I recently came into a predicament. I desperately wanted to travel to Europe, but had no one to go with due to obligations, time off work, money, you name it. Therefore, I had to make the decision as a female traveler- can I do this? Can I travel solo and still feel safe- accounted for- and still be able to have a great time with complete strangers if they’ll have me?
For me, the desire to travel and see more of our beautiful world outweighed the worries and questions. I had a few previous experiences staying in hostels in Costa Rica with a friend that were amazing. People were so friendly, inviting, and low and behold- most of the people were traveling solo!
So it was decided- I would travel Europe, alone, as a female, for 17 days only using hostels. Never have I made such a perfect decision. Here’s why: Everyone is in your shoes. Often time in groups or crowds of people, such as at a bar, it is difficult to find commonalities with strangers around you. However, traveling using hostels, you literally are getting built in friends; people with the same passions (travel) and interests (exploring) as you.
It is worthy to note that I did my research. Using HostelWorld.com, I was able to read real reviews of other traveler’s experiences. I could map out the location of the hostel and also pick out the atmosphere of my hostel. I would highly advise doing your research, as I understand not all experiences were as positive as mine.
Once arriving to the hostels, finding friends was not difficult- IF YOU ARE OPEN TO IT. It can be uncomfortable to many to strike up conversations with complete strangers. However, I found that if you were willing to step outside your comfort zone, you could meet several people to visit those beautiful touristy locations you have been reading about for months in preparation of your trip of a lifetime.
If striking up conversations with strangers is difficult for you, choose a hostel who promotes things such as family dinners, pub crawls, or walking tours. Just by sheer proximity at the dinner table, someone is bound to strike up a conversation with you. Even if striking up conversations is not difficult, I would still advocate for people to choose hostels who offer this. I found that I enjoyed a hostel more when it felt like a community rather than a place to lay your head at night.
If you have questions- speak up. The majority of hostel staff are very proud of their city and they are more than happy to help you. They can often map out the city hotspots or even give you directions to a popular local hotspot to get a more authentic experience of where you are staying. Additionally, these staff seem to love their job. I would lie if I said I was not even a little jealous of their jobs- meeting people from around the world and helping them assimilate into their own culture. Get to know them, they could be future friends down the line that may even want to visit you in your home towns.
Lastly, advocate for yourself. If you are not happy with a given situation, speak up or get out. If it is something that can be fixed, speak up about it early on. These people work too hard to get a passive aggressive review weeks following your stay. They want you to be happy and you want to be happy, so it is a win-win scenario. Or get out- if a hostel does not feel right and if something is off- trust your instinct. There are likely many other hostels or hotels for you to go to if something is not what you thought it would be. In the end, this is your vacation and just because you are traveling solo, doesn't mean you should just endure what is in front of you.
Hopefully this can encourage some on-the-fence solo travelers. It was truly an amazing 17 days for me that I would not trade for anything. Happy travels!