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Thoughts After Traveling Solo in Europe for Five Weeks

First things first, I absolutely enjoyed traveling solo in Europe during these last five weeks. The title statement is true, but it’s not what you think. I am sharing the somber side of my travels first, because I’m going to be sharing all the wonderful things over the next few weeks and I don’t want to paint a false picture of, “solo travel is amazing – everyone should do it.” I don’t think everyone should do it and I can also promise that none of my writing will include the words, “why you should,” in their titles. There seems to be a trend of writers telling others what to do, and a trend of solo-travel being better than any other type of travel.  I’m not trying to encourage anyone to do what I did – I’m sharing my story so you can freely decide on your own what you want to do!

When you travel alone, most times, you are your own photographer – this photo was taken from a tripod/GoPro.

I loved being by myself in all the new cities and countries I visited, I loved trying new food (obvioulsy), walking nearly 15 miles a day – just exploring, waking up to the sound of foreign languages outside my hotel windows – I loved it all. I cannot wait to continue exploring destinations by myself. As a creative person, I feel that solo-exploration is how I find inspiration.

Yet, I find myself thinking, “well, I’m never doing that again.” “That,” being the length of the trip compared to the lack of planning I did and because I had nobody I loved to share my experiences with.

If you’ve read or seen the movie, “Into the Wild,” Chris McCandless discovers that “happiness is only real when shared,” towards the end of his life.

When I first read that quote, I scoffed. I am completely independent and can source happiness from within. I don’t need to share it. 

McCandless and I share similar attitudes about society, what life is about, etc.

It’s true – I am very independent and absolutely can source my happiness from within. For most of my life, I have always preferred doing things on my own. I hated group work in school, and usually hate most rules because I can figure out a better, more efficient, more “Tiffiny,” way of doing something.

Paris alone is still an amazing place to be!

To set the stage, I’ll share a vignette of my evening at the Eiffel Tower, in second person:

You find yourself walking the Parc du Champ de Mars, aka the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower, one night, watching the glittering white lights sparkle from the top to the bottom of the Tour Eiffel, which happens at the top of every hour. All you can do is enjoy it – alone. It is not a bad moment but it is definitely more melancholy than happy. You might have a foreign expat come up to you, trying to sell Eiffel Tower keychains and overpriced bottles of champagne, but who the hell drinks a bottle of champagne at the Eiffel Tower – alone? 

So you take a few photos, you take a few selfies, and stand and stare at this beautiful work of art and architecture. You close your eyes, breathing in the smell of wet grass, listening to the conversations happening around you – not understanding anything because they are all in French. You hear laughter and bicycle bells pass you on your left – people touring Paris at night by bike (the thing to do, by the way). When you open your eyes, it’s just you moving through a city that may have been made for two and it’s time to move on. 

The Eiffel Tower was one of a few moments I found myself sincerely wishing to share my thoughts with. Not just someone though – a friend or family member I loved. Even though I get utterly annoyed with people after traveling with them for more than a week, some of my fondest memories are the special moments that were not part of our itinerary.

So, will I venture to Europe alone again? Yes. Will I go for five weeks or more? Possibly.

Prague was wonderful – and I got to share it with a friend!

The thing that will change is that I want to share more of my trips with another person.

Traveling solo is hard. Traveling solo is expensive.

I know not everyone can travel the way I do, but with proper planning, a friend or two could have joined me for a couple weeks on this trip and that would have been amazing.  Because I am an introvert, this is going to require me to get out of my comfort zone – bring it on. 

Solo travel is amazing, but shared travel shows you how special and happy moments are when you get to experience them with another person.

Do you prefer traveling solo? Why or why not?

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23 Comments

  • Reply Summer

    I’m with you on pretty much all the above. I hated group work in school (SO much), I’m a big-time introvert, perfectly content to be alone, and I can’t stand process inefficiencies either. Naturally this all means that I do enjoy solo travel, but as you said, it’s really nice to have someone to share moments with. I love being able to explore at my own pace on my own terms, but sometimes when I see something really beautiful or even just a quirky storefront, it’s tough when there’s no one to turn to and say “Haha, look at that!”

    The toughest part (for me) of travel with other people is the lack of alone time. I really need to be alone to decompress and regroup, and if the travel situation is such that there is always someone else around, it really grates on me and puts a damper on my overall experience. (My fiance is excluded from this generalization as he somehow does not socially exhaust me and is a fantastic travel partner.)

    09/27/2015 at 6:39 pm
    • Reply Tiffiny

      I agree! I have a couple friends who totally understand that I need alone time, but for some people, they just don’t get it. Explaining that to them can be tricky, but when they understand it makes for a good balance. 🙂

      -Tiff

      09/27/2015 at 6:40 pm
  • Reply Petra V.

    This touched me because I absolutely agree. I can’t enjoy things as much when I’m alone.
    It’s all about finding that friend…that one friend who you can be silent with, you can split up, part ways and then come back together.
    You don’t need to speak all the time, you can walk together listening to your own music. You can do your own thing but you’re there for each other when you need it.
    I have been lucky enough to find people like that. Yes, more than one person.
    And I definitely prefer people over places ♥

    09/27/2015 at 7:55 pm
    • Reply Tiffiny

      People > places, for sure. 😉 So glad to have met and roamed around Prague with you, lady! Come visit the U.S. and I’ll do the same for you!

      Tiff

      09/29/2015 at 4:13 pm
    • Reply Chris Clark

      See, that’s what I want…to be able to sit at an outdoor cafe with a friend and not say a word and it be ok.

      10/02/2015 at 6:08 pm
  • Reply Dan

    I love the honesty of this. I’m also trying to not become one of those people that tells you why you must do something. Having just had a long trip with someone else as apose to my traveling solo I can really relate to this for the first time in a while, but also do not think I couldn’t travel long term with just one person again… Guess it is finding that balance of down time with meeting others.

    Look forward to your Europe posts 🙂

    09/28/2015 at 12:44 am
    • Reply Tiffiny

      Thanks, Dan! It is absolutely about balance – as I found out. 🙂

      Tiff

      09/29/2015 at 4:12 pm
  • Reply Shilpa Balakrishnan

    I don’t prefer group travels and like you mentioned I like the whole traveling in my own terms kinda stuff. I would say its not impossible to find somebody who will be ok to go where you want to and to do things you like. I have been on a solo trip across Victoria in the last 3 months but I really miss that person who I can share all of those pretty places with. There is so much hype about solo travelling but I really think that given a chance, nobody would prefer to go alone if they found a person who has the same love for travel and adventure. It s more like travelling with yourself so why wouldn’t they.

    09/28/2015 at 4:40 am
  • Reply Daniel

    I remember another quote from that movie, something along the lines of; ‘You should never base your happiness on that of another.’
    That being said I can understand the desire for sharing things, feelings in particular, and standing somewhere surrounded by awesomeness of one kind or another and feeling so alone. That feeling can be almost crippling. Welcome to my world. When asked why I never stay anywhere, often the best reply I have is ‘I run out of reasons to stay’.
    So while I do agree with you, I do hope you never become like most other people today and chose to ‘not go’ just because they can’t find a companion.

    09/28/2015 at 6:17 pm
    • Reply Tiffiny

      Oh I will absolutely never do or not do anything for lack of a companion! I think what I learned is that it’s going to be a balance of being a lone and sharing experiences like travel, moving forward.

      Thanks for the comment, Daniel!

      Tiffiny

      09/29/2015 at 4:02 pm
  • Reply Dylan Basile

    Really great post. I’ve done both the solo travel and with friends. There are pros and cons to both and I think what I’ve concluded is that I’m glad I’ve been able to experience both. They kind of play off each other. You can appreciate the alone time when you’ve never had any, but then you can appreciate the togetherness because you’ve been lonely.

    Nicely written and thought provoking. Thanks Tiffiny.

    09/29/2015 at 12:27 am
    • Reply Tiffiny

      Thanks, Dylan! I think it’s all a balance, for sure. 🙂

      Tiff

      09/29/2015 at 4:12 pm
  • Reply David

    Interesting reading. As a fairly independent person myself I do concur with you on all this. Sharing is crucial. In my experience the craving doesn’t stop when the journey is over though. Once back home among friends, colleagues and family the excitement and the desire to share memories and stories often bring a certain amount of frustration. It’s almost impossible to communicate fully the reality that was yours during your journey. Of course as a Frenchman from Paris I’ll never be able to experience the Eiffel Tower as you did but that’s a different issue. After hiking the Te Araroa a few years ago I had tens of stories that I wanted to share and found it very difficult. I have great friends – that’s not the problem really – but if I I recall only one explicitly asked me to tell her stories about the trail. I guess we’re all busy living our own reality – sharing requires work from all parties involved.
    Anyway, thank you. And I’m glad you enjoyed your visit to the old continent.

    09/29/2015 at 2:43 am
    • Reply Tiffiny

      Thanks David – France was very magical for me, indeed. I’m glad I got to experience it alone, but am learning that some experiences are meant to be shared, and some are fine just experiencing alone. It’s all a balance.

      Tiff

      09/29/2015 at 4:11 pm
  • Reply sierra

    This sort of terrifies me! I’m going to Europe alone in November and it wasn’t planned that way initially. I’m afraid of going to Pairs and feeling lonely, instead of magical.

    09/29/2015 at 6:35 pm
    • Reply Tiffiny

      Don’t be afraid! You will still feel magical – Paris was my absolute favorite city, and I’m so glad I got to see it by myself. For me, I have learned that 5 weeks totally alone (except a couple times) was not a good balance – for me.

      Do you use Couchsurfing or Outbound App? Those have great communities for connecting while traveling – check them out. I didn’t utilize them enough, and next trip, I definitely will!

      Tiff

      09/29/2015 at 6:38 pm
  • Reply Deb

    I’m a fan of shared solo travel! I like to explore at my own pace and I’m not a big planner. I like to see where the day will take me. Most of the traveling I’ve done in the past is to cities where I have a friend or two and I usually stay by myself and we come together to try new things or explore places we’ve never been. When I have traveled with someone, we respect the necessary alone time we need, and don’t always feel the need to do everything together. And yes, I’m an introvert! And hi, it that Deb?

    09/30/2015 at 2:45 am
    • Reply Tiffiny

      Hi Deb! Introverts unite. 😉

      Tiff

      10/07/2015 at 2:28 pm
  • Reply Amanda | Chasing My Sunshine

    Tiffiny, I am SO glad you wrote this post. I have been absolutely itching to try solo travel (and have probably commented on a good amount of your tweets/instas about it…my bad. ha!), but I do feel like it’s everywhere lately. And when I read about it, it is a “must-do” thing. I think it’s a must do at least once for me, but I would be apprehensive about spreading it out to five weeks. This from the girl that was going to travel solo for a year! Jeez. We’ll see. Either way, I am so glad you shared!

    10/06/2015 at 12:17 am
    • Reply Tiffiny

      Thanks Amanda!

      I do think solo travel is a fantastic experience, and if you’ve got the desire, go for it. But my philosophy is – don’t stress other people out by making them feel like they’re missing out if they don’t. To each his/her own. 🙂

      Tiff

      10/07/2015 at 2:29 pm
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    10/07/2015 at 2:23 pm
  • Reply Katie @ Katie Wanders

    Thank YOU! FINALLY ! love love love this. I am kind of annoyed with all the SOLO FEMALE TRAVEL YAY books and blogs these days. No one is sharing both sides of the coin. Thank you for showing the other side of solo travel. I agree with you I like to do most things on my own, but there are so many moment in travel where it is nice to share the moment.

    You rock.

    Katie @ Katie Wanders.

    11/03/2015 at 7:48 pm
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