After having the loveliest couple of weeks in Italy, I took a train from Milan to Interlaken, Switzerland. It was honestly probably one of the most beautiful rides of my journey – taking a train through the Burnese Oberlands was incredible, especially cozied up in a cute carriage with a cup of tea in my hands. 10/10 recommend.
On top of the amazing train ride, Interlaken itself was one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever been – everything looks like a Christmas card, and I seriously can’t imagine what it must look like in the snow! A holiday dream, I’m sure. Everything is so close that I spent my entire time strolling around the town visiting cute restaurants and walking along the river, which I swear, must be colored with blue no. 1. Plus, after spending so many days sweating my balls off in France and Italy, I was stoked to be in a colder climate wearing – get this – a coat in July! I found a cute little café playing Leonard Cohen, and even though the waitress thought I was insane, I drank tea in the rain and watched people walk along the river. One day, I wanted to be outside and see a view of the city – I decided to forgo taking the fernicular to the top of the mountain, but ended up following a trail nearby that brought me to the most beautiful little clearing where I saw a view of the entire town as well as the neighboring areas. I went in my ankle boots, which were not the ideal shoes for a hike, but when in Rome (Interlaken)!
After Interlaken, I took another train over to Lucerne where I stayed in the prettiest Airbnb that was just a five minute walk from the lake! I saw Old Town and the Kapellbrucke, dined on sunny patios, and visited cute local shops. I spent my nights watching the sunset while sitting on the beach. Behind me, locals hung out on the grass drinking, bbqing, playing games, smoking, and laughing. At dinner, I would eat cordon bleu with mayonnaisey french fries and hoppy, local beer. I also spent a lot of time hanging out in a specialty coffeeshop called Café Tacuba, where the owner let me use his espresso machine and even taught me how to roast coffee! All of his coffee comes from farms his friends and family own in El Salvador, and he always had the nicest people hanging around the shop for me to make friends with! It was the coolest.
Things to check out in Interlaken:
Ladelokal – the cute little café along the river. It’s perfect for a cup of coffee or tea, and they have nice pastries as well!
Maharaja Indian – delicious chana masala and roti!
Restaurant El Azteca – so, I wouldn’t recommend going all the way to Switzerland if you’re in the mood for really good Mexican food. However, if you’re from Mexico, the American west coast, or anywhere else where delicious, authentic Mexican food is around every corner, this was one of the best Mexican restaurants I found in Europe!
Take a quick hike! – if you go near the fernicular, you’ll see a little trail off to the side. Take it, walk past the “zoo”, and you’ll eventually reach a point on the trail where there’s a little clearing. There’s some nice picnic tables and an amazing view of the town! If you want a longer hike, you can go all the way up to the top for a panoramic view!
Walk along the river – there’s so many incredible views to see walking along the river. Get a coffee or tea and walk around the entire town. It’s amazing.
And in Lucern:
Café Tacuba – obviously, I’ve already crushed hard on this place. It was the first specialty coffee I had in over 2 weeks, and I was excited!!
Mirch Masala Indian – there’s a very lovely patio and delicious vegetarian Indian food!
Old Town – cute shops and cafes with outdoor seating!
Visit the beach – there’s a park right next to Lake Luzern that has a great beach area although there’s plenty of places to sit along the lake! It was my favorite spot to hang out after dinner, and the view is stunning!
Are you guys tired of seeing my Italy posts? It was one of my longest trips (besides London), so I have a lot of material (and this is without sharing so many photos, and I’m not even writing about Lucca/Milan, because they were quick trips, but still. That’s how much Italy stuff I have). However, I’m just going to keep telling myself that no one is sick of my Italy posts yet, because not loving Italy is something I can’t quite comprehend.
Anyways, after San Gimi, I went over to Venice. I was only there for one night – I actually was supposed to go for two nights, but my mom called me and told me that she recommended that I stay in San Gimi another night, because Venice is absolutely mad crazy busy with tourists in the summer. I’m so glad I stayed in San Gimi another night, although I did still have lots of fun during my night in Venice! I still can’t quite get over staying in a town on top of a giant pool of water – my train went right over it, and then my mom picked me up at the station and we waited like, ½ an hour for a water bus, and how weird are water busses?! After, we walked around Venice for hours looking at pretty masks and all of the buildings. Pro-tip: If it’s June in Venice, the sidewalks will be so packed you literally cannot walk more than a couple steps at a time. If you’re not patient, like yours truly, it’s maddening. A local told me the best time to go would be in late April-early May. Anyone have any tips on this? I’d love to visit again!
Also! If you get a chance to get out at night after all the tourists have gone to bed, Venice is so amazing! I got super lost, ate some ice cream, and saw some of the most beautiful sites. That was by far the best part of Venice in my opinion. After I got back to my hotel, my mom snuck me into the hotel room, and I shared a bed with one of my aunts and my mom. It was a squishy night for sure.
After Venice, we took a train ride over to Milan where we saw the Duomo! So, so gorgeous. Also, we found a really lovely restaurant that we ended up at twice! However, the highlight of the Milan trip was our little day-trip to Lake Como. We took the funicular up to the top of the mountain and ate at the loveliest restaurant, and I had the BEST roast with polenta. Then we took a boat trip around the lake and got gelato, and it was a perfect day! All in all, such a lovely day trip and a nice way to end my stay in Italy!
Some fun things to see in Lake Como/Milan (honestly I wasn’t in Venice very long, and I can’t even remember the name of the only restaurant I ate at. Sorry!)
Boat Ride – Take a boat ride around the lake – we found the hour long tour was plenty! Then, get some gelato across the street from the boat station!
Fernicular – the fernicular goes to the top of the mountain in Lake Como and has absolutely the most stunning views and some cute shops! Definitely go if you can.
Ristorante Bellavista – this restaurant is located on the top of the mountain in Lake Como which you can get to by hiking or taking the fernicular. The beef + polenta dish was amaaaazzzzzininininggg!!!
Ristorante Il Tavolino – Our favorite restaurant in Milan we went to twice! The waiters were very sweet and got us way drunk on limoncello shots both nights!
Frank – a nice cocktail bar in Milan! Good whiskey!
I’m currently in rainy Ireland, sleepy from my flight over and also the 2 pints I drank last night (when did alcohol start having these effects on me, I’m too young for this?). While the cooler fall weather has been very welcome lately, I can’t help but be really jealous of 3-Months-Ago-Sara. How come 3-Months-Ago-Sara got to lay on the beach drinking aperol spritzes, and Current-Sara is slightly damp from the rain and falls asleep after a couple of Guinnesses? In just a few weeks, I’ve gone from Fun-Girl Mode to Hibernation-Mode. Okay, not entirely, I have actually been super entertaining in Ireland, but that’s a story for another time.
Anyways, have you guys heard of Cinque Terre and San Gimignano?! They were honestly my most favorite places in all of Italy, so I’m super excited to share this post! You’ll notice by the pictures that they aren’t very similar at all – Cinque Terre is a collection of 5 towns along the Riviera coastline, and it’s filled with these amazingly colorful, boxy houses on the cliffs! On the other hand, San Gimignano is in Tuscany, and it’s probably what most people imagine when they hear about “Italian wine country”. Both of them were so different, but I had just the most amazing time in each!
Story time! In Cinque Terre, I stayed in the bottom town called Riomaggiore. I was obsessed with the rainbow buildings, and I spent a large majority of my time there hanging out on the rock beaches and taking millions of pictures. Anyways. One of the days while I was laying on the beach, a local man walked up to me and asked if I wanted to do a night kayaking tour he hosted after 10 p.m. Although I’m afraid of 1. the ocean, and 2. the ocean at night especially, I decided to say “fuck it” and have an experience. I know it’s probably a bad idea to kayak off to a secret beach with a strange man you’ve just met, but he claimed that if I were to go with him, I would see glow-in-the-dark plankton, so obvs that convinced me. I met up with him late at night, put on a super-sexy wetsuit, and our 1 1/2 hour kayaking tour took about 3, because apparently I’m that bad at kayaking. There was no moon that night, and it was super dark, and I was kind of freaking out, because I JUST KNOW there was a whale swimming under me the whole time, but I made it! We went to a dark cave where I saw lots of glowy plankton that looked like millions of stars in the water! And then we went to the secret beach where I swam (SWAM!) in the dark natural pool there. I was so proud of myself for being brave, and I had a cool experience! So there’s your life lesson for the day: sometimes scary things are rad, and also there are some things you don’t tell your mom you do until after the fact!
Another funny story: while I was in Manorola attempting to get a picture of myself in front of the colorful houses with my mini-tripod and self-timer, a big tour group from China walked up and started taking a bajillion pictures of me. I’m pretty sure they got better pics of me than I ever got! Also, I think they were under the impression that I was a celebrity – as it turns out, the #papz is not for me.
Anyways, as stated above, I stayed in Riomaggiore, which is the bottom town of Cinque Terre. I absolutely looooved staying there! There’s only one street in the whole town, and the beach is honestly less than a five minute walk away from anywhere! It was so perfect, 10/10 recommend. I spent my first full day in Riomaggiore, hanging out on the beach, eating lots of food, and doing my night kayaking tour (although you can also do a day kayaking tour if you prefer). The next day, I took a train to the other 4 towns, walking around each, eating lemonade-vodka granita, and doing the little hikes to the pretty views in each town. After visiting all of them, I’m still glad I stayed in Riomaggiore (it’s a little quieter and less touristy than some of the other options). However, I loved being able to take a day trip to the other 4 towns! It was one of my favorite places on my trip, and I really can’t get over the pictures.
After Riomaggiore and Lucca, I took a train over to San Gimignano , which was another favorite of mine – it’s nestled in the hills of Tuscany, and it looks just like the paintings you’d expect to see in a cute Italian bistro. I spent most of my time there getting lost in vineyards, and I’m still not even sure I was allowed to be in those. However, I did do some more legal things like pottery shopping and visiting some of its beautiful sites. Also, a young wine sommelier befriended me and taught me how to drink wine the right way! I was reminded of how delicious amazing wine is, and totally neglected to mention that I usually just choose a bottle with a pretty label and <$10 price tag. Convenient!
Good stuff in Cinque Terre (Riomaggiore unless stated otherwise):
Colombo Guesthouse – this is where I stayed, and it was perfect! Really clean, nice rooms with small kitchens. Also, it’s on the main (and only) road, so it’s really close to the beach, train station, and restaurants!
Vertical – a little cafe that’s good for a cup of coffee and some breakfast!
Night kayaking – if you can track down the guy who offers this, it’s an amazing experience! He doesn’t really advertise, but if you ask around, I’m sure someone can point you in his direction!
Gelateria Centrale di Germani e Giaccio – gelato! Enough said.
Mamma Mia Take Away – a little friterie that has delicious cones of fried food that you eat with sticks! It’s the perfect lunch while looking at shops or walking along the beach.
Marina Piccola (Manarola) – I stopped at this restaurant on my way back to Riomaggiore, and it was a nice change from the restaurants in Riomaggiore. I sat outside, stared at the water, and ate lots of pasta – pretty good food, beautiful view!
Places to visit in San Gimignano:
Pottery shops – There are tons of great pottery shops throughout San Gimignano – I picked out a couple of ceramic roosters for my mom and aunt, which was interesting – “hi, can I take pictures of your roosters?”
Linen – okay, it sounds boring, but I loooved the linen stores! So many great dish towels that would make amazing props for the blog – I had to leave before I bought one of everything (although I did indulge and buy a cute linen bread basket).
Palazzo Buonaccorsi – a historical home owned by a very sweet man who rents out beautiful rooms in a quiet area of town (aka – away from the super touristy areas!). Lots of great shops and restaurants nearby. Definitely recommend!
Restaurants in alleys – if you get the chance, skip all of the super touristy restaurants in the square, and make your way through alleys where you’ll find tons of small, local restaurants! There’s lots of hidden gems on these side streets that you won’t find on Yelp or Tripadvisor!
Enoteca DiVinorum – a cool bar with an amazing view of the countryside!
My first stop in Italy on Euro-trip 2017 was Rome!! For some reason, my crazy ass decided it would be a good idea to spend only one night in Rome and fit in both the Colosseum and the Vatican. lol. It all worked out. It was great. On the other hand, I would not recommend that crazy schedule to anyone. This is coming from present-traveler Sara who has lived and learned from this experience. Past-traveler Sara was ambitious but now understands the stress of having only one night in a city.
However! Apart from the craziness that was Rome, I was absolutely enthralled by it. After finding my apartment, I headed over to the Colosseum! Pro-tip: You need to have your tickets printed if you buy them online (and trust me, you want to buy them online, or you will regret everything while standing in line in the blistering heat for 2 hours). Anyways, printing: I did not print my tickets. I went to the Colosseum on a Sunday. Guess what’s not open on a Sunday? Effing printing services. BUT. There is a really nice touring agency near the Colosseum that will print your tickets for you for a pretty cheap price so yay! Learn from my mistakes – print your tickets, and do not call your mom crying, because you had a bad traveling day, and you want to make your Colosseum time frame, but you can’t find a place to print anything on a Sunday. Lesson learned!
After the Colosseum, I met up with my mom, grandma, and aunts who happened to be in Rome while I was! I met my mom at the Spanish Steps, and then she took me over to the Barcaccia Fountain to fill my water bottle! Then, we ate arancini and pasta, and I drank lots of wine!
The next day, I headed over to the Vatican (got totally lost on the way but made it nonetheless!). Again: buy tickets in advance!! The Vatican was amazing and definitely something pictures can’t do justice.
After the Vatican, I took a short train ride over to Florence for a few days. I got to see all the amazing leather shops, buy some fun jewelry, and eat lots of pizza! I also accidentally ordered a giant gelato cone (why don’t the gelato shops tell you when they serve giant gelatos??). Plus, David taught me that the thing they say about men with big hands is NOT true*! Thx David!
*I had a friend tell me that David was thought to be “strong of hand” which is why his hands are disproportionate to the rest of his body. Another friend told me that when David was built, it was common to make mens, ahem, groinal-areas smaller, because only women were to be portrayed as sexual – anyone have any thoughts on this??
Thanks to my mom for letting me use some of her iPhone pics for this post!
Some things I loved about Rome:
Colosseum – buy tix in advance!
The Vatican – again, buy tix in advance. And don’t forget to leave a large amount of time to see it! Also, and this is very important, even if you’re really hungry, don’t go to restaurants around the Vatican! They are the worst, most expensive tourist traps ever. I spent 18 euro on the worst salad of my life. It was sad.
Spanish Steps – fun to walk around, and the view from the top is amazing!
Barcaccia Fountain – it’s right next to the Spanish Steps, and you can walk out and fill up your water bottle! I guess it’s not necessarily that exciting, but it’s definitely something fun to check out!
Arancini – I only had 2 meals in Rome, and like I said above, one of them was the most disappointing salad ever. But definitely find a restaurant with arancini!
Aperol Spritz – find a cute cafe to drink Aperol Spritzes. If you’re there in the summer, it will be hot, and this is the only cure!
Things I loved in Florence:
Ponte Vecchio – a little touristy but definitely fun! There are lots of cool leather stores and jewelry shops to check out. Plus, there’s a cool place to take photos of the river!
Stay in the heart of Florence – I was in a historical apartment five minutes from the main train station, and I could walk EVERYWHERE! There were tons of great restaurants, gelato shops, and shopping nearby!
Accademia Gallery – go say hi to David, and check out the super cool musical instruments exhibit!
Ristorante Accademia – my mom, grandma, and aunts raved about this restaurant for 2 years before I visited it on this trip. I went with the family, and the owners and waiters instantly recognized everyone. We had plenty of limoncello shots + their veal picatta!
After my trip to Paris with my aunt and grandma, I headed off to Lyon which I had heard from just about everyone was a cool place to hang out for a few days. I was looking forward to having some lazy days in Lyon since my trip to Paris was such a whirlwind of getting on and off the metro to see all of the city’s museums and attractions.
My stay in Lyon is what I can only describe as the trip where I lost my dignity, and I mean that in the best way possible. A few not-so-glorious moments for your pleasure at my expense:
discovering Lyon’s hills while carrying the worst, heaviest, bulkiest, more horrible, wobbly suitcase imaginable ughhhh (in Italy, my mom adorned her The Gold Bitch and she was later disposed of in favor of a smaller, well-behaved suitcase – more on that later).
sweating like I’ve never sweat before whilst climbing up Lyon’s hills with The Gold Bitch – and lots of cute French boys judging tf out of me.
finding my apartment building but realizing I didn’t have the gate code, wifi, or any means of communication
almost crying in front of an adorable old French man who tried to help me, but alas, did not speak English whatsoever.
finally getting through the damn gate and carrying The Gold Bitch up a ton of stairs leading to, you guessed it, more profuse sweating
barely getting the front door shut before ravenously stripping off all my clothes and taking the iciest shower until my heart rate decreased to a normal level.
getting stuck in torrential downpour with a large bag of groceries and having the paper bag fall apart and carrying all of my veggies home in my arms – and getting judged by more attractive French boys (actually this was kind of amazing, because I felt like I was in a romcom set in the early 2000s which pre-teen me would have loved).
going to my first specialty coffee shop on my Europe 2017 trip and not being able to get inside because I was pulling on the “push” door – then getting embarrassed that I couldn’t open the door, so I pretended to take a phone call until someone else went in, and then I casually strolled in and the beautiful men behind the bar were laughing at me.
essentially just embarrassing myself in front of a lot of attractive French men
probably some more stuff that I have chosen to erase from my memory
Aside from all of the incredibly embarrassing things that I actually find funny af now, Lyon was absolutely amazing. I don’t know if it was the sense of freedom that comes with being completely alone on vacation, or if it was just the magic of Lyon itself, but it was for sure one of my favorite stops on my trip. I didn’t plan a lot, mostly just walked around the town and looked at beautiful architecture, ate lots of food, enjoyed the Lyonnaise Airbnb I stayed in, and took a million and a half pictures. I stayed in the center of Lyon, which is less touristy than Old Lyon and definitely where I’d recommend staying. I didn’t necessarily leave the area, except for walking to other neighborhoods and whatnot, but the proximity and walkability is what I loved about staying there. I also had the cutest Airbnb, and one night I decided to cook dinner to get a sense of home. I had the windows open, the rain was pouring, and there was classic rock music playing in the background. The neighbor was cooking something with lots of garlic and butter. It was lovely.
Some things to do:
Take a taxi from the train station to your Airbnb (jk, kind of)
Visit Old Lyon – this is a UNESCO world heritage site, and it’s full of great shops and restaurants. It’s a little more touristy than I usually like, but it really is beautiful, fun, and full of energy.
Esplanade de Fourvière & Fourvière – climb almost 800 stairs to get to the top of Fourvière hill, where you’ll get a panoramic view of the city facing the Soane River. You can also take a funicular apparently, but I did not realize that until later, and honestly, I probably deserve to climb 800 stairs with all the pastries and wine I consumed in France. Next, stop into the pretty church if that’s your thing!
Parc de la Tête d’Or – this is one of the biggest (the biggest?) park in France, and get this, there’s a freaking zoo in the center of it – that was another accidental find, but it was so cool, and I saw some giraffes! The zoo is free to the public and very open, so it’s totally normal if you just happen upon it. There’s also some botanical gardens and a really peaceful lake to enjoy some ice cream by. I spent the good part of a day here, so if you like the outdoors, I would recommend bringing a picnic!
Café Mokxa – this is where I had my really embarrassing moment but also my favorite coffee in France. They have such a lovely outdoor area, but the inside is relaxing too. They have all the regulars – espresso drinks, slow-bar, plus iced tea!!
Le Jardin Gourmand – I had a late night dinner here after searching forever for a restaurant (not because of lack of restaurants, but because I was having a hard time choosing which one I wanted to go to). I had the steak with peppercorn sauce + wine, and there’s a very lovely view of the city from the outdoor seating area.
Glacier Terre adèlice Lyon – I passed by this place once, and the line was absolutely insane, so I knew I had to come back. Luckily I did, because there was no line at 9 p.m., and I had some amazing pear ice cream! Yay!
Stroll around Lyon’s center – I stayed very close to Hotel de Ville, so if you walk up and behind that area, you’ll find a large assortment of cool restaurants, bars, vinyl record stores, and shops (Café Mokxa and Le Jardine Gourmand are both in this area).
xo Sara Lynn
*Song of the Day: Grapevine Fires by Death Cab for Cutie
I’m finally getting around to selecting and editing about a million 500 pictures from my past month in Europe. I know I should be better about editing photos so they don’t pile up, but I’m just having too much fun on my trip, and sometimes the trains don’t have wifi that I can use to edit while I’m riding to a new destination (first world problems). However, thanks to a super rad, wifi-enabled train from Stockholm to Gothenburg, I now have a bunch of photos edited and ready to share. Thx uber-cool Swedish train.
The first stop on my trip was Paris, and I was just sososo happy to 1. be in Europe in general, and 2. be back in Paris!! Last time I was in the city, I only had one full day, so I was extra excited to spend a few more days and see the sights. One of my favorite parts of Paris aside from the wine, cheese, and pastries is how much there is to see and do. It’s also one of my favorite places to get pictures with all of the romantic scenes and flower + produce markets around town. Ugh ♥
Here are some things that I did + some restaurant recommendations:
Eiffel Tower (duh) – make sure to drop by after dark, get a nice seat, and catch the twinkle lights! I believe they go off at 10:55 and 11:55 in the summer, and it is definitely worth a visit. Don’t forget a bottle of wine or prosecco and a picnic blanket!
The Palace of Versailles + the gardens + the horse carriage museum !!
Au Pied de Cochon – their French Onion soup was really good, but I think weirdly enough their green bean salad is what won me over. Also they have their own signature song!
The street shops along the Seine – knick-knacks, art, books, etc. Some of my favorite art in my house I bought two years ago from an artist selling his drawings on the sidewalk in Paris.
One of the many cafes along the Seine – stop by for a glass of wine or coffee after checking out the shops. I’ll be the first to admit that the coffee is definitely not my favorite, but the atmosphere is worth it. Also, I didn’t have a chance to try any specialty shops out (boooo), but I’ve heard Paris has a really cool specialty coffee scene.
Shakespeare & Co. – I think this may be my new favorite bookstore – I walked in serendipitously not realizing how well-known it is! But lucky me, I found it and discovered its diverse range of genres + amazing history.
Monet’s Gardens in Vernon-Giverny – one of my favorite parts of my trip was getting to visit Monet’s house and gardens! The gardens themselves are filled with an amazing variety of flowers, plants, and trees. Monet’s house is absolutely beautiful, and I completely fell in love with the kitchen. Plus you get to check out a bunch of his paintings!! Just take the short train ride over to Giverny, it’s such a lovely half-day trip.
Notre Dame – I didn’t get to climb to the top, but I totally recommend going if you can! If you like churches, the inside is very pretty.
The Louvre – I went to The Louvre at night when it was less busy – while I didn’t stay for very long, I managed to wave hi at Mona and check out the Winged Victory of Samothrace!
Restaurant Aux anysetiers du Roy – probably the best Boeuf Bourguignon I’ve ever had evereverever in my life – it’s a one-woman show around there, so try to go before or after rush hours.
BRIEZH Cafe – crepes!! Of course make sure to get some good crepes while strolling around Paris – my choices were the ham & cheese and the caramel apple, and they did not disappoint.
Street markets – one of my other favorite parts of Paris is strolling through the street markets looking at pretty produce, charcuterie, cheese, and flowers! – one time I had a chocolate croissant from a walk-up bakery, and I swear to god it changed my life. I haven’t found that market bakery since *cries*.
I have now been on my big European adventure for about three weeks (posts coming soon!), and I am having the absolute time of my life! It was taken me a while to write this post, because I’ve been trying to think of the right words to say. When telling both loved ones and strangers about my big adventure, the reactions are usually along the lines of “Be safe!”, and more importantly, “Wow, you are very brave!”. And I totally agree – I am brave for traveling by myself for four months! However, bravery does come at a cost: I have anxiety, and it is absolutely present in my travels. To outsiders, I am very courageous and nonchalant about traveling alone, but inside is a completely different story. I am brave, but that bravery is fueled by my anxiety.
The anxiety is not always present. If it were, I would be at home in Reno right now typing on my computer in my own bed rather than from my hotel room in Interlaken. Rather, it only makes itself known in random times at random places. One night, I may be super excited to go have a glass of wine and nice dinner by myself. The next night, I may feel a slight tightness in my throat and quickening of my pace over sitting alone at a restaurant while everyone else is surrounded by friends and family. The worst is when I have to travel to a new city or country. Will I make it to the airport on time? Will I miss my train? What if my alarm doesn’t go off? What if I booked my ticket for the wrong day and I don’t realize it? Etc. etc. etc.
Traveling solo can be very intimidating, especially when you don’t see other solo travelers along the way. While I see all kinds of examples of people traveling alone online, I have yet to really meet others who are taking it solo as well. And that’s fine! Just because others aren’t traveling alone doesn’t mean I can’t meet new people and have a fabulous time. I am the type of person who likes doing things by herself. However, it can get lonely, and it can be difficult to meet other people when many are on vacation with a group of friends. Traveling solo can be very intimidating, but I find that the more I do it, the easier it gets, and the more I enjoy it! And since I’ve been taking it on for a couple weeks now, I wanted to share a few tips on dealing with anxiety while traveling alone that I’ve learned along the way:
1. Plan, plan, and then plan some more.
One of the best ways I’ve been able to conquer my anxiety is to plan out my days in advance. To start, I book my airbnb at least a couple of weeks in advance (but I would recommend a month or two or the good ones get taken). Then, I book my plane ticket if I need one. For trains, I book them a couple of days in advance or the night before. Then I determine how I will get from the train station to my airbnb. I make sure that I have contact with the host and that I know where I am going. After that, I figure out what general things I want to do in each city. I wouldn’t recommend doing this months or weeks in advance, but I like to end my night by determining what I will do the next day*. Normally it goes something along the lines of: coffee/breakfast, walking around the city taking pictures, lunch, visiting a museum, shopping, break at the hotel to freshen up, dinner and wine, and a slow stroll back to my airbnb where I do yoga and watch a movie before bed. Of course, this changes depending on what I’m doing for the day, but you get the gist.
Plus! I’ve noticed the more I travel, the less I feel like I need to plan. I’ve found amazing things serendipitously by not over-planning! Also, there’s just some things that don’t need to be scheduled to the T (see no. 7), but this is a good thing to do in the beginning if you’re really nervous.
*Tips: Most of the time, I plan my day the night before or as I go throughout my day. However, for certain attractions, like the Vatican and Colosseum, I like to buy in advance or you will wait hours in line. It also can be cheaper to book online, especially for tours! Sometimes, it’s more expensive (some websites charge online fees), but I’d much rather pay 4 euro than wait in line for 3 hours!
2. Apps are your friend.
I have found a TON of helpful apps while exploring through Europe. First, I loooove maps.me! The night before I leave for a new country or city, I download the map for that area, and then I can access directions without using wifi or data! However, make sure to download the map in advance using wifi, and have your addresses available on your phone or journal.
I also have really been loving Google Translate. Again, download in advance, but you can then use it to translate without wifi while you are at a restaurant or looking for directions. (Very helpful when you can’t read the menu or street signs)!
Along the way, I’ve also downloaded Whatsapp to contact local tour guides, and occasionally I’ll download an app for an airline or train company which I delete and re-download as necessary.
3. Have a routine.
Ok, so don’t plan out every single thing you’ll do every single day, because it’s very unrealistic. Also, that would get very boring, and traveling is all about experience! But I do like to start my day with coffee and end it by journaling – I think that writing in a journal is soooo important while traveling, especially if you’re at it alone! Having something that I know I will do every day, such as writing in my journal, helps keep me calm and on track.
If you don’t want to journal (but pls do), then you could do yoga, watch the same TV show every night, start your morning with the same breakfast, etc. Whatever it may be, having something to ground you can be very important.
4. Do things that remind you of home.
One of my favorite things to do at home is get coffee by myself and people watch. And Europe is a great place to people watch. Every day (or most days), I like to go to a cafe, order a cappuccino, and watch the locals and tourists interact with each other. I also like to carry some stuff that reminds me of home – a necklace my dad gave me, one of my favorite scarves, a picture of Reno, etc. When I’m feeling homesick, these things help me feel a little better.
Also, a phone call to your mom does wonders.
5. Leave money to do something for YOU.
As a new college graduate, I understand that money does not fall from the sky. I definitely save when I can. However, if you’re having a really stressful day, something isn’t going right, or you’re just so homesick you can’t stand it, having an extra $50 to do something special can really set your trip back on track. I had one stressful day while I was here where I honestly thought I’d miss my plane from Lyon to Rome (the trains were running late), I couldn’t find my airbnb, my luggage was falling apart, I thought I would miss my tour of the Colosseum, I couldn’t find a place to print my tickets because it was Sunday, I watched a lady faint and have to have CPR done, and just stress after stress after stress. Once I got settled into my airbnb, took my tour of the Colosseum, and had some time to breathe, I enjoyed a nice (more expensive) dinner, and everything was okay. I even got to see the Spanish Steps! I wouldn’t use your extra stash any time something happens, but if it gets really bad, letting yourself get a massage or drink a nice bottle of wine will help you enjoy even the bad times.
6. Remind yourself why you’re traveling.
Any time I think it’s too much, I think to myself, “Will you regret it if you stay or if you give up and go home?” Obviously, I’d regret it more if I went home! So, I’m staying. I’d rather have a panic attack on the beach in Greece than at home in Reno. I’ve been having an amazing time, and I don’t want to give that up over a few minor setbacks!
PLUS, I’ve noticed that I get more stress BEFORE something happens rather than while it’s happening. Once I’m doing something, I realize it’s not that bad! For example, I thought I was going to lose my mind over getting on planes, trains, and automobiles every few days, but it’s actually very simple as long as I plan everything out.
7. Go with the flow.
I feel a little hypocritical saying that, because I am SO NOT a go-with-the-flow type of a lady. However, in places where I don’t have a museum tour scheduled or anything planned, I like to just take things as they come. I still look up restaurants and things to do, but mostly I like wandering around the city, stopping in stores when I want to, finding a restaurant or bar where the locals hang, and ending up somewhere amazing by accident. Even though my brain wants me to know what’s going to happen all the time, letting go and just enjoying always ends up being so much more fun.
8. Learn how to be alone.
Again, I’m pretty good at doing things on my own, but sometimes it can feel isolating. At times, going to a restaurant by myself seems overwhelming, and I just want to do takeout instead. However, I always force myself to go out and explore the city and cultures. Plus, I always have way more fun once I get myself out in the world! If you get worried about being alone at restaurants, bars, or cafes, I recommend bringing a journal, book, or something else to do if you need the distraction. If you’re brave, strike up a conversation with the table next to you (I’ve met very nice people this way!). If you’re walking throughout the city, take in your surroundings and notice things you wouldn’t if you were traveling with other people. Enjoy the experience of going to a museum or concert alone. Just ask another traveler to take your picture. Traveling solo is so rewarding, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
However, if doing things alone really freaks you out, go to a quiet restaurant with not very many people or visit a small park and take a walk. Then work your way up. You can also practice at home before you go – I learned how to be alone at bars by going out by myself for a drink on the weekends!
Overall, traveling can be very stressful, but I’m so glad I’m doing it. The best thing you can do is trust your gut, and push your boundaries a little (or a lot if you’re comfortable!). Always remember that if you’re having a bad time, you can go home, and you didn’t fail – it just wasn’t for you. However, once you start traveling, I think you’ll find that your worries will disappear. My anxiety has even decreased since I’ve been here, and I’m sososo excited for the rest of my trip! I hope these tips are somewhat useful. Pics of my beautiful travels coming soon!
XO Sara Lynn
*Song of the Day: Your Hand Holding Mine by Yellow Days