I set a goal for myself to take a solo trip, and I’ve finally achieved that goal.
So many people who traveled alone in the past gushed over their independence and feelings of freedom when traveling alone. I wanted to experience that as well.
My first solo trip brought me to Budapest, and even though it was a relatively quick trip, I learned so much about myself, my views and general travel tidbits. These were my biggest takeaways.
You cannot get stressed, angry or annoyed by things out of your control.
For some reason on my flight home, I thought I had a four hour layover, when in actuality I landed and also departed at around 4 o’clock. I guess I just got numbers confused.
When my first plane from Budapest landed in Zurich I started sprinting through the terminal to make it to my next flight. I was cutting people off and jogging, when many of the people around me were also heading to the same flight.
I was being quite dramatic, and while I shouldn’t have leisurely strolled through the airport, there was no need to get stressed or worry about making my next flight with so many people in my same boat (or plane I guess).
Things happen. Sometimes you can control them, and sometimes you can’t. The things out of your control, like a delayed or missed flight, are minor in the grand scheme of things.
Material items are all replaceable.
I was relaxing at the Széchenyi thermal bath when I saw someone walking out of the pool area with sandals and a towel that both looked exactly like my belongings. I got so worked up, frantically looking around for my belongings and preparing myself to confront this person.
After swimming around the pool like a crazy person, I noticed that my things were still nicely placed on the bench where I left them.
But in all honesty, would it have been the end of the world if I lost a towel and some sandals? No. I can always get new things, but I can’t replace experiences.
Not everything will go perfectly, but there is always a solution.
I hiked up Gellért Hill to see the Liberty Statue and city views in about 20 minutes. That’s why when I was walking down the back of the hill for about 30 or 40 minutes, I knew I was either close to the bottom or something was wrong.
A quick glance at Google Maps showed me that I was walking the completely wrong and opposite direction.
Because my feet hurt from all the walking I had been doing, I was slightly annoyed, but I caught the problem and figured out a different route to get me going in the right direction.
I got lost, but I figured out a way to get back on track.
Life is meant to be lived for your own happiness.
I had a list of attractions and places I wanted to see in Budapest. I made a reservation for a wine tour that I ended up missing because I was purely exhausted and wanted to relax in a coffee shop instead.
Sure, I missed out on one thing, but I did that at the sacrifice of my own well-being and happiness, which makes me perfectly happy.
Following your own schedule is awesome.
Traveling alone was great in many regards, and the part I loved most about it was that I could be spontaneous and do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted.
I spent an entire day with a certain plan in mind of visiting the Buda Castle and Fisherman’s Bastion, and I ended up doing that plus exploring the Hungarian Parliament building, St. Stephen’s Basilica, the Hungarian State Opera House and I treated myself to a cozy meal at the cutest cafe. It turned out to be one of my favorite days and it was completely unplanned.
Expectations are different from reality, and that’s okay.
I was so excited to visit the Széchenyi thermal bath because of all the beautiful pictures I saw online. When I arrived, though, I was surprised to find a gloomy atmosphere and small pool area.
The fog and steam made all my pictures look like something out of a scary movie and the hoards of tourists overwhelmed the pool. Obviously that’s not represented in photos online, but that’s the reality of the situation.
It was so different than what I was expecting to see, but I still had a great time relaxing in the warm pools. Why stress about something not living up to expectations rather than experiencing it for what it is?
Australians are all hilarious.
Every single person I met from Australia was (without even trying) funny.
Everyone has their own story and their own path.
Being in my early twenties, there is a lot of exterior pressure to achieve certain goals and be in a certain place in my career and socially.
On my solo trip I met so many people who were just backpacking for fun, some who just graduated and wanted a break before starting work, some who chose to work in hostels forever and some who were teaching English abroad. And these people were all around my own age.
I realized that the stereotypical career path or expectations of achievements for people my age are just not important. People living according to their own interests or passions aren’t in any lesser or higher a position than those who are following a cookie cutter experience. And those who are following a more traditional life, like myself, aren’t missing out or boring in comparison.
Your life is your life and no one else’s.
There are no right or wrong ways to experience a new place.
While I was at the Széchenyi thermal bath, I overheard a girl say, “I want to recreate this photo I saw on Instagram, but the steam is ruining my pictures.”
We were in a beautiful, historical location, and this girl was concerned with getting the right photo to share on Instagram.
This happened when I visited Fisherman’s Bastion, as well. So many people were taking Insta-trendy photos and spent so much time focused on this rather than soaking up their surroundings.
What you see online or posted on social media is not the only way you have to experience a location. You don’t have to do and see things that someone tells you to do and see if they aren’t interesting to you.
My photos at the Széchenyi thermal bath were affected by the steam and fog. I looked like a marshmallow in my puffy snow jacket at Fisherman’s Bastion. But that’s the experience I had and it’s personal to my story. It’s not right, or wrong to have a different experience.
Assumptions are bad.
I arrived in my hostel to find a full room with some friendly people. Well, all but one who I was convinced lived in the hostel. She didn’t really socialize and I always found her sleeping.
Later in my trip, I met her during dinner at the hostel and she turned out to be such a kind person. She was in the room often because she was ending a two month excursion around Europe and just wanted some downtime.
My assumption were wrong and could’ve inhibited me from making a new friend.
You have to be uncomfortable to grow and progress.
I only really felt uncomfortable once during my solo trip. I was feeling lonely after some friends checked out of the hostel, and I was worried about meeting new people. I even almost skipped dinner in the hostel that evening because I didn’t want to be thought of as the loser sitting at the table alone.
This was completely ridiculous for me to think.
I mustered up the courage to go enter a room with new people and found a seat at the table with strangers. I easily made more friends.
This doesn’t seem like much, but traveling alone can bring about insecurities, and pushing through those makes for a better experience.
A new friend starts with a simple, “hello.”
Since this was the first time I was traveling alone, I was a bit worried about meeting new people and how I’d socialize.
Luckily my hostel provided family-style dinners for everyone, so that was my first step to getting to know people. But even before that, I was checking in at the front desk when another girl walked in to check in as well. The staff asked, “where are you from?” and we both said in harmony, “New York.” We got through some surprised exclamations then greeted each other and introduced ourselves.
Then at dinner, meeting someone new just meant sitting down at the dining table and greeting someone nearby.
I was most nervous about meeting people while traveling alone, and it turned out to be so easy.
Good shoes go a long way, literally.
I packed just about the worst shoes for my trip. Because I was going alone, I had long days of wandering and exploring on my own, which meant a lot of walking.
Do yourself a favor and only buy shoes that make your feet happy!
People are accustomed to their own habits. They may be different from yours, but you still have to deal with them.
Traveling makes you trust and rely on other people a lot. It is also a time when you have to deal with people from different backgrounds. This can sometimes be awesome and other times, it can be annoying.
But, rather than be irritated, this is a time to learn about other people or manage your emotions enough to just deal with other people’s habits. Again, no point in stressing!
Technology and makeup are overrated.
I loved having moments to myself either sitting in a cafe drinking mulled wine or exploring the Buda Castle grounds.
Usually if I were doing something alone, I’d be glued to social media on my phone or texting people. The only technology I relied on during this trip was offline Google Maps and sometimes Instagram when I had wifi. It was so freeing and calming to not be glued to my phone.
I also woke up each morning more excited to get out and start exploring rather than spend time fixing myself up to look camera ready.
These things just became so unimportant to me when I was out and about. But, I still love them