The romantic idea of solo travelling is still alive. And today, like no time before it seems very easy to travel alone especially in Europe; but not only. I am sure many of you have at least one friend that did backpacking in Asia or a road trip in the USA. Usually those friends turn out to be men, as we all know it is still much easier for men to travel alone without being bothered at all. The story changes when there is a woman traveller wishing to go solo on an adventure into the unknown. When it’s only you to pack the bag and leave, city breaks are always a good idea and a good way to start solo travelling. Before you head off to any far away country on a different continent, try some city breaks not too far from home. Despite the no-partner journey, spending time in a big city full of people can be a good idea. You can always say hi to someone if you wish, without the must-meet obligations.
But perhaps you wish to go a little bit crazier and choose some of the far away unpopular places to visit while travelling solo? We talked to Natalja, a filmmaker based in London who travelled in her early 20s by herself. Hearing all about Natalja’s stories gave us goosebumps of excitement and it has also opened our eyes to the possibilities that arrive with solo travelling. We have asked her a few essential questions on solo travelling, hoping that for those who consider packing the backpack for the solo journey to the unknown places, might use a few tips before they head off.
Les Toiles Studio: Hi Natalja ! How many solo trips have you made so far and where to?
Natalja: Oh, there’s been quite a few, I’ve been to 37 countries so far and probably to over 20 of them by myself. Some of the trips were to quite normal countries around Europe, the more adventurous being Serbia or Macedonia, and some to more exotic ones outside of Europe like Jordan, Tajikistan and China.
Les Toiles Studio: What do you find the most exciting about travelling alone? What is the best thing about it that you can bring up?
Natalja: When you travel alone, there is quite a lot of freedom, you don’t need to stick to a plan and can improvise on the go – you can wake up in a new place every day or stay in one for as long as you want. Also, it really opens you up to meeting locals and other travellers – people are more likely to strike up a conversation with a solo traveller. Hostels are truly great for meeting other travellers who often join you for explorations. I’d say even though I travel alone, I tend to spend 70% of my time interacting with other travellers or locals as I really love meeting new people!
Les Toiles Studio: What was the most difficult about travelling alone ? Can you give us an example and what went wrong ?
Natalja: I’d say it could be quite challenging logistically – public transportation can be really confusing in places where you can’t read the names easily, and of course there is always a small risk of people trying to take advantage of a female travelling solo. The worst situation was probably when I wasn’t alone – me and a fellow Korean hitchiker I met on the way, got stuck on a highway in China as it got dark. We had to put up our tent next to the highway and to spend a night in the snow – I was shaking the whole night and wasn’t able to sleep at all.
Les Toiles Studio:What are the essential tips you can give to everyone who wants to travel solo this summer?
Natalja: Be open to new adventures and be ready to adapt your plans, let them be shaped by things and people you encounter. I’d say only book your return tickets and have a vague idea of a route plus must-see sights and give yourself plenty of time to really absorb the culture. It is also nice to come prepared – watch a film or two and take a book with you set in the place you are visiting. Travel like a local – use public transport – and go to the places that locals go to – bazaars, street food vendors, tea houses if you want to discover more about the culture. Bring a map and trust your gut if you don’t feel safe!
Les Toiles Studio: Can you recommend 3 places that are great for solo travelling in your opinion ?
Natalja: I’d say any place with a good amount of hostels – generally cities or larger towns are a good place to travel solo, because you can wander around by yourself, but if you feel like getting some company, there are always interesting people to be found in hostels.
China, South Korea – great for culture stuff and meeting other people to share adventure stories, Thailand obviously for getting a beach tan and party friends and if you feel more adventurous, you can meet some adventurous hikers in Tajikistan get a glimpse into Afghanistan – it is just across the river if you venture into the Pamir Mountains.