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  1. #1

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    Taking a vacation by yourself

    Hi,

    I'm seriously considering taking a vacation by myself, I really need to take my mind away from work and it's been a long time since I've had a real vacation, my family stopped having them when I was in my teens and after that it never really happened (lack of money, company, you name it).

    What are your experiences in this regard? Where in Europe would you go? What would you avoid?

    Let's see if I actually get to do it and don't chicken out as usual.

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    I've traveled in Europe by myself, but also have traveled with others. The big benefit of traveling with others is that you split the cost of a hotel room. Plus, it seems safer.

    The benefits of traveling on your own is that you go exactly where you want to go and do exactly what you want to do and you're more likely to meet other people.

    I was repeatedly told not to travel in southern Italy as a solo female traveler because I'd be harassed. Don't know if that's really true. I went to GP Finals in Lyon by myself. (Went to GP Finals in Russia with my sister, but we fought because she didn't want to spend the money to go to the ballet.) Also went to Spain, Prague, Hungary, and northern Italy by myself. It wasn't difficult at all.

    I really, really want to take a vacation and travel, but can't afford it right now. So, I've just been getting travel books out of the library to think about where I would go. I've never been to Rome before, so I'd like to go there and back to Tuscany. I haven't been to the Balkans or the Baltics, so would like to go there. I'd also like to go to Poland and Prague. Aside from Italy, these places have the benefit of being less expensive than countries in Western Europe.

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    I really like travelling on my own. I have done lots of driving holidays on my own. Downside is you still pretty much pay the same for accommodation as if you were with someone.

    Why not hook up with a small tour? I did a 3 week camping tour of the US back in 98. It was a small group of 9 people and a lot more relaxed and flexible than if you did a big bus tour.
    When you are up to your arse in alligators it is difficult to remember you were only meant to be draining the swamp.

  4. #4
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    I would go to Britain, if I were going to go to Europe. I always take vacations by myself--I mean, I'm not married, so who would I go with? I went on the Queen Mary 2's Fourth of July Cruise to Halifax and Boston by myself, and I swear if I had a dollar for every time someone said "You're traveling by yourself? Good for you!" I could book a World Cruise. I had a great time and I actually really recommend Cunard now especially for traveling solo--I had my cabin and stuff to do alone if I wanted, I had tours in port I could take if I wanted or I could go ashore solo, at dinner I had people at my table and during the day I could choose a lot of different food options, solo or seated with others...there were always people to meet and talk to or I could be by myself if I wanted. No pressure like traveling with a friend where you can't get away from them, or being stuck in a tour with a bunch of people you can't avoid.

    IME, I would skip Greece as a solo female. It was uncomfortable enough in a LARGE group. If you didn't mind going farther afield than Europe, Australia or New Zealand would probably be AWESOME solo.

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    I absolutely love travelling by myself. I really recommend checking out The Lonely Planet Guide's online Thorntree forum.

    Are you backpacking? I personally would not travel solo any other way. It's absolutely the best way to immerse yourself into a dynamic international community of solo adventurers, and make great connections really quickly. And you can travel so comfortably "backpack" style, as hostels or budget hotels can be incredibly nice. Just say NO to the 30kilo backpack monstrosities. I never understand why people actually pack that way. Just pack a small wheelie and keep it simple I say!

    Knock on wood, I've never felt any more "unsafe" travelling on my own as I have with friends. In fact, I find travelling with friends actually enables a more lax awareness and passivity - when you're on your own you have to be sharp and so you're naturally more on top of things (is my experience at least). Also, traveling alone can be such a misnomer, as depending on your personality type, you might find yourself rarely alone, as you're meeting up with people from your hostel for meals, signing up for daytrips or activities together, or actually sharing some of the same travel path (and you might even end up sharing accommodations with them to save money). And another plus is that you have the freedom to really dictate your own travel experience. No being siphoned around like sheep by a big tour van from one "hot spot" to another, with 20 minutes to snap that photo at that location frequented almost exclusively by tourists.

    Swapping travel stories with fellow independent travellers, certain locations do crop up again and again as "riskier" places especially for the solo female traveller (ie Spain), but I'm of the attitude that there are risks anywhere you go and you would bog yourself down trying to calibrate the "danger factor". The most you can do is trust that you're making smart choices, do everything you can to ensure your belongings are safe, make multiple copies of your ID, have a working phone, make copies of your embassy contact info in every city you enter, and do your prelim research before you jump into your adventure. Beware of the common "schemes" that are rife in certain locations (the "gypsy" pick pocketers, people trying to sell shady deals, the faux taxi drivers etc. Info on things to beware of are clearly discussed in the thorntree forum so that you'll know, for example, before you even get to Paris, to be aware of the thefts that happen in the metro).

    What type of getaway are you hoping for? Are you interested in History? Art? Food? Beach side relaxation?

    And you've got your sights set on Europe? Any particular area? How long are you thinking of going for?

    How exciting!

  6. #6
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    I went to Europe by myself last year and it was a blast. I went to Paris (and went to TEB ) and Barcelona.

    For me, Paris was a bit more successful, because I spent part of the time with people (FSUers! skating!) and also had plenty of time to explore by myself. I also speak French (although poorly). Barcelona was beautiful and I had some incredible experiences there, but the language barrier was tougher than I'd expected, and I had one day in the middle where I was actually homesick , which is I think the first time that has ever happened to me in my life. That wasn't about the location, though - it was my planning and anxiety.

    ETA: I was incredibly vigilant against pickpockets in Barcelona because I'd heard so much about it, and I had no problems. I also had no problems whatsoever as a single female in the city - but I'm a "woman of a certain age" and am both tall and large, so I don't think I am a typical target for harassment.

    I would have no problem traveling by myself again
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  7. #7
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    I like traveling on my own for the most part. The hardest part can be eating dinner solo, or just being frazzled the first day in a strange country and realizing that you just have yourself to depend on; But everything will resolve itself out though. Of course if you're an extrovert then it's easier to meet people and make new friends. People, especially the locals, can sometimes be very blunt in their questions: "Why are you by yourself?", "You couldn't find anybody to travel with?"

    If you go to one of the big cities in Europe then I think you'd be fine.

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    Calling BelleBway! She's traveled all over the world by herself. I think she does group tours as well?

  9. #9
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    The worst parts are the evenings. During the day it's great because you're running all over doing all the things you want to do and being entertained/distracted and breakfast and lunch can be done solo without feeling a bit odd. But come twilight the loneliness sets in and going out to dinner and trying to sample some of the finer foods alone can get you feeling self-conscious. I've found that if I visit people that's better, as they're busy during the day with work or whatever but you have someone to talk to/dine with in the evenings so it's win/win.
    It also depends on who you are. In europe I've been to madrid, berlin, rome and london alone and london was by far the worst.. I got so so lonely. But a friend who's much more outgoing than I also went there alone and had the time of this life, meeting all sorts of people and partying hearty.

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    ^^ I hear you! Even if you're extraverted up the wazoo there are those inevitable moments where you're like, "what the hell?! this suuuucks!" I have enjoyed some of the most amazing out of this world delicious meals by myself feeling on the one hand vindicated, that yes, you can absolutely indulge in colourful experiences on your own huzzah! while on the other hand oh so lonesome to share it with someone else. But that rose coloured rear view mirror, I'll say it works miracles. Even during those moments of suckdom, I tell myself to give it but a few weeks and in retrospect it all makes for a wonderful adventure. And it's true every time.

    And I am adamant of the attitude that I will not wait for a lover or for friends to be available and willing in order for me to experience these adventures. Where there is an able body, time, resources and a will, there should be nothing else to stop you from jumping in!

  11. #11
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    I'm also thinking of doing this last minute, like next week, but don'tknow where i'll go. I want to go to Prague, I think, and i saw that there are some neat walking tours for free. that sounds cool and a good way to meet people if i feel lonely. I only have a month left of holidays before i work again, so i have to decide soon....everyone sounds so positive so i think it should be ok

  12. #12
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    I LOVED Prague! (And impromptu trips!)

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    Traveling alone is not 100% roses, but neither is traveling together with other people. But what's the alternative--not to travel? Hey, for some people, traveling has no appeal and more power to them. But if you want to travel, don't use the lack of a companion stop you from doing so. This is especially true when you have unique interests (i.e. figure skating).

    Unfortunately, I have not had been to Europe. Can't help you on that front.

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    I've taken most of my vacations by myself and always had an awesome time. I agree with the suggestion about backpacking, although recently I have always tried to book a night or two in a hotel. Maybe I am getting spoiled by traveling for work, but I find that after a few days of shared accommodation I really appreciate an unshared bathroom and complete control of the television

    I notice that a few of the previous posts talk about having fun with people you meet, and that's true, but you don't have to be with anyone to have fun. I just like to go out and walk around the city and see what I can discover, and I've never felt that I missed out on anything by not meeting up with anyone.

    And I have never had a safety problem. I don't dress up, I look like I know what I'm doing, and if I feel the least bit uneasy somewhere, I leave. I read a book once by a personal safety expert who said something along the lines of that fear is your friend, and that if you feel nervous or scared, your instincts are telling you that something is wrong and you should trust that, rather than trying to explain it away. That's been very useful travel advice.
    You should never write words with numbers. Unless you're seven. Or your name is Prince. - "Weird Al" Yankovic, "Word Crimes"

  15. #15
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    I went to Skate America a couple of times by myself. First time I went with a friend, and as much fun as I had with him, it was better by myself. Didn't have to explain why I wanted to get up at crack of dawn to watch practices, sit in an arena all day, could eat whatever and whenever I wanted.

    Since I was staying state side and the trip was logistically pretty stress free, I didn't need someone to look to in times of panic, uncertainty, etc. Also, it was only for a few days, so there really wasn't enough time for the whole loneliness thing to set in. Plus, going to an event, I had something very specific to do pretty much all day and all night, as opposed to wondering what to do with my time.

  16. #16

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    I did this vacation once. It's a family owned and managed hotel that caters to Solo travelers. The guests tend to skew a bit older (40's) but they are usually pretty friendly. It's not about hooking up or dating but really just people who want to get away, have a good time, and do as much or as little as they want.

    The hotel is quite nice, and the food is amazing (organic, vegetables grown in the garden out back, and the recipe of the mother of the owner). They have a set dinner time so you can meet fellow guests.

    http://www.singlesincrete.com/

  17. #17
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    Echoing what jl22aries said about hostels. You'll meet a lot of people at them who are also traveling alone, and there are a lot of cheap day tours you can take with them. Age isn't really an issue at hostels anymore, in fact, a lot of them are no longer marketed as "youth hostels" for that reason. People of all ages stay at them.

    If you go that route, don't bother signing up for the membership with Hosteling International unless you know in advance you're staying somewhere that requires it. A lot of good Euro hostels aren't members of that group, and a lot of the ones that are don't even bother to ask to see your card. If you end up checking into a hostel that asks for the card, you can either buy the membership then, or pay the extra ~$2 a night for non-members.

  18. #18
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    Both the Lonely Planet forum and hostels.com are good sources for identifying which hostels are best for you. I am perfectly fine going with hostels, especially if I'm traveling by myself, though I usually stay in a hotel the first night or two when I'm getting over jet lag. However, I know a number of people who don't like hostels. It all depends on the person.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by genevieve View Post
    I was incredibly vigilant against pickpockets in Barcelona because I'd heard so much about it, and I had no problems.
    It's a good idea to read up on the gypsy scams before going there, but even then they can get past a lot of people's precautions. Travelers in Europe have had their wallets stolen out of front, zippered pants pockets.

  20. #20
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    I pretty much agree with everyone's posts. I've traveled overland by myself down the length of Africa, South America, across southern Asia, Central Asia, etc., hiked the Camino de Santiago alone. I love going alone because it's a personal challenge. Rarely do I travel with friends; some are okay, some will start to whine as soon as they're somewhere foreign. You have to be so careful. Frankly, I'd rather pay the extra money a hotel room costs for a single. Also when there's two of you, you tend to talk to each other and miss out on that wonderful, chance conversation with a complete stranger.

    All the comments about hostels are right on. It's easy to meet people there; guests in expensive hotels tend to be somewhat aloof. Stay away from resorts or anywhere honeymoon couples go. That will get depressing. Ditto to the above comment on the Queen Mary II. It's fantastic. Europe can be a little tricky to meet people because everybody is going about their jobs and daily routines. You might consider signing up for cooking classes or language classes somewhere; that's also a good way to meet people to hang out with or go out to dinner with. Sometimes when you're not in the mood to meet anybody and want the alone time, nothing gets your head clear than traveling solo. It's cheaper than counseling.

    If you like doing things at home on your own and enjoy your own company, you'll be fine. The bigger regret would be not to go.

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