During my time in the Athens of the North, I made it a point to explore as much of the surrounding lands as my weekends and budget would allow. Being abroad provides such a unique opportunity to see a new part of the world, but to also adventure to further countries and places that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to. This desire to experience a plethora of cultures greatly motived me to pick Scotland in the first place. Europe served as my own personal romance; a far off lover that I wanted to see as much as possible of.
As you, dear reader, know from reading about my travels (or hopefully doing so anyway…), I journeyed to quite a few places while Edinburgh was my home base. London, Berlin, Dusseldorf, Paris, Amsterdam, Helsinki, and Tallinn, the cheap and short flights available within Europe only increased my hunger to travel.
Another thing you will remember is that I traveled, for the most part, alone. None of my fellow program participants accompanied me on my trips, and though a few of my excursions involved visiting a family or friends, the majority required me to navigate airports, metro systems, and even entire countries on my own. I never thought twice about it. Being on my own never deterred me from going on a new trip, or even caused me to consider doing so. It wasn’t until relatives praised me as being brave and empowering for being a “solo traveler” that I realized this fact prevents a lot of people from following their travel plans, goals, or dreams.
Traveling alone is not difficult or scary. Sure, there are things about it that require extra caution, especially if you are a young and/or a woman. But it should not serve as the underlying reason as to why you cannot go and see what you want to see in the world. In my opinion, the only thing that should ever prevent you from traveling is your wallet; everything else can be figured out.
When I traveled alone, I played it safe. I stayed in well rated hostels in tourist friendly areas, in rooms designated for females. I took cabs to and from the airport, and explored the cities on tour busses, for at least the first day, to get my bearings so that when I did venture, I didn’t look lost and wouldn’t be taken advantage of. I also made sure to do my research about which areas of the city to avoid, which had the highest threats of thievery so I could either avoid them completely or be on heightened awareness, and more importantly, which to spend more time in because they were overall safe.
Especially when you are own your own, it is okay to be skeptical. I am not afraid nor ashamed to admit that I stayed away from most men, and anyone in general who looked suspicious. There are times when “profiling” is racist and judgmental; making sure you are safe while by yourself in a country where you don’t speak the language is not one of them.
I found traveling alone to be exciting, empowering, and overall wonderful. Had I not, I would have never seen all the incredible places and things that I did: I would have never watched Cirque du Soleil in Paris, I would have never walked through the Anne Frank house, and I would have never seen the most exquisite scenery of the German countryside. I got to see what I wanted, when I wanted, and it was very freeing.
The only downside of traveling alone I encountered, was that it was hard to take all the pictures I wanted to take. There is only so much a selfie stick can do… However, if you play your cards right, there might be a nice English speaking family nearby who would be willing to take your picture while you shameless pose with statues in the middle of Amsterdam.
Live long, and travel on.