As cliche as it is, I’ll be writing this post on my travels during my semester abroad. I know that most of my friends must be thoroughly sick of me and my travel posts on social media, but c’mon, this is pretty much a once in a lifetime opportunity. Part of the reason I chose to do my exchange in Europe was because I got a severe case of travelbug after my last backpacking trip here 2 years ago. There’s just so many places to see and explore, and having budget airlines such as Ryanair and Easyjet made it far too tempting.
My trip over Easter break wasn’t particularly well thought out – the majority of my planning involved sitting in a cafe on my phone checking Skyscanner and Hostelword to see where the next cheap flight was. All I had were some vague notions of places I wanted to see and that I needed to be somewhere sunny and warm (despite how much I love Scotland, I felt like I needed a healthy dose of vitamin D in my life after 3 months of snow and rain). I spent my Easter break of 3 weeks hopping around London, Toulouse, Barcelona, Malta, Naples and Portugal, seems like a random mix of places nowhere near each other, but all I did was see what cheap flights there were from each city and strung this trip together. I went to all of those places except London by myself. Although I would’ve loved to have joined some of my friends on their adventures over break, my last minute and spontaneous planning made that extremely difficult and besides, travelling alone was a challenge I was ready to take on.
Solo travel is an experience I’d recommend to everyone. There are definitely a lot of challenges, tough times and breaking points, but it’s amazing to have the freedom to go wherever I want at my own pace and only be doing the things I wanted to be doing. It was completely up to me whether I wanted to be on my feet all day, or to take a nap in the afternoon, or spend the day sitting in the park reading a book. There’s also definitely a sense of accomplishment when I finally made it back to Glasgow after 3 weeks. I planned and booked everything by myself and I managed to make all my flights, trains and buses and to the hostels. Logistically, everything went as smoothly as I could’ve hoped.
There’s this notion that travelling alone as a young female is dangerous, and I’d just like to say that it’s absolute nonsense! There’s danger everywhere you go and as long as you’re aware of your surrounding and take precautions, I wouldn’t say solo travelling is any more dangerous than wandering around Auckland by yourself.
I also wanted to make a note and say that it’s totally OK to feel lonely at times and to take a break when you’re travelling for long periods of time by yourself. There’s definitely been a few days where I’ve just gone for nap in the afternoon or just sat in the park and read a book. Don’t feel like you need to always be on the go and making the most of your time there – remember you’re on holiday! It’s easy to get sucked into believing that every minute of travelling is amazing and fun. Although my Instagram game has definitely improved from my travel snaps, obviously I’m not going to be posting pictures of being in a cramped bus at 3am or feeling deathly seasick on the boat ride to Comino.
Cathy’s Top Tips
- Skyscanner, rome2rio, Google maps (offline) are all your friends – would be ideal to have a phone plan/ provider that lets you use data across the EU. GIffgaff is an excellent one based in the UK with great deals for students
- Bring your student ID or proof of age for concessions on transport and attractions (doesn’t work everywhere but always worth a shot)
- Always bring a towel and jandals
- HEADPHONES ARE ESSENTIAL – Spotify Premium is a great investment – download all the music and podcasts that you can or else your head might cave in on your 8am flight with a crying toddler. Having a book is a good option too – I finished a whole novel on my trip
- Be aware of your surroundings!! Trust your gut instinct and remember it’s better to be safe than sorry. I decided to sit around at the bus station in Barcelona for an hour at 6am waiting for it to get lighter before walking to my hostel. Also if you’re feeling a bit shifty about the areas that you’re in, ask your hostel reception about what areas to avoid.
- Let friends & family know about your plans. Although nothing unfortunate happened on my trip, it’s always a good idea to have someone check in on you to make sure everything’s ok!
As always, happy to answer any questions! I’m currently in Poland with my parents who are up to visit and it’s a whopping 25 degrees! Hope everyone back in Auckland is staying warm.