My First Solo Trip — Paris
In this post, I wanted to talk about my decision to travel alone to Paris. If you want to read about my experience and get a few tips on solo travel, keep reading. If you want to read my travel log of what I did for each day in Paris, read here. If you need Paris recommendations, read here.
Decision to Go Alone
In October, I traveled to Paris alone. Yes, alone. Traveling alone is definitely a difficult decision to make. Being Asian & American & female, I was definitely nervous about my safety going around Europe alone. A part of me wanted someone else to tag along but everyone else had different schedules. Some people from the program I was participating in already went to Paris or they were traveling to other countries. Despite this fear, I knew that not having someone else to travel with should not stop me from visiting Paris.
There were more reasons to go than not to go. The only reason not to go was fear. One reason to go was that I have always dreamed of Paris ever since I took French classes in high school. Learning about the museums, desserts, and language in high school in addition to studying abroad in France, I wanted it to come full circle by seeing Paris with my own eyes.
Another reason I decided to go was that I couldn’t waste any more weekends. I had less than 10 weeks left in Europe and as I was studying in France, I had to visit Paris. How could I go back to the U.S. saying I studied in France but never visited Paris? So, I bought my train tickets to Paris last minute on Monday night and left for Paris Wednesday night!
Scared About Solo Travel Too? Check out Solo Youtubers and Bloggers
A really important resource that helped with me deciding to go alone was watching female Youtubers (Hey Nadine, Kristen Smith, Raya Was Here) who have also traveled alone. I watched a bunch of videos with their tips. They kept reinforcing others that not having anyone else to travel with to should not stop them from visiting places. Just book the ticket and go.
You’re in Charge of the Itinerary
These Youtubers expressed that sometimes traveling alone is better because only you are in charge of the itinerary. You don’t have to wait for others or not go somewhere because someone is too tired to keep going.
I can confirm that this is true. In Paris, I was in charge of the day. I filled up every day, early morning to late night, and if someone came along, they would not be able to keep up. haha.
You’ll Gain A Liberating Feeling Like No Other
Nadine, Kristen, and Raya also said that they had a liberating feeling by traveling alone. When I was on the train from Bordeaux to Paris, I wrote in my journal that I was still terrified out my mind. I had so many details written down to prepare myself for the trip and still felt scared. I hoped by the end of the trip that I would have the same liberating feeling the Youtubers talked about and be more confident on my next solo trip.
After the trip, I definitely felt very independent in a way like no other. I think traveling alone is a challenge everyone should accomplish because yes, you do learn a lot about yourself.
In conclusion, their advice was exactly what I needed to just say okay let’s go. The videos that I watched with their useful information are here below :) If you are nervous about solo travel, check their videos!
Times I Loved Being Alone
In addition to being in charge of the itinerary and gaining a sense of freedom, there were other times I loved being alone. Some perks I encountered was that…
You Get Seated Right Away At Busy Restaurants
One of the nights in Paris, I decided to eat at Sanukiya which is a popular udon shop close to the Louvre. I saw good reviews and really wanted to try. (definitely recommend! check here) When I arrived, there was already a line outside and of course the place cannot seat that many people. However, since I was alone, I got seated right away. I felt really ashamed when the waiter asked how many in french and I replied: “une” (one). He was surprised but welcomed me in. I did not feel awkward at all and all the waiters served me kindly. I did not even ask for water but the waiter gave me tap water which was very kind because the place was busy.
People are Nicer to You
I do believe that people are nicer to you when you travel alone. Whenever I asked for directions, people were very helpful and respectful. I think my encounters would not have been friendly if I was traveling with others because they would have automatically labelled us as tourists and would not be helpful. To compare, when I was with my sister at a train station trying to order a sandwich from Brioche Dorée, the man gave us an attitude even though I ordered in French, repeated myself, and pointed. He did not understand what I was trying to order and was putting his frustration out on us.
Times I Did Not Like Being Alone
Of course there were times where I realized the value of having someone else to travel with.
Taking Pictures is a Challenge
I felt weird about asking for pictures so I took selfies which I hate. However, you can find others who are also alone, ask you to take pictures for them, and then they take pictures of you in return. At the Arc de Triomphe, a woman asked me to take a picture of her. It is a very busy street and there was a big truck that would have been in the photo so I waited for the truck to move. The men inside the truck laughed at us because they knew why we were waiting. I took pictures for her and she also took pictures for me in return.
Going Out At Night
For the last night, I really wanted to be near the Eiffel Tower all lit up. However, I was nervous because (1) it was late, (2) I was alone and (3) it was a touristy area. But, I got onto the bus from the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower with other tourists going there. Once I was there, I did not feel threatened at all. There were just people trying to take pictures. There was also a metro across the street at Trocadero Garden straight to back to my hostel so I was fine. It worked out in the end, but if someone else was with me, I would not have hesitated to go.
Having to Quadruple Check Yourself
Something I learned about traveling alone is that you need to confirm with yourself multiple times all the little details. How long it takes to get from A to B, what time your flight/train is, etc. When you are with someone else, you can keep each other in check. You can remind each other and you do not need to know all the details. However when you are alone, you need to know all the details and be sure of them.
No One To Recollect the Day With
When you travel with others, at the end of the day, you can reminisce and say “Wow, can you believe we did this and that?” However, when you are alone, you have no one to converse with. I didn’t realize how precious this type of conversation was.
Advice for Future Solo Travelers
Save Everything on Google Maps
Saving everything on Google Maps is a convenient way to visually locate and direct yourself to all the places you want to visit. Before, I never really saved locations on Google Maps but when you are out traveling, having saved locations on Google Maps was really efficient than trying to research the exact address again.
Keep in Contact with Someone the Whole Duration of the Trip
This one is mostly for safety. You don’t have to text them every single time you go to a new location but just to update your status of where you are and that you are safe.
Take the Uber/Taxi
If you are unsure about transportation, just take the Uber or taxi. Yes, it is expensive but sometimes it is a safer option than trying to use transportation. This is the case if you really cannot figure out the transportation, it is too late/early to use the transportation systems, or you feel unsafe.
Be Flexible With Your Itinerary
Have more options than you really need so you can see more and accomplish more on your list. However, also be flexible to adjust your itinerary. I thought I was going to knock out Monet’s Garden and Versailles in one day. However, this was not possible as I was so tired after Monet’s Garden. I adjusted my schedule by going to museums when I got back to Paris and visited Versailles the following day.
I am so glad I can say that I have traveled alone. It was a difficult decision but after it all, I am really thankful for the experience.
If you are traveling alone for the first time, I am excited for you! It is a different experience and you do learn more about yourself. If you have any questions, feel free to message me. Thank you for reading!