“Vous voyagez seule?” an elderly French woman asked me at the bus stop to Èze. When I answered, “Oui,” she gasped, shaking her head, and exclaimed, “Vous êtes courageuse.”
She is one of many people who told me I was brave for traveling alone and they could never do it, sentiments by which I am continuously puzzled because I see nothing to fear and everything to discover. In fact, for the time being, I only want to travel alone.
Here are some of the questions people asked me when I told them I was going solo:
1. But aren’t you afraid being taken?
No, not even a little. While being taken, drugged, and sold into prostitution is a possibility, it is mostly just the plot of fantastic Liam Neeson film.
2. But how will you feel safe? You could be robbed.
Not once did I feel unsafe in Europe. People mostly keep to themselves, and those who do approach you are probably just trying to sell you a selfie stick. Say, “Non, merci,” and keep walking. I think traveling alone is even safer than with someone else because you can become just another person living in that city, especially if you don’t dress like a tourist. Not only are you not loudly speaking in your native language, you also are not distracted by someone else.
3. But won’t you be lonely?
Even though I was traveling by myself, I was rarely alone. All it took on my part was asking simple questions, and every day I met new people from around the globe, all connected by travel and all open to sharing a slice of their life. Thankfully, it is easy to find an English speaker almost anywhere you go; however, some of my dearest interactions were when I was forced to speak solely in French.
I explored Èze with a South African couple, discussed foreign affairs with two Israeli girls by the Arc de Triomphe, got wonderfully lost with an American expat in le Marais, danced on picnic tables to the Backstreet Boys with an Australian, ate too much gelato with Canadians, and had the perfect Parisian evening with a Colombian photographer—to name a few.
Another fantastic way to meet people is to stay in hostels because you not only automatically have something in common with dozens of people but also because those people are usually as eager to meet new people as you are.
4. But won’t it be weird eating alone?
Why is eating alone weird? If the idea of eating alone makes you uncomfortable, do it before you leave a few times to get used to it. I promise, nothing bad will happen, and no one is judging you but yourself. To keep myself occupied, I always carried a book and a journal.
Many times I didn’t eat alone, though, because I would meet people at the café or restaurant and start talking to them. Go to a restaurant with a bar to sit at because that is where a many couples and solo people dine. When I did that, I always met people with whom I could talk throughout the meal. Another option is to go to a very small establishment where you can make friends with the staff. Bonus: go somewhere multiple times. People will already know you, so you can build relationships instead of always starting from scratch.
5. But what if you get lost?
I hope that I do! Whenever I would go someplace new, I would walk around the city without a plan and without knowing precisely where I was. If at a glance I saw a beautiful street or an interesting monument, I went to it. While this prevented me from ever sticking to an itinerary, it allowed me to discover sites, shops, and streets I would have never seen otherwise. By doing this I observed how a city and its inhabitants live and breathe, not just how guidebooks present them. Even getting truly lost isn’t scary; in fact, relying on yourself to solve a problem is exhilarating and empowering.
Beyond the joys of discovery and new relationships, solo travel provides a perfect adventure for independent people who like to be in control of their own experience. If that sounds like you, just go for it!