by Mariska Regtvoort
Have you ever wondered how it would be to travel alone? How it would be if you could go wherever you want and do whatever you like? That feeling of freedom has always attracted me. Above all, it sounds exciting! Would I manage on my own, would I stand being alone and what will I do if something happens? Nevertheless, it felt like a big step, but one I wanted to take.
After all the worried words of my parents, the advice that I got to be careful in this big and evil world and the surprised, but supporting reactions of my friends, I started to arrange my trip. I decided to go interrailing. I like travelling by train, and while travelling with my backpack can easily meet other people. Although I like being on my own, I’m a social person and meeting people during travel is important to me.
So, I bought the ticket and a Lonely Planet, targeted cities to go to, packed my bags and took the train to my first destination, Berlin. In the train I felt strange but also a bit proud of myself.
Even though it disappeared soon, the first evening I felt a bit uncomfortable, especially when I went for a dinner. I experienced that having a dinner alone is not very pleasant. Normally, it is a social activity and it didn’t feel comfortable sitting alone at a table. Yet, considering it’s cheaper, most of the days I bought something on the street or cooked myself a meal.
After dinner I met two girls in the dormitory room of the hostel. They were from the US doing an internship in Germany and liked to travel in their weekends. They invited me to join them to go to a shisha bar. The girls were very nice and interesting, and we had a lot of fun. Now the uncomfortable feeling was gone and I was sure I made the right decision.
The next day I took a guided walking tour through Berlin. It’s such an interesting city! Nevertheless, I still had the feeling I was a bit strange, being alone on holiday. But instead of a lot of people at home, nobody here seemed to think it was something strange or special. In contrary, I was by far not the only one. I met a lot of young people that were also travelling alone, and to them it seemed the most normal thing in the world.
I stayed in hostels. I always took a dormitory room with more people as it was the cheapest and greatest way to meet people. A big advantage of travelling alone is that there’s always a place for you in the hostels, so most of the time it’s not necessary to make a reservation, even during high season. With two or more people that can be difficult.
In Prague, my second destination, I felt as the happiest person on earth. The sun was shining and I didn’t know the way at all, but everywhere I went I bumped into something beautiful. I truly enjoyed my time alone, exploring a new city, visiting a museum or sitting on a terrace drinking coffee and watching the people. I could do what I want, wake up when I want, visit places that I want. The only thing I had to take in account was my own plan. Free as a bird!
In the evenings I liked to have some company. But that wasn’t so difficult to arrange. I found out it didn’t take me a lot of effort to meet new people. It was maybe even harder not to meet new people. When you travel alone you look more approachable so it’s not so hard for people to get in touch with you. Also I experienced that it was somehow much easier for me than usual, to speak to people I didn’t know, have nice conversations and sometimes even invite them to do something together.
This way I met a lot of other travellers from all over the world. I always enjoy meeting new people, and them being from different countries made it even more special. Ok, not all people were that fun, but that can happen too. I met two Dutch guys on the way to find a nice bar and found out that they were the most boring people ever. My advantage was that it was easy to get rid of them!
My third destination was Budapest. This is also a beautiful city with a lot to offer. Unfortunately I wasn’t feeling very well there. Still I tried to see as much as possible. So I went for a walk on a hill to a monument, in the middle of the city. After a while I noticed a strange guy following me. It made me feel uncomfortable and I stopped walking, pretending to make a picture of the scenery, until he passed me. When I walked further, he was standing there with his pants on his knees. Although I know exhibitionists generally never harm someone; I was a bit scared and shocked, being alone with this guy on a hill. So I turned back and asked the first people I met if I could join them to the top. Luckily, the guy was gone and I never saw him again.
Travelling alone is a good way to find out if you can manage yourself. Are you able to spend a lot of time alone? Are you able to meet other people? Do you find your way in a big city or in the middle of nowhere? Can you manage even if nobody speaks your language? And how will you respond if you are being followed by a strange guy on a hill? There’s only one way to find out!
I noticed that I experienced everything more intensively because I was alone. The places I visited the people I met and the atmosphere around. Overall, I really enjoyed it. Most of the time I didn’t feel alone and if I did, it was brief and I didn’t mind it much. It was just a big part of the adventure!
This trip was a great experience. I saw beautiful places, did a lot of nice things and met great people. I will never regret the decision to do this trip on my own. It’s been almost two years since then, and I still feel the benefits from it. It made me more confident and independent. I know that I can manage myself now. Also I noticed that it’s easier for me to make contact with people I don’t know. And I wouldn’t mind going for a dinner on my own anymore. Overall, it made me feel freer, and that feels good!
It’s funny to think back and realise that it was such a big step for me back then. I can’t imagine that now. It’s the most normal thing in the world.