Twilight crept in through the frayed, white curtains while I sat lonesome in the rustic, hole in the wall vegan restaurant. The lean, beaming waitress approached me and my electronic devices, serving up a Germanic special, Spinatbällchen mit Mandeln. Two English-speaking gentlemen, possibly American, boisterously chatted on about some entrepreneurial endeavor.
I ordered a second glass of wine. By then, a stern dad had walked in, followed by a serene mom and a cooing toddler. The chatter from the nuclear family and the gentlemen adjacent filled the small Berliner establishment with a pleasant ease. The loneliness escaped me. I observed as they fulfilled evening rituals, thoroughly engaged.
That evening in the hostel bar, I pulled up my itinerary in Google Sheets on my tablet and made a note of the restaurant’s ambiance and food– quaint, familial, and mouthwatering cuisine.
My itinerary was one of a few things that I hoped would guide me through my journeys– from every exhilarating inception to its glorious conclusion. Read on as I share tips on how to plan your solo travel and how to welcome the unknown.
Creating an Itinerary
I seldom referenced my itinerary prior to my arrival in Berlin but it was helpful to have access to my own day plans which detailed sites and establishments. It was a great way to keep me going when at a standstill. My presence at this vegan Berliner cafe was planned weeks in advance. One of many steps I had taken (and continue to take) to ensure seamless journeys. Off and on I played things by the ear, caught the spontaneity bug and trudged off beaten paths, but upon waking, it was always nice to consult the version of the day that I organized pre-departure.
I find it most useful to have a list of popular sites and vegetarian restaurants and cafes that I wanted to explore. It can be a harrowing task to find spots that cater to vegetarianism and a healthy diet on the fly. Because let’s be honest, whether you’re a carnivore, vegetarian, or pescatarian, you’re in a foreign country and it’s only fair that you experience the best that a country has to offer.
In addition to my Google Sheets itinerary, I downloaded Google Trips in the app store. Google Trips is a travel planner that lets you organize information such as nearby attractions, customizable day plans, and travel reservations and hotel accommodations that are synced from your Gmail in one, easily accessible app– and the best part? Your itinerary can be downloaded offline.
Explore The Ultimate Travel’s Guide
The Diverse World of Travel Bloggers
Discovering other solo travelers and reading about their own experiences also fueled the excitement and wanderlust– think of it as the hors-d’oeuvres preceding an exotic feast. I read entries from women I’ve never met, on continents that I have yet to explore, from cultures that I hadn’t thought much about.
I uncovered recommendations on travel equipment, breathtaking sites and delectable restaurants and dessert shops, as well as fun tidbits on what to expect on each and every corner. These are all a part of the discovery. Every traveler’s experience is a unique one and keeping this in mind allows for a world of opportunity.
Anticipate Wonderful Connections
With this journey, you can either embrace it or miss out on an even grander adventure. Opt for a hostel and you will meet other backpackers from all over the world during your stay and you will learn so much from them.
I met a young Alaskan woman at a hostel while in Prague. This hostel was to be her home for 3-months while she underwent a costly eye procedure. It was New Year’s Eve and we both had gotten all dolled up for a night at the hostel bar. We were promised free beer and live music followed by a viewing of Prague’s New Year’s fireworks display on the hostel’s rooftop. It was more than promised! We chatted over a cold one while the hostel’s guest pianist serenaded us to Frank Sinatra. She claimed the travel, hostel accommodations, and surgery were, in sum, astonishingly cheaper than if she had had the procedure in Alaska.
In every city that I traversed, I met millennials like myself who left their home countries to explore another or countless others who transplanted and never looked back. I met a young exuberant Venezuelan woman in Budapest, discovering her independence for the very first time; A student in Milan shared with me his anxieties associated with his post-graduation return to Mumbai; and in Berlin, a Brazilian woman who sat with me shared her desire to go solo like I had done instead of with her bossy coworkers.
And here I was, a 20 something-year-old St. Lucian experiencing similar angst. Relating to all those that I had met throughout this solo journey seemed effortless. I nearly forgot that I was traveling alone in a foreign country, now sharing a drink with a total stranger in a Berlin hostel bar. The sheer connection made me feel right at home.