by Rachel Glaves
Travelling is something special that everyone should experience. Solo travelling around Europe (Amsterdam, Rome, Athens and Crete) for two weeks was without a doubt the best thing I have ever done. I am a newcomer and therefore no expert when it comes to solo travelling, but I definitely learned and gained a thing or two from my experience.
Travelling boosted my confidence in multiple ways: through the independence, meeting new people and visiting new sites. Before I travelled my confidence was at rock bottom, and the chance to do something new and exciting was daunting. Staying in hostels was definitely a good decision as this is where I met some fascinating people – some of whom I still keep in touch with. My confidence grew dramatically by getting lost in Rome with a lad from Austria, wandering the back streets of Athens (a little tipsy) with a couple of Australians and by venturing into the hills of Crete with a girl from Slovenia. From solo flights to solo sightseeing, there was no way I would return home as unconfident as I began.
This goes without saying, solo travelling isn’t a holiday- it’s an adventure. You don’t know what you are walking into: Will the hostel be nice? Will the plane be delayed? Will security stop you? (In my case, yes, at every airport!) But, despite all the possible setbacks, the adventure lifts your spirits.
Wherever you travel you should try the local delicacies, and I would certainly recommend the food in Crete. Of all the places I visited, Crete had the best food – topping Rome and its pizzas. The local people also make the adventure. Whilst watching the Evzones guards in Athens I was talking to a local man who had never seen them before. He gave me some good tips for my time in the city which made my experience there even better. Athens was beyond the best place I visited. All sites were free for European students (so go whilst you can and save €30!) The food was fabulous (there was a surprisingly varied choice for vegetarians!), the weather was glorious and the people I met were fantastic. Having an open mind when visiting places makes you aware of the little things that make a city and a trip.
Above all, I found solo travelling was a little piece of freedom. I wasn’t running away from my life in England, but I was certainly looking for something new. The freedom to do what I wanted to do, to see the sites I wanted to see and go to the places I have always wanted to go to was wonderful and novel. I loved having people to talk to in my hostel in the morning and night. I enjoyed having friendly people to wander around the city with, but at the same time, the ability to wander to the colosseum because I fancied it was awesome. The chance to go to the Acropolis four times, to see the fantastic view of Athens because I could, was amazing. And the chance to see the sites I wanted to without considering what someone else wanted to see was incredibly freeing. People asked me why I went alone – “did no one want to come with you?” they crowed. No. I never asked anyone. I wanted to do it myself. I wasn’t reliant on anyone but myself and I was very proud of myself for doing it.
There was a certain sense of relief as I walked through Terminal 1 of Manchester Airport with a rucksack on my back. I saw my parents eagerly waiting to pick me up and I thought, I did it. Clumsy old me survived solo travelling, and having experienced this amazing adventure, I would recommend it to anyone and everyone.
All photos courtesy of the writer