By Emma Way
Senior Elm Writer
Getting lost in a new city completely by myself is the type of adventure I live for. Solo travel can be stressful, dangerous, and lonely, but for me, it presents the opportunity to be myself uninhibited by travel companions’ wants, needs, and opinions.
Traveling alone is typically not the recommended type of traveling from the Global Education Office or your study abroad advisor, but it is an experience that I think everyone should participate in at least once.
This past weekend was my first official trip completely by myself. I’ve wandered around the streets of a random city by myself before, but this solo trip to Prague marked my first time spending the night somewhere alone. It was great.
A huge aspect of traveling alone safely and successfully is planning, which I’ll admit I did little of this trip to Prague. I booked the accommodation and flight, but that was about it. Having a short list of must-sees would have made my trip even easier and probably would have helped me see more, but I was mostly looking forward to the act of traveling alone rather than worrying about sight-seeing.
I like getting to know a city through observation, lots of walking, and eating. Tours, although often informative, bore me, and 90 percent of the time feel like a waste of money. I’d much rather read what Rick Steves (one of the leading guide book authors for Europe and the only travel companion I need) has to say about an attraction than hear an over-exaggerated account of a tour guide drone digging for tips.
Europe is by far the easiest place to travel alone with easy- to-understand public transportation, cheap accommodations in hostels, and thousands of other 20-something travelers doing the same thing. I’m glad I started in Europe with my solo travels, although I plan on expanding further past the relatively small continent after I graduate next year.
When planning for a trip alone finding the right accommodation is essential. For my budget, hotels are always out of the question, which leaves hostels or renting a room through Airbnb. I knew that I wanted to meet other people in their early 20s also traveling around Europe in Prague so that I was not truly alone. I decided that a hostel would be the best way to achieve affordability and maybe make some friends at the same time.
My planning pretty much ended there when I just selected and booked the cheapest hostel available without even looking at reviews, photos, or location. Some might say that was stupid, but I say it was all for the sake of adventure.
Turns out my instinct to select a hostel without taking a second look was right because the hostel I stayed in was wonderful. There was free breakfast, clean rooms, hot water (with the best water pressure I’ve had in months), and other likeminded student travelers in my room so I really couldn’t ask for more. Not to say that I recommend this way of traveling, but sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith.
Going solo forces me to be more of me. I’m more outgoing, more adventurous, and more relaxed. It helps me realize just how little I need to survive and be happy, while also helping me to learn what’s most important to me. Although I may have not known where I was going for nearly the entire weekend in Prague, I was not lost, and that is a great feeling.