It was my first real trip anywhere. I had been a homeboy all of my life living on the west coast of the United States. In fact, I had never been east of Utah.
I grew up in Seattle all of my life and for over a decade I’ve been living in the Los Angeles rat race.
Every year I would tell myself that I needed to head out on an extended vacation and just roam the world, or part of it anyway.
So, tired of “talk’n the talk” and not “walk’n the walk,” I chose a date that I would embark on my journey, went online, bought a ticket departing in 5 weeks, and had no choice but to commit to it.
I have a tendency to work better that way. Rather than just talk about something that you want to do, or something that you always say you’re going to do, pick a date and tell yourself and everyone you know, that you are going to do it on that day. Believe me, your friends will be reminding you all the time. And after a few weeks, as the days tick away, you’ll have no choice but to follow through on your word. Your word should always be as good as gold.
Backpack Europe Alone
Now that I bought my ticket, the next question was, “who’s coming with me?” I can’t go alone! Then, it donned on me, that’s exactly what I needed to do. Go alone and get away from everything and everyone that I knew. Leave my comfort zone. Challenge, explore and create. Experience foreign cultures, create new friendships, eat foods that I was unaccustomed to eating, live like I have never lived by surrounding myself with everything foreign and unknown.
In addition to my plane ticket, I bought a Eurail pass which allows you to get familiar with the awesome European train system. If you have the time and urgency isn’t a factor on your vacation, there is no better way to travel through Europe than by train. I urge you to buy a Eurail pass an see the beautiful scenery through your train window.
Embrace the challenge of solo travel
I have always lived with the motto, “A man who risks nothing- gains nothing” and, I always deepen the stakes. So be it. Thus, alone I went. In fact a couple of friends wanted to meet me out there to party out in France and Spain. No dice. This vacation is all about me. I need this time to discover life and the world on my own, at this point. Besides, I can hang out with my firends (like I’ve been doing all of my life) at home in the US. Why would I want to party with them in another country.
In France I met an awesome French girl and stayed at her place for 8 days (5 days longer then I had originally planned), in the countryside of France, approximately 6 hours by train southwest of Paris. The countryside is absolutely beautiful in France and virtually untouched by tourist. We visited 8 Medieval castles, most of them ruins, and one that famous composer Frederick Chopin lived in right before he died. Cathedrals, cobble-stoned streets, wine, history, art, cafes…It’s no wonder that France is one of the most visited countries in the world!
Two and a half weeks into my trip and I was living it up! Time was going fast and traveling alone in Europe was a cake walk and more than met my expectations. This is easy.
After hanging out decompressing on the Mediterranean for 2 days in a quaint little town called Alicante, I packed it up and headed to the very center of Spain. The main event. Madrid.
I observed her for 2 hours at Parque de Retiro in Madrid, Spain.
She was this tall striking blonde sun-bathing at this park for, at this point, 2 hours. She stood out among all of the shorter brunette Spanish nationals. The next thing I know, 2 hours later, she sits on my park bench to put on her roller blades. Shocked and excited, I mustered up enough courage to ask her something in my severely broken Spanish. Amused, she said “you speak english?!” “I’m from Denmark, I speak english!” Whew! Thank God! So, we both sat there for another 2 more hours and spoke in english and asking questions about each others cultures and customs, our families, food and how she missed her big meals at home in Denmark, life in Spain, etc…
The next night we met up with her friends 2 Swedish girls, a Norwegian girl, and a French girl, all living in the same apartment living in Spain to study Spanish and art.
For the next week and a half, it was party time! Going from club, to club, to club, we would usually end the night at aroud 5-7am every night. These girls were off the hook! They also invited me to stay at their apartment(which I happily obliged) for the remainder of my trip! I even extended my trip for another 5 days before heading back to Los Angeles. Two of the girls that I met on my trip, ultimately came out to visit me in Los Angeles within a year of returning home from Europe!
Needless to say, these are memories that I will always cherish. I love meeting people, and meeting people I did!
The bottom line is this. Because I traveled alone…
I forced myself to talk to locals and other travelers and I met a lot of great people that I will be friends with for, perhaps, the rest of my life.
I saw places that millions of tourists will never, ever see.
I ATE FROG LEGS! That’s right, FROG LEGS!
I stayed and went wherever and whenever I wanted to. Ahhh…A great benefit to traveling solo.
I was in God’s country, and the grass IS greener on the other side.
If I didn’t travel alone…
I would have NEVER spent 8 days in the countryside of France.
I would have NEVER sat a a park bench for TWO HOURS! Think about it, if I was with a friend, 30 minutes at a park and BAMM, we’re off to the nearest pub for an afternoon brewski always falling back at each other for conversation instead of absorbing the culture and ambience at our own pace and meeting new people!
I would have NEVER met the Danish girl, thus meeting her friends, thus extending my trip 5 more days and crashing out at their pad partying until 5-7am each day. It was a riot!
The way I see it is this, it’s a whole trickle down effect. If I didn’t spend 8 days in France’s coutryside (as opposed to the original 2 day that I intended), I would have never been at that park in Madrid, sitting on that exact same park bench at the exact same time that the Danish girl eventually chose to sit on to put on her roller blades.
Traveling ALONE is the only option.
Folk’s, there are an estimated 6 billion people in the world, and I highly suggest that you step out of your comfort zone and meet a few of them- in other countries. Be honest with yourself. Do you really think that you are going to maximize your travel experience by bringing along a friend? Perhaps, but your experience will probably not be as rich and as cultured as it has the potential to be.
If your friends want to meet up with you, fine, meet up for a few days and have fun, but not for your whole trip! For crying out loud, you’ll see them when you get back!
If you’re traveling with a friend, choose to separate for a week, or two, or three, then meet up in a different city and share your adventures and stories.
Don’t be afraid. Take the risk. Challenge yourself. Be proactive.
Life is what you make out of it. Stop talking about it and DO IT(alone)!
Most of all be safe, and bring an adventurous and unabashed spirit you.
Have a great time and “May the force be with you!”
-By Tony P (Founder, TravelPUNK.com)
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