Belgium, Europe

Travel alone? You’re crazy

That, or something along those lines, was my answer when someone told me they were going backpacking alone.

I had a lot of respect for them and part of me wished I could do it too. But I knew I needed to have someone who I could talk to when I travelled, or I would go crazy.

I know people who enjoy being alone exist, but I’m definitely not one of them. When I was in Grade 11, I took an Intro to Psych and we took the Myers-Briggs personality test as one of the assignments. After diligently blacking the bubbles in the multiple-choice test for an hour, I discovered that I was 100 per cent extroverted. My teacher told me he didn’t even think it was possible to get that score. (In my defence, the test asks leading questions. I love reading, but, honestly, who is going to stay home with a book when the option to go to a party exists? I mean, come on!) The point is that I don’t like being alone.

This year, though, I’ve decided to change my tune. Next weekend, I’m going to travel to Brussels alone. (I came across the deal at about 4:30 a.m. on a Tuesday morning a few weeks ago – £66 return… couldn’t pass that up.) And I’m also thinking about going to Dublin alone for St. Patrick’s Day, because I really want to go, and nobody seems to want to go with me.

For the Brussels trip, I’m taking the Eurostar (super-fast train) from King’s Cross Station at 7:45 a.m. on Saturday. It gets me to Brussels a little after 11 a.m. local time. I get back to London on Sunday night at about 10 p.m. For the night, I booked a spot in a hostel that had some good reviews, though I have no idea where it is. I’ll be staying in a 6-bed all-girls room. So I’m hoping at least one of the girls is friendly.

I tried travelling alone once before and it didn’t go very well. Actually, If I’m honest, I hated it. I went to Edinburgh in November 2010 for the weekend. For that trip, I also caught a train from King’s Cross. Though, I think I was in a hostel room with 11 other girls that time.

Throughout the trip I went to several museums alone. I went to the coffee shop where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter alone and I ate dinner alone. Actually, I didn’t speak to anyone the entire weekend. By Saturday night, I was pretty lonely.

I even tried to make some friends (though, in retrospect, I could have tried harder.) I went down to the lounge on the Saturday afternoon to see what was happening and I found everyone in the room engulfed by the rugby game on the TV. If I remember, correctly it was Scotland vs. Ireland and I guess that’s a big game. I sat (silently) through the game and then was quite disappointed when everyone filed out immediately after the game was over. Granted, I probably could have made friends in the bar, but I was a little to shy to walk up to drunk people and start a conversation. (I know shame on me!)

At least I know what I don’t want to do on this trip. This trip, I’ve promised myself that I’m going to try to have a conversation with everyone I meet. (Even if it feels awkward.) A girl randomly started talking to me while I was in Berlin two weeks ago and I ended up having dinner with her and her friend. Half the fun of travelling is getting to meet lots of interesting people, right?

This trip I won’t actually be entirely alone. My dad has a friend living in the city. I’ve spoken to her on Facebook and we’re going to meet up in the evening for either coffee or dinner or drinks. So at the very least, when it is over I’ll have spoken to one person more than my last solo-trip.

I think I’m going to try to get over my nerves of travelling alone by planning several solo-weekend trips over the next few months. That way I don’t have to wait long if I want to abandon ship. Eventually I want to be brave enough to go back-packing alone for several weeks. (That way I can knock off travel alone in a country where I don’t speak the language and go on a back-pack trip of at least three weeks of my list.

I’m thinking of going backpacking by myself for at least a month before I go back to Canada. (Even though the idea, kind of scares the heeby-jeebies out of me.)

3 thoughts on “Travel alone? You’re crazy”

    1. Hey there, thanks for your comment.

      First off let me say that just you have the Youth Mobility Scheme doesn’t mean you have to work, just that you can work. So I would recommend getting it either way so you have it.

      The main way that I was able to travel was by going places on the weekend. It’s very easy to fly out of London (there are five airports), so I would book a flight at 6:30 p.m. on Friday and come back at 10 p.m. on Sunday. I would go straight from work and my office was flexible, so if I came in at 8 a.m. I could leave at 4 p.m., or 9 a.m. and leave at 5 p.m. The other thing is that in England you get one month of vacation standard. None of this two weeks stuff we have here in Canada. So I also travelled for longer times by tacking them on to Stat days and going for a week at a time every few months.

      Finally I travelled for 5 weeks after I left my job and before I came back to Canada.

      If you really want to travel, I would recommend going for a few months before you actually get a job. I met people doing that after I had left my job and some of them actually managed to find jobs through people they met travelling.

      There are also a lot of tour companies (Busabout is one of them) that hire people for the summer (April to October) including a lot of Canadians and Australians on YMS schemes and you could tour all around through them. (Part of the work involves five weeks of “training” where you just travel around with the other guides on the routes.)

      I hope this helps.

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