending time alone; no matter how much I love being surrounded by people, me-time always helps me ‘recharge’ my inner batteries.
Sometimes it is also more efficient to do things on your own. Even though I adore travelling with my family and my travel buddies have a special place in my heart, travelling solo meant doing. Absolutely. Everything. I. Wanted. Whenever. I. Felt. Like. It. No more having to talk people into jumping on a train to visit a small – but renowned – art museum in the middle of nowhere (stay tuned for more on this). No more feeling guilty when reading the map wrong and getting lost. No more complaining about achy feet, traditional local food being weird or too much time spent inside of stores. Solo travelling is the definition of doing what you want, whenever you want.
Having escalated from having coffee and going to the theatre on my own, solo travelling felt like the perfect next step to my path of independent thinking and acting.
Did it feel lonely? To be honest, it felt lonely only once. I was sitting at the cafe of the Louisiana Modern Art Museum in Humlebæk, sipping on scalding hot coffee whilst staring at blurred line between the grey sky and the stormy sea, when I realised that I really missed having my mom around at that moment. Weird? I love visiting art exhibitions with her since we usually sit down and discuss them afterwards, and I felt like she would have lots of interesting remarks regarding the modern art I had just seen.
Did it feel scary? I got cold feet 20 minutes before boarding on my flight from London to Copenhagen and wondered whether it was too late to turn around and stride back to the bus that would take me home. Glad I never did. I guess it depends on what scares you: As my best friend put it, I am the kind of gal who’s not afraid to go on a trip completely on my own, which is not an inconsiderable feat, but might shy away from a casual drinks date on an innocent Tuesday night. Similarly to feeling lonely, I felt scared only once: On my penultimate day in Copenhagen I felt the sudden impulse to climb up the stairs of the Church of Our Saviour. The last 150 steps are part of an external winding staircase that is definitely not for the faint-hearted! Long story short, I never made it to the top but enjoyed the view nevertheless (whilst contemplating how often Denmark is stricken by earthquakes and breathing really slowly).
However, at this point I would like to raise the issue of safety. When travelling on your own, especially if you are a solo woman traveller, means safety comes first. I cannot underline enough how important it is that you always remain aware of your surroundings and that you need ‘invest’ in safety, e.g. taking the bus instead of walking home and looking for accommodation in a quiet, safe neighbourhood even if it is more expensive. If you know that you will be using public transport a lot, pick a hotel/hostel/Airbnb that is located on a central road (no Knockturn Alleys please!) and as close as possible to the bus/train station that you will be using. Keep your ears and eyes open – no staring at your smartphone and no headphones. I would also recommend avoiding (excessive) alcohol consumption. I didn’t drink at all during my stay in Copenhagen as I am mainly a social drinker, only drinking when with friends or family, but if you feel like having drinks, e.g. you shouldn’t leave Prague without savouring local beer, try to remain as sober as possible.
Overall, my first solo travelling experience was definitely a positive step in a new, uncharted territory and something that I would heartily recommend to all fellow flaneurs. Sometimes spending an extended amount of time on your own company (chatting up locals, waitresses, Airbnb hosts and asking for directions do not count) is a good way to slow down, distance yourself from everything that is going on in your life – not necessarily bad, sometimes you need time and space to appreciate the good things too, contemplate and, if you are tormented by such inclinations, put your thoughts into paper. The biggest revelation in some instance might be the person to whom you’d like to tell first all about these solo adventures. You can let them join the next ones but only if you want to.
Have you ever travelled alone? If yes, what do you think of it? If not, would you like to do so and where to?
Wanderlusting (as always),