One week ago, I had to take a personality test for a digital nomad community I’m planning on joining and contributing to in 2021. I always thought I was an introvert, but I never actually looked up what that meant. I just figured “I don’t like bothering people I don’t know” meant that I was an introvert. According to this test, I actually have what’s called an Entertainer (ESFP) personality, go figure.
After reading exactly what that is…yeah I’m exactly that. I’ve always blamed my “not being able to talk to strangers without them talking to me first” a unique thing to me, but I guess it’s just normal. Anyways, I digress and let’s move onto the topic at hand, solo travel. I’ve had the pleasure of being on two solo travel trips, excluding any short work trips or things like that. And I’ve had mixed feelings about it.
I’m not sure why my only two solo travel adventures brought me through Paris, but I’m glad they did. Although there were times where I thought to myself, “man this would be great to be sharing with someone else,” it didn’t downplay the actual awesomeness of the trip. I’ll dive into each trip and go through exactly what I was feeling at the time. The second one…is embarrassing.
Backpack Trip from London to Rome
My first ever solo trip, aside from moving to London and living on my own, was a backpack trip I planned extremely last minute out of frustration that I had lived in London for almost 8 months and barely even left Zone 1.
As a broke grad student, my plan was to somehow get to Rome as cheaply as possible, sleeping during overnight travel, do a ton of walking, see a bunch of shit I’ve never seen before, and get back from my lecture on Monday morning. This trip would ultimately bring me from London, to Paris via bus, then Milan and Rome via train. Starting on a Thursday night at 9:45pm in London, I boarded a bus that would take me to Paris overnight.
This is a great way to get to Paris from London if you don’t mind it taking almost 7 hours and hopping on a ferry halfway through to cross the English channel.
Arriving in Paris at 5:45am, I promptly jumped on the metro and got off at the Arc de Triomphe. I’m not sure why that was my destination, but I think I was just more excited to be outside and in downtown Paris at 6am in the morning (early mornings and sunrise are my thing). It was simply amazing. It felt like I had Paris all to myself.
The city had not woken up yet, so I pushed to explore as much as I could before the smell of espresso and croissants started filling the air. I had all day to explore, which I did by renting a city bike and just peddling. No maps, no direction, just going. I figured once I got lost, I’d then open a map. This tactic actually worked quite well, as fifteen minutes later I turned a corner and was staring at the Louvre. I had no idea how I got there, but there it was. I returned my city bike to it’s rightful parking spot and grabbed a plot of grass to people watch and listen to the not-so-authentic french music being played while trying to sell every touristy trinket you can imagine.
Now I did have some things I had to do while in Paris. While in London, I was only able to book my train from Milan to Rome, and my flight from Rome back to London. I wasn’t able to book the train from Paris to Milan in advance, so I hopped back on the city bike and got over to the train station to book. And wouldn’t you know it, the train was sold out. This left me only one option, which was to take the morning train to Milan from Paris, the next day. I would now have to find a place to stay in Paris that night, and would only have 4 hours in Milan. This isn’t ideal obviously, but it worked out great. I grabbed a cheap hotel room somewhere close to the train station, then head out for the night.
Seeing Paris at night time wasn’t something I had planned, but I’m really glad that I did. I spent that night walking the streets along the Seine, people watching in front of the Notre Dame, and grabbing pizza of all foods. I’ll cover the rest of this solo trip in another blog as it was filled with random occurrences, extremely strange travel accommodations, and a few more things.
Getting Stood Up in Paris
I wasn’t sure if I was going to write about this part, but fuck it why not, it’s my blog and probably no one will read it anyways. My second solo trip was unintentional. During a previous trip to Italy, Germany, and Switzerland, I met a woman who I kept in touch with afterwards. During this time in my life, I was able to travel quite often, and flights were extremely affordable, so we decided to meet up again, but this time in a different city…at least that was the plan.
Getting off the plane in Paris, my excitement for a new city and to see someone I haven’t seen in a month was diminished by the lack of said person. Radio-silence across the board, I was on a solo trip to Paris. I thankfully had somewhat of a backup plan, booking a hotel room that night at a great place I’ve stayed at prior in Stockholm called the Generator. This trip was 3 nights and 4 days, much longer than my previous Paris trip, so keeping myself occupied was now top priority. It was devastatingly cold out as it’s mid-November, but I pushed on.
My inner “what I thought was introvert” was coming out and finding a place for breakfast became a mission every morning. I had to find just the right place with enough people, but not a lot of people; with an easy place to sit down and I didn’t have to bother anyone, as well as a good angle and people watch, without looking like a loner.
I must’ve passed 20 cafe’s before finally internally yelling at myself, “THIS ONE IS FINE! YOU’RE STARVING!” It’s a constant internal battle to not look like an idiot to people I don’t know, that I’m slowly overcoming. I ended up meeting some great people over the weekend that I’m still in touch with, exploring the top of the Eiffel Tower, the catacombs, and much more. All by myself, and it was lovely.
Solo travel is not for everyone, maybe not even me.
It has it’s ups and downs. I am clearly not an expert at this as I’ve only done two of them, so this upcoming year should be an exciting one with many many more stories. I know my weaknesses when I don’t have my support system around of friends and family, but those are the things that are really fun to work on, because as you continue to grow as a person, you can see those weaknesses becoming stronger and stronger over time.
The amazing parts of solo travel are the obvious ones. You have no one to report to, no one to get confirmation on where you want to go or what you want to see next, you just go. You can spend as much time looking at a painting, eating, sleeping, or as little time. There are no rules and there is no one to get upset. No internal drama, no feelings getting hurt.
It would be an understatement to say that I wasn’t extremely excited to start this journey in 2021 of traveling the world as a solo digital nomad. I know that it will bring with it many new challenges that I’ve yet to face, but it will also bring amazing experiences that couldn’t be had anywhere else.
Let’s get lost.