We’ve all heard it, “there is safety in numbers.” Well what happens when you find yourself in a brand new city, where no one speaks your language, and it’s obvious you don’t belong? This has been the story of my journey thus far in Europe (although, I will say there have been many times people come up to me asking for directions – I guess I look like a native every once in a while).
When I first told my parents my plans, they looked at me like I was crazy. They were concerned about my safety and the logistics of everything, rightfully so. The first step I took in calming their anxiety about their only daughter traveling alone was to research. I looked up neighborhoods to stay away from and neighborhoods to sleep in. I then looked up where the main tourist attractions were so that I could have a general idea of how I would get there from my bnbs without going through a sketch area. I did this for every city I planned on visiting and jotted it down in the “European Excursion” gdoc I created.
Which speaking of, I gave access to my gdoc to both of my parents and my close friends so they would know my general whereabouts for each day. I included a daily calendar – which although each day wasn’t planned out, they at least knew what city I was would be and all of my bnb & flight information.
The last and what I think is the most important thing, was I paid extra money to have unlimited data abroad. This way, my parents could text or call me at any time of the day to make sure I was okay and vice versa. Another key element is that I shared my location with them (and a few of my friends) – this gave them the ability to stalk my every step if they so wanted to. While I don’t think the data is absolutely necessary – there are a ton of cities that have free WiFi all over, it gave that extra sense of security that in case something happened or I got lost, I had that to fall back on.
During my travels though, I’ve just done the best I can to fit in. I wear clothes similar to the locals, pick up on their mannerisms, and try not to draw too much attention to myself. I don’t have a giant camera swinging around my neck, I try not to look at my phone too much as if I’m lost and only ask questions when absolutely necessary.
Another big thing is I don’t go out at night. I try to have an early start (anywhere from 9am – 11am, Europe wakes up late!) and am out exploring until the sun is about to set. Then I make my way home and Netflix + chill. Some people may see it as being over-cautious but in the grand scheme of things, I’m not here to party – I’m trying to soak up the history and culture so I’m fine with the schedule I’ve taken on, especially if it helps keep me more safe. And yes, this also means I’m the one you see drinking before noon on a Tuesday (or every day for that matter).
Overall, it’s a little scary at first, then a little lonely but eventually you hit this point where you just feel free. You can lay in bed as long as you like in the morning. You can wander wherever your heart desires and go into or avoid as many stores as you want. Your lunch could be 4 hours long where you just people watch or it can be on the go as you rush from place to place. Whatever you want, your trip can be. Just be aware of your surroundings, have a full zip purse that you never let out of your sight (with your passport!) and enjoy what life throws at you and you’ll be good to go! Also, don’t be scared to ask a random tourist to take your picture or set up the self-timer because that’s the only way you’ll ever end up in one without it being a selfie that you can barely see anything in except your face 😉