Spending a month or two in Europe alone?
June 12, 2007 8:15 PM   Subscribe

Would it be worth while for me to spend a month or two traveling around Europe alone? More inside.

I just turned 22 in April, I'm [recently] single and not working. I've always wanted to travel through Europe. Would it be worth it to do it alone? I'm thinking of spending a month maybe two traveling all over.
I'm thinking something between back packing and full on tourist, maybe staying in smaller hotels or the like.
I have a fair bit of money to use, but I'd rather keep the total cost around $10K (US) at most $15K.
Is what I'm thinking doable and worth it being alone?
posted by blackout to Travel & Transportation (33 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Sure. Check out this book and watch this movie. There's a ton of people who do what you're talking about.
posted by nitsuj at 8:19 PM on June 12, 2007

Traveling alone is the best thing to do when you're 22. I traveled through Asia alone when I was 23 and it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life.

It is such an empowering feeling to wake up every morning and know you can do pretty much what you want. Want to spend all day ina cafe, reading and drinking coffee? Fine. Want to go off with new friends to a place you've never heard of? Great! At its best, traveling alone can make you feel like anything is possible.

Also, you'll never really be alone if you don't want to be. There are always plenty of other travelers to meet up and travel with.

Do it!
posted by lunasol at 8:23 PM on June 12, 2007

Also: seconding the "Vagabonding" recommendation.
posted by lunasol at 8:24 PM on June 12, 2007

Totally. Do it.

Or come and work my shitty office job while I do it.

One of those.
posted by pompomtom at 8:25 PM on June 12, 2007 [2 favorites]

I did it for a year when I was 18, and just recently returned from three months of Asia (now at 22). Please do it. It's amazing. You'll find out things you never knew about yourself, capabilities you never knew you had. You'll meet people and have spontaneous adventures and love it. You'll also probably have lonely times, troubled times, some hard times, but they're fine too. When you get past them (and you will) they'll make the good times even better. You'll never regret it.
posted by twirlypen at 8:29 PM on June 12, 2007

You can definitely do that. I just got back from 10 days by myself in London and Paris and, staying in decent places, it only cost about $2,500 USD. I had a great fucking time. Keep in mind that other places in Europe can be much cheaper too (though YMMV in the summer).

Doing it alone is a bit hairy for some folks. It can get a bit lonely at times, but it's also a bit liberating to be by yourself and not subject to the whims of others. That being said, if you're a very social type who is prone to getting lonely, you could always shorten to 2 or 3 weeks. But a month should be fine, and you can always cut the trip short if you start getting weirded out.

So yeah, you should totally do it! And for cripes sake, be sure to pick up Rick Steves' Europe Through the Back Door. That man is a European travel God, f'reals.
posted by dhammond at 8:30 PM on June 12, 2007


You are never alone on the road. Unless you WANT to be.
posted by gergtreble at 8:30 PM on June 12, 2007

Best answer: Yes, do it. Pack as little as possible, and then throw out half of that. You'll probably meet more people if you stay at hostels instead of hotels, but you'll run into Engliish speakers everywhere so if you're good at meeting people it might not matter.
posted by stopgap at 8:43 PM on June 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Are you kidding?

Worth while?

Go now!
posted by Miko at 8:51 PM on June 12, 2007

Best answer: I've done two month-long trips by myself to foreign countries. Once to London and once to Tokyo. The first one, while amazing, I was ill-prepared for. I didn't know myself well enough, and just brought a backpack with limited clothes, and expected myself to trapeze all over Europe. Instead, I just was tired, and lonely, and spent it all in a little hostel and Internet cafe.

The second time though, I was prepared. I just found a really good central place for a good monthly fee, with great internet access, and I was fine. I also knew my cousin was there, and I'd spend a few nights on the weekend with him.

So the lessons I learned for myself:
- I'm not a backpacker, so find a good shared room
- I can't preoccupy myself just wandering around, so get a laptop and secure good Internet access
- I need at least some light contact with people I know already as it's hard for me to meet strangers. So stay where you can get a roommate or figure out some sort of answer to the social question.

This is all lessons I learned for myself, but if I could've somehow imagined all of this before my first trip, I'd have been way better off.

Of the people I know who've done these kind of sojourns, half were happy, half were miserable.
posted by philosophistry at 8:53 PM on June 12, 2007

Do it!

I did when I was 21 and it was a great experience. It gets harder to find the time to do this sort of thing when you get older. Take advantage of this time in your life now. Travel light and have a great time!
posted by dog food sugar at 8:54 PM on June 12, 2007

DO IT! You'll meet amazing people and see amazing things! It will be the best thing you could do. Have a fantastic time. And go to Interlaken, Ljubljana, and Korcula!
posted by enaira at 8:55 PM on June 12, 2007

I personally prefer travelling on my own; I get to choose what I do, and meet people (most of the time). YMMV, but I'd do it if I were you.

Echoing Stopgap, I'd suggest staying in hostels as a way of meeting people to hang out with. if you value your privacy and have the cash, you can always get a single room in the hostel, rather than sharing a dorm.
posted by Infinite Jest at 9:00 PM on June 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My suggestions:

1) Become a member (it's free) of Lonely Planet's "The Thorn Tree" forum. It's got a lot of bumming-around-Europe-alone style advice, and I know people who've dropped a message in the appropriate forum a few days before arriving in a city and hooked up with like-minded people for a drink or some sight-seeing. If you get a little lonely, this can be a lifesaver. It's at:

2) My advice - avoid Western Europe. It costs more, people are a little less willing to help, and it's shorter on certain kinds of adventure that you might enjoy. Throughout Eastern Europe - especially outside big cities, people are warmer, it's cheaper and you're more likely encounter people willing to do something "different." I am a big fan of Hungary and Romania. I'm going to spend three months studying the languages of those countries, but quite a lot of the time will be spent on trains - I've always met great people doing this, especially on the longer trips and a lot of them are looking to do some spur-of-the-moment stuff. This summer I will definitely be expanding my adventures with more time in less obvious places like eastern Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine, Macedonia, Albania.

3) As everyone says, pack lightly. You can do without a laptop - there are now cheap internet cafes even in remote parts of the poorer countries. But I'm bringing one this time just so I can do more late-night blogging in bed!

4) Please go see my lovely home city, Sarajevo.

5) By the way, I spent about $6000 last summer, spending about 80 days. For a lot of this I had a shared flat in Budapest, which saved me lots of money. This summer I'll be more transient. But if you keep to cheaper countries, you should be able to do two months for well under $10K, unless you're just going berserk.

Have fun!
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 9:50 PM on June 12, 2007

Definitely nthing DO IT! I've visited London (moved there for 6 months), Dublin and Paris and wouldn't trade the experiences in for anything. I met loads of great people, many of whom I'm still in contact with today.

I did a lot of research on the places I was visiting which helped with avoiding the aimless feeling I tend to get when I spontaneously wander. I can only vouch for the above countries, but taking a small notebook into a pub seemed to be an icebreaker in many instances where I didn't want to be just sitting by myself feeling slightly self-conscious. People always struck up conversations and by the end of the night, numbers were exchanged and the insta-friends turned into valuable tour guides. YMMV.

But do it. The freedom of planning your own course is really exhilarating and the experience is priceless. I truly adore travelling solo (and I'm WAY shy).
posted by zombiebunny at 9:56 PM on June 12, 2007

Short answer: yes.

Long answer: travel less, see more. Take advantage of the Eurail pass, limit yourself to a handful of countries, and remember that there will be lots of people your age (or more likely younger) doing the same thing.
posted by holgate at 10:17 PM on June 12, 2007 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm a 24-year-old American guy and I've been to Europe a few times. Not claiming old-salt status or something, but yeah, we're pretty close demographically for whatever that's worth.

Short version: doitdoitdoit!

Longer version:

- Western Europe is great, but I thought Eastern Europe was fabulous when I was there. Like, crazy-wonderful fabulous. You should go to both regions, if you can, but to save some money and keep your sanity, consider going in the winter - things are quieter, less crowded, and I found local people to be more convivial. Aside: I have never been so happy as I was wandering through the streets of Krakow in a blizzard in early December, sipping something very alcoholic and strolling through the Christmas market with some people I'd met who were doing a course there with me. I'm from LA, where blizzards are as rare as days without traffic, so it was truly magical. Your profile says you're in Arizona, so consider that.
- Don't stress about not seeing it all on one trip.
- Internet cafes are almost everywhere in cities (post offices, train stations, etc); it's easy enough to just book most things like train tickets online, save copies as PDFs on a USB flash drive, and print when you can.
- Two months for $10/15k is really a nice amount of time/money - it's totally possible to go from, say, London to Marrakech to Istanbul to Stockholm or something, all via trains and ferries. A great website for checking out train options is the non-commercial "Man in Seat 61".
- Check out previous AskMe posts tagged with "europe" here.
posted by mdonley at 10:32 PM on June 12, 2007

I did the reverse - two months backpacking across America, but I imagine the general sentiment is the same.

Do it - but watch out for loneliness, the meh factor (when you're just tired and want to flake out and retreat) - oh and for crime. And make a journal - and DON'T LOSE IT. If I'd not lost my journal I imagine I'd have much better memories of the whole thing.

But it's definitely worth doing. It's only two months out of your life - and now's the time to do it.

But don't always hang around hostel folks - get out, try to meet some friendly locals and greet them with at least a word in their own language. Always helps. And don't do any flag waving.
posted by electriccynic at 1:09 AM on June 13, 2007

Best answer: It's as simple as this. DO things like this before you get into a situation where you can't do it (tied to a business you own, family commitments, unwilling partner, etc), otherwise you'll think "what if?" (like me ;-)).
posted by wackybrit at 2:52 AM on June 13, 2007

Listen to the wackybrit. As a 31yr old male, I almost daily wish I could just get rid of everything I have and do exactly what you are contemplating. And if you notice, not one person said to not do it. If you are ever get to a point where you need to come home right away, you can. There are plenty of services like this one that are designed to make your travel experience safe and doable.
posted by wile e at 3:55 AM on June 13, 2007

Spending a couple of months traveling around Europe is a pleasant pass time, for a young person. It's one of the more civilized areas of the world, and as such, the risks aren't great, and there are many scenic overlooks. Lots of Kodak moments. History tied up neatly in ribbons and bows. English spoken nearly everywhere. Potable water and toilets are nearly universal, except for rural Albania. Even the parts off the beaten path are pretty regularly mown. Really, you can't go far wrong with a Eurorail pass.

If it turns out such travels are self-revelatory, to boot, count yourself lucky not to have attempted anything more challenging.
posted by paulsc at 4:44 AM on June 13, 2007

Ok, I'll be the wet voice of prudence. Do it, but hold back at least four thousand and fund the IRA. Your retirement will thank you.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:37 AM on June 13, 2007

Couchsurfing.com might help you find places to stay and meet some friendly locals along the way.
posted by signal at 6:39 AM on June 13, 2007

IndigoJones is right; it'll be nice to take a sweet vacation AND have a little nest egg when you come back - so few of us young whippersnappers do! IRA or not, you could do worse than sticking it in an online high-interest savings account.
posted by mdonley at 6:51 AM on June 13, 2007

Best answer: At 22, I did 90 days in Europe for $3k or thereabouts. Definitely sock away some of that money for when you get back. You'll be depressed and anxious enough when you get back thinking about your future and what you're going to do with the rest of your life without being broke to boot.

Ireland and England were great but expensive and you'll definitely have to go the backpacking route if you don't want to end up spending a fortune. The barracks-like hostels in Dublin and London were the most depressing part of the trip. I had a much better time in small towns like Dunfanahy in Donegal and Derry in the North.

France was fun, too, but I didn't even have a basic grounding in the lingo so it was very difficult to communicate. Most people have some English but are definitely annoyed when you don't even attempt speak the language, and rightly so.

I did have a little Spanish, however, and Spain was fantastic, a truly eye-opening experience for me. I suggest if you have studied a European language then go to a country where they speak it and practice. It's much more satisfying when you can properly speak with people even at the most basic level of ordering a meal or booking a room.
posted by otio at 7:27 AM on June 13, 2007

YES YES A MILLION TIMES YES. Went to Europe alone for 40 days when I was 24, never having traveled. It was the best thing I have ever done for myself.

Read this book to get your mind into it and prepare yourself. And trust me, you won't have to be alone unless you want to be. Especially at your age you will find many peers wandering around that you can meet and travel with. Especially in Europe. I still talk to people I met in youth hostels almost 20 years ago.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:24 AM on June 13, 2007

It's definitely doable.

The advantages of traveling on your own are that you get to go where ever you want, and you will be forced to talk to local people and maybe make some friends.

The advantages to traveling with another person are having someone to consult with and for company, and also hotel rates often favour pairs. For example, a single room might be 80 euros, and a double 100 euros. This isn't as much of a concern if you stay in hostels.
posted by teg at 8:37 AM on June 13, 2007

I certainly agree with IndigoJones. You don't need to spend as much as you're planning. Put a little aside. But yeah.. I remember what it's like being in your early twenties and thinking.. "Should I travel?" I convinced myself not to (at least, not as much as I wanted) to instead focus on my business/work.. and now things are going great, but I can't get the time away! Just a few months out of my schedule in my early 20s wouldn't have hurt at all, and I wouldn't regret it now.
posted by wackybrit at 9:38 AM on June 13, 2007

Response by poster: IndigoJones, mdonley, wackybrit: The $15K I'm willing to spend is less then 10% of my available funds, so I'm not worried at all about using it all. I just figured that $10-15K would make a nice four to eight weeks over seas.
For what it's worth to you all, I'm totally gonna do it. I need to get my papers in order and get my passport. With the fast service I hope that shouldn't take more then a month (yes I know the service is slow right now, because of the new rules), and I'll leave as soon as I get my passport.
posted by blackout at 10:23 AM on June 13, 2007

go go go - it's so awesome to travel solo - you end up meeting more people and you're more independent.

speaking of meeting people - i like to stay in hostels (in smaller dorms and private rooms as i get older) rather than hotels because it's a more communal arrangement - you can hang out with people in the common area and you tend to share at least one interest - travel
posted by yggdrasil at 10:45 AM on June 13, 2007

Do it ^n. Travel broadens the mind etc. Budget is reasonable providing you dont have a taste for high class WWSF (wine, women*, song or food).

* Replace women with gender/creature/object of your sexual desire.
posted by lalochezia at 11:13 AM on June 13, 2007

Best answer: People have covered the main points, so I will just add:

You won't be able to see everything. Have a loose framework and then be prepared to go where the road takes you. I find that I hook up with interesting people and change my plans to stay with that group for a little while more than I anticipated. I like being alone, but being with people makes me more likely to do things I wouldn't otherwise do... and I've learned to go for it when good travel companions present themselves.

You need to stay in hostels. A lot of people in hostels are on their own, and they are really open to sharing their tips about places to go or hook up for a few days of traveling together. You could eat breakfast next to someone at a nice hotel and exchange pleasantries, but if you asked them to go see such-and-such monestary with you, they'd be taken aback. But in a hostel, if you spend 10 min in a common room someone will probably invite you to go someplace.

There are internet cafes almost everywhere, and they are cheap. Have a gmail account and a usb drive and you are in business.

If you live in a city with a passport office, or don't mind driving a bit... [see some of America before you see Europe] you can get your passport in one day with proof of travel within the next two weeks. You could leave sooner [or leave in a month even if your passport doesn't make it to you.] You could call and get an appointment FIRST and then book your ticket. Not really the way the system is supposed to work, but if you just want to go now, that's the way to do it.
posted by Mozzie at 11:24 AM on June 13, 2007

I travelled around yourope this summer for 2 months, and THE BEST PART of the trip was that I went by MYSELF!

I also recommend Couchsurfing.com (somebody mentioned it previously) I became friends with my hosts and now they are coming for a visit here.

I recommend a positive adventurous attitude, Couchsurfing and staying at Hostels :)

Have fun!
posted by Allclear123 at 12:57 PM on October 14, 2007

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