Many of us want to travel but there might be a few things that stand in the way. One of the main reasons is struggling to find someone who will want to explore the same places as you, have the money to do so or being able to go at the time that suits both of you. This is where the idea of solo travel comes in, some of us find it frightening and unappealing but there are more and more people out there that take it into consideration, if you’re like I was a few months ago – the very idea might scare you a little bit. This is the reason why I decided to write this post and tell you about:
My First Solo Travel Experience – Brussels
After travelling quite a bit already but always with someone, my wanderlust has kicked in – and it kicked in good. I knew travelling is something that I love and my priority when it comes to saving money. Click here to find out my ways of saving.
Last year my friend and I decided to head to Croatia for our favourite festival, we wanted to do it as cheap as possible (I was saving money for my next travels and she was still at uni) and decided to take buses, trains or whatever will get us there. Because we would be going through so many countries on the way – it seemed a shame to not explore them. Unfortunately when it got closer to the time, things popped up for my mate which resulted in her only having two days to get to the festival. This devastated me, already having planned a few places to see including one of the main bucket list locations – the Cinque Terre, I knew I had to do this no matter what.
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So I booked a ticket to Brussels, 12 days before the festival starts and I would go solo.
Will I meet people?
Will there be other solo travellers / GIRLS?
Will making friends be easy?
I’m not very good at small chats..
Will it be lonely?
The questions were never-ending but I was unbelievably excited. I wanted to experience and learn from it.
Next step was booking a hostel
I decided not to plan my trip and go with the flow, so I only booked one night. The hostel I went for was: Brussels Hostel Grand Place.
The closer to the trip, my excitement was increasing drastically and to my surprise the fear wasn’t getting any bigger. The only thing I seemed to concentrate on was getting the right backpack. First, I ordered a 55+15 litre, I filled it up, looked in the mirror and saw how absolutely ridiculous I look. It was like looking at a human tortoise. After deciding that there’s no way I will be able to carry that on my back around Europe, as it was a struggle just to stand up, I sent it back.
I then decided to go down in size, drastically. I found one that seemed perfect-a women’s 38 litre backpack. After going in to Cotswold (an outdoor store), trying it on to make sure the fit is right and I went ahead with the purchase. I knew that the bigger the backpack – the more unnecessary things will end up in it.
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And I’m not even a fan of pink.. :p
The day finally came and I woke up 6 hours before the departure completely unprepared, not packed and with a hangover from hell after my leaving party the previous day (I quit my job). I couldn’t get out of bed and felt like throwing up the whole time – how will I possibly sit on a coach for 8 hours? I couldn’t believe I let myself feel like this. After sitting on my bed for hours not being able to move, my mum came to the rescue (two hours before my departure) with the ultimate polish hangover cure, aka – a shot of vodka with pepper. If this doesn’t help than I don’t know what will.
Feeling slightly better I quickly packed and it wasn’t until I sat on the coach when it hit me:
I am going on my own. And I don’t know anyone.
This was the first time when I felt a little scared but trying to concentrate on not throwing up has definitely helped me take my mind off it a little bit. Another good thing was that the journey was overnight so it was easier to sleep.
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Arriving in Brussels
I arrived at about 6am and when trying to decide which way to go, I started chatting to another girl who was also backpacking solo. I asked where is she heading to and it turned out her hostel was close to my one, so we walked together as my sense of directions is pretty much non-existent. She was Canadian and this was the last stop of her Eurotrip, I remember her backpack thinking to myself how happy I am that mine is half the size. We then said our goodbyes and wished each other good luck as we headed in opposite directions.
I found the hostel and there already were a few people waiting at the reception – all hoping that we can do the check-in earlier than what it says on the website.. Unfortunately the receptionist told us to come back at 2pm but we can leave our stuff in the luggage area. Still feeling quite unwell and annoyed with myself I was trying to decide what to do, that’s when the girl standing next to me asked if I have anything planned. We dropped our backpacks, grabbed a coffee (tea for me) and went exploring.
I was shocked, happy and excited to have already met someone within less than an hour of my time ‘alone’. Laura is an Australian who was living in Germany at a time au-pairing and visiting surrounding cities whenever she got a chance. We went to the main square, grabbed some food and tried to do the comic route (and failed at it) – you can check my Guide to Brussels here.
We then headed back to the hostel to grab our stuff, checked-in and finally got to our room. Even though I have researched it before booking – we were both nicely surprised how clean and new the whole place was. We loved it, it was small but very modern and unique.
We went out to explore a bit more and decided to do a pub crawl in the evening. After grabbing a bottle of wine to share, we went to the common area to have a cheeky drink before realising that we need a corkscrew.. as the hostel is in the very centre of the city with mostly gift shops around, the only one we could find was this..
Gotta love Brussels and it’s humour!
The pub crawl was great, even though not that many people turned up as it was raining. I still couldn’t drink properly and not being a fan of beer which btw is not what you want in Brussels – the barman managed to convince me to try a fruity flavoured one that tasted preeeetty amazing. We met a few other travellers and discovered new places including the Delirium Cafe (with over 3k beers – no joke, pictures at the end of this post) and some of the comic arts after failing completely in the morning.
I loved solo travel already.
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The next day we decided to grab a train into Brugge as it’s so close. This place is beautiful and makes you feel like you’re in a fairytale – I literally couldn’t believe my own eyes. This trip was becoming more incredible with every minute. We kept on exploring until all of a sudden the rain went absolutely crazy and within seconds we were completely drained – both in our flip-flops with no umbrella, which I actually convince Laura we won’t need.
We then headed back to Brussels, looking forward to explore more of the city. Laura booked two nights in the hostel and because her coach was at 1am, she said I can use her bed (how nice of her?). However, as I was deciding where my next destination will be – I finally set on Lyon and found a coach leaving for Paris (where I would hop on another coach) at exactly the same time so neither of us would have to wait at a bus station alone at night. Winnings!
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Brussels at night <3 Laura showing off her skills and me.. not so much
After we got back to Brussels, grabbed some food and another bottle of wine – we sat in the common area (which by the way looks like a very cool living room) and suddenly more and more people started joining in and we ended up chatting, drinking and laughing for some time. It was strange how comfortable it felt being with this group of people that have all just met in a hostel, located in a new city – it made me super excited for the upcoming adventures.
We decided to meet up in a bar later on which I cannot remember the name of but it had 1 euro drinks until 11pm if I remember correctly. All of a sudden a dancefloor appeared out of nowhere and the music became great and loud so before we knew it, our group had the time of our life.
It was the guys that had to remind us about our coach which was actually in 30mins, now I cannot even explain how much we wanted to stay – I loved it and wanted this experience to continue for longer, but we had to move on. After saying our goodbyes and exchanging facebook names, Laura and I grabbed a taxi and got to the coach station.
It was so strange saying goodbye, probably because I’ve only known her for 2 days which felt like much longer – during that short period of time we managed to exchange our life stories, talked about what we want to do in the future and how we can possibly meet up soon. I felt quite emotional and before we boarded our coaches we exchanged our numbers and promised we’ll try to keep in touch.
And we do till today 🙂
During those two days I already felt like I’ve learned so much about myself and not only. I realised that sometimes you just have to follow your dreams and not let others not being able to join in from stopping you. It is possible to meet new people and have fun.
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Tune in next week for more of my Solo Adventures – Lyon!
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Brussels really takes Manneken Pis very seriously.