Quinn enjoying his solo adventures in Los Angeles, California in front of the Hollywood sign. Photo courtesy of Allen Quinn
I sat alone on the steps of an unmarked building in the middle of Dresden, Germany, focused on the violin player across from me. I didn’t want to think about the excruciating pain I was in or the pure panic I felt — I was freezing, but my face was sweating. I’d lost my tour group who was my only way back to Berlin.
I was by myself, but, in a sense, not alone. I was a solo traveler, something many people are these days.
In the past few years, solo traveling has really taken off. In fact, as of October 2019, solo travelers make up 18 per cent of global bookings. Not only is it fun and exciting, but it teaches life lessons. With that being said, there are many things to consider before making the decision to travel alone.
Who are these brave souls?
According to a CondorFerries, 58 per cent of millennials stated they would solo travel, and 26 per cent already have.
One of those millennials is Allen Quinn, a 28-year-old who wanted to travel the world, but life kept getting in the way.
In the fall of 2018, Quinn decided to plan a month-long trip to Europe, which included stops in Paris, Rome, Venice, Florence, Milan, Barcelona and Amsterdam.
“After that one month, I just fell in love with solo traveling. I can’t believe I waited all these years. I learned you can’t wait for the perfect time or the right people. If you really want to do it, you’ll find a way to make it work,” states Quinn.
Solo travelling allows you to meet new people, which can be done through tour groups, dating apps and staying at hostels.
“I’ve made some really great friends over my past year of traveling,” explains Quinn.
“After solo traveling, I have found it very difficult to go back, […] when traveling with my family it’s hard to not go out and do my own thing.”
Inspiration to take the trip
Like Quinn, I was passionate about travel, but never really considered doing it alone. It wasn’t until something shocking happened in my life that I was inspired to take on the world solo.
In the spring of 2017, my grandmother passed away unexpectedly. It hit me really hard. Not only was it a complete shock, but it also got me thinking about my family and where we came from.
“After that one month I just fell in love with solo traveling.
I can’t believe I waited all these years.” - Allen Quinn
My grandmother was born in Berlin, Germany, and came here as a child to escape the war. She didn’t talk that much about her time there and considered Canada her true home. After all, most of her family had made the journey with her. She did, however, have several German slang words in her vocabulary, all of which provided me with a laugh. When I was young, she tirelessly tried to teach me German, but just as my mother before me had wasted the opportunity, so did I.
Even though I’d never been to Berlin, it seemed to be calling me. Two months after my grandmother’s funeral, my mom and I made the journey and stayed with our cousins in their traditional home. We immersed ourselves in the culture and saw the important sites, such as Checkpoint Charlie, Museum Island, Alexanderplatz and the Berlin Wall. We even visited the home where my great grandparents had lived. It was a trip I will never forget.
The beautiful streets of Dresden, Germany, where Kost went solo-traveling. Photo by Madasyn Kost
Be social when solo
In the summer of 2016, Isabella Grajczyk, at the time 18-years-old, took an unforgettable trip to Beijing, China after graduating high school.
Despite the initial loneliness she experienced, Grajczyk was able to make life-long friends during this month-long cultural experience program.
“The first week I was really homesick. I cried and was upset because I was alone, but then when I started making friends it became super fun and then I cried to leave,” says Grajczyk.
Now 22-years-old, Grajczyk highly recommends solo traveling and says her biggest recommendation is to talk to people.
“Try and make friends, that’s what really makes it a good experience. Whether it’s meeting people from where you’re traveling or doing the same thing as you, it really makes the experience better,” says Grajczyk.
Solo struggles and safety concerns
There are plenty of myths out there about solo travel, one of the biggest being it’s simply not safe, especially for women. Janice Waugh, a travel blogger, says there are several guidelines solo travelers should always abide by.
Waugh suggests to “lock your car, hide your valuables, stay out of sketchy neighborhoods, let people know your itinerary, don’t flash expensive jewelry and be aware of your surroundings.”
Travel blogger Sophie Pearce says to remember that travelling alone means spending more money — everything from accommodations to food and drinks all comes out of your pocket.
Another major challenge in travelling alone is navigation. It’s just you and your map, or let’s be honest, your cell phone. Pearce suggests reaching out to locals for help and reading up on your city before you visit.
However, most importantly, stay positive.
A year after my visit to Berlin, my life was quite a mess. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue with university, my personal relationships were failing and I was struggling financially. After a horribly boring summer, I made the decision to book a trip to Germany — alone.
During my time in Berlin, I stayed in a delightful Airbnb that was almost 100-years-old, visited multiple restaurants where I sat alone, saw the world’s largest dinosaur skeleton, made friends with a man from Belgium and took a day trip to Dresden.
My first solo adventure went off without a hitch until that fateful day in Dresden.
I must’ve had the worst luck to get stomach cramps on the day I took a day trip to an unknown city. It started on the bus and got worse and worse, until I had no choice but to sit down and leave the group. I called my mom despite the eight-hour time difference because I needed a feeling of comfort. She picked up and we wandered the town together.
After circling for awhile, I finally spotted some familiar faces. I cracked a small smile as relief washed over me, and that’s when I whispered to myself, “I’m a solo traveler and I’ve got this."
- By Madasyn Kost