While you’re perusing this site, I hear you say “but Justin, I’ve never done a solo weekend trip to Berlin, or Paris, or Copenhagen before. I don’t know what to expect. What if I get mugged, scammed or I lose my passport? Or I *insert other doomsayer scenario here*?!”
Well mate, that’s half the fun of it all. Not knowing what to expect. Throwing complete caution to the wind on a basic curiosity.
Not the mugging part though. That hasn’t happened to me yet, so she’ll be right. 😉
A Daunting Prospect
If you’ve never left your home country, it will scare the ba-jeesus out of you when you do. People will start spouting their native tongue at you and you’ll almost get run over by traffic coming from the other direction, many times. You won’t be able to read menus in restaurants. At first it’ll all feel like high-tailing it back to the airport for the first flight back home is the best option.
Fortunately, the good things you’ll come across far outweigh the initial culture shock that confronts you once you leave the airport. Here’s a few reasons why going solo for the weekend is a good plan:
Having to put yourself out there
You’ll need to ask for directions if you can’t find the hostel, or the bus stop, or you don’t know what time the bus leaves. There’s no room for being shy when it means you’re either sleeping in a comfortable bed or the waiting room of a train station.
The social aspect
This is one of the major benefits here, and one that I value greatly. It’s really as easy as walking into the common area of the hostel and saying “hey guys, sup? Who’s keen on a beer?”. Anything from a quiet beer with an Argentinian bloke to a heaving pub crawl all over town could kick off.
Not travelling with others or in a group grants you all kinds of liberties. You don’t need to worry about what other people want to do, so if you see a museum that piques the geeky side of you that none of your mates like, go in there and spend the next 3 hours checking out clocks. You can stop and eat wherever and whenever you want. Drink a million beers, it doesn’t matter.
Making it Easier
There are things you can do to ease the process. Some quick tips to arm yourself with the knowledge to use your time as wisely as possible. Here they are:
- Check out my 48 hour Guides for cities you’re headed to. Get a feel for what makes the city unique and highlight a shortlist of attractions. This fires up the excitement and gives you some immediate things to look forward to.
- Do learn a few phrases in the language of the country you’re going to. Locals love it and will really appreciate it if you make the effort. Unfortunately an exception to this is in Paris, where 9 times out of 10 you’ll be scorned for butchering their language, even though you’re trying your best.A great resource for this is the Speak Languages website, where they have a good grounding of French, German, Spanish, Italian and Russian.
- Even if you don’t learn a few words, the reality is that 99% of people will understand you when you speak English. Speak clearly and a bit slower than normal.
- McDonalds is only good for the free wifi. Don’t eat here, regardless of whether you think it might taste different to at home or that they have the “McItaly” or other regional derivative. It doesn’t taste different, so skip it.
- As soon as you exit customs, look for a bus, train or metro sign. These are the three most common (and cheapest) transport methods to the city.
Travelling solo for a quick weekender isn’t a common form of travel. It takes guts, inquisitiveness, determination and a good pair of shoes.
But the rewards are right there. Spending 2 days away from your Monday to Friday life in a completely different place. Immersing yourself in new food and new people, another country’s long and proud history and their own unique culture.
Discovering a new favourite beer, or meeting a guy from Canada in the hostel that loves Pulp Fiction as much as you do.
It’s all on your doorstep, go out and get amongst it.