As a black girl travelling alone is not the mainstream norm, and travelling by rail, while staying in hostels is even much less so. But every time I step out of the norm and do something new, I learn so much more than I can possibly imagine, sometimes about myself and most times about the world. So while Inter-railing I learnt to;
1. Talk to and make friends with complete strangers
This is the thing right, if you’re travelling by yourself for anything more than a day you’ll need some form of human interaction. Simple. So get talking! When it comes to choosing who you talk to, you need to be careful don’t talk to the person who’s rushing off to do something cause you’ll just annoy them, don’t talk to the person trying to fall asleep (you don’t know how much sleep they’ve got in the past hour) or the person who immediately gives off bad vibes (you have to get used to your intuitions). Just smile, smiling at people makes you seem much more welcoming to the other person, which can stir up an interesting conversation or interaction.
2. Get rid of prejudice and biases.
We are all products of our own environment and upbringing therefore subconsciously we are programmed to be weary of certain things, or people because of the way they look or where they might be from. I learnt to not be so quick to judge because the sweet guy could be the weirdo and the weirdo could be the sweet guy . I learnt to say hi to the random Chinese girl on the train, and the American boys that shared a cabin with me on the long ride from Berlin to Prague. And the French boys that spent new year’s eve with me In Berlin. It helps with No 1.
3. Get comfortable with the uncomfortable and trusting my intuition
There will be situations where you would feel out of your depth and that’s normal, it might first be uncomfortable having to share rooms with strangers, having to converse despite language differences but you’d be surprised how quickly all that fades away. That being said you need to listen to what your instincts are telling you, if something doesn’t feel right then don’t do it, if your mind is restless never try to rationalize it away, it could be God’s way of telling you something. (I experienced that in Berlin, and I could have had the worst night of my trip but I had the best instead)
4. Achieve a greater sense of Independence
I’ve always been pretty Independent, not constantly needing people around me and the ability to get things done without having to consult anyone, but Solo travelling really does put into perspective that you really are on your own. When you have to decide what routes to go, when to go, and how to go it reinforces the discipline that this is your decision to make and nobody else’s. Yes there’s plenty resources available to direct you, but ultimately the decision is yours alone.
5. Loneliness is okay
No matter where you are in the world, there will always be moments of loneliness and that is okay, Yes I experienced unexpected moments of loneliness when I traveled solo, maybe nights where no one got on my train cabin, or I just could not connect with anyone around. Being in a state of loneliness makes me reflect on things in life, it helps me learn about myself, what I like, don’t like, and so on. Often times, staying in the feelings for a while allows me to see things I wouldn’t otherwise pay attention to and in those moments a sad feeling sets in, but I learnt I could either wallow in it or work my way out.
6. The world is big and there’s no rush to see everything yet.
I’m sure you know how big the world is. But you don’t really know just how big and crazy, and interesting and challenging it really is if you stand in one place. Being on a train crossing borders makes you psychically feel that! My journey from Prague to Budapest was long, but I went past so many parts of the world that it just felt surreal. The world is big and instead of trying to cramp it all in it is better to spend more time in fewer places, than see more places in less time. The places I have been is nothing but a speck when compared to the rest of the world.
7. Be on time for things that matters and how to make decisions quickly.
When you have to catch a train that only comes once a day, and will leave with or without you on board, what do you do? You make sure you’re at the station on time. When it’s you last day at a particular destination and there’s a tour you really need to get on, what do you? You’ll find a way to be there on time. When you have a few minutes to decide whether to get off or on at a particular station what do you do? When you don’t have the time to research and weight pros and cons what do you do? You decide based on the information available to you right there and then.
8. To disconnect from the world and reconnect with myself
You travel for yourself, to experiment with your life, to explore what’s in you and discover how much of that you want to share with people. You don’t want to travel and still be doing everything like you would at home. I left my laptop, DSLR at home, I only had a smart phone that didn’t have constant access to internet and a notebook. I was forced to do things off-screen because I was able to limit distractions, I read more books, I was able to study my environment more intently and just watch people go by their lives, I wrote more than I would at home and was actually able to fully immerse and enjoy the moments.
9. People plan and God laughs
Planning everything does not work. Yes have an idea of how you’re moving, where you want to go and how to get there, but planning each day and every second of those days doesn’t work. You need spontaneity, what happens if you miss a train? What happens when you arrive at the city and just hate it? Does that ruin your plans and subsequently ruin your travels? (Trust me it happens! I arrived in Bratislava and I just felt restless, like I wasn’t supposed to be there, what did I do? I turned around and left. Got on the train and continued my journey) Learning to go with the flow might land you in one of the most exciting places you’ve ever visited and getting lost is a great way to experience the culture of the country you are visiting and isn’t that what inter-railing is all about?
10. Dress comfortably
You’re going to be doing a lot of walking and uncomfortable long train journeys, you might even need to snooze at the station while waiting for your train, therefore you need to be dressed in a way that works for you and not just for the sake of fashion. If heels work you (although I strongly don’t suggest it) by all means go for it, if it’s boots then why not, if it’s runners (my personal preference) why not.
11. Home is where the heart is.
No matter how far I went, places I visited, things I saw and how many interesting people I met in spite of all the excitement and fun of it all, when It was time to go back home, I felt a certain peace. Therefore learning the biggest lesson of all, we are the product of ties, we like having ties, be it to people or places it keeps us rooted. Through all the adventures whilst I wasn’t ready for it to stop yet, I was happy to go home and lay my tired head on my mother’s lap.
I’d highly recommend the experience however I know it simply isn’t for everybody. What are your thoughts on solo travel?
If you’d like tips on solo travelling, how to start, where to stay, or have any question do let me know below, I’d be happy to share.
Love D xxx