My travel background story
I didn’t grow up travelling internationally, like so many lucky people do who live in Europe for example, with a vast array of neighbouring countries on their doorstep.
As grateful as I am to have been born in New Zealand- the downside is that it is literally at the bottom of the world, far far away from everything else. With the exception of Australia of course- only a three-hour flight away, and some of my childhood friends were lucky enough to go on vacation there but our family didn’t quite have those kind of funds.
Instead, we toured New Zealand by car, every couple of years in the Summer time we would either go North or South, so I am very lucky to have explored my entire country numerous times from top to bottom.
I had always had that desire though- to reach beyond those borders, and it wasn’t until I was 22 years old that I finally saved enough money for a 4 week holiday to Australia, where I got my first taste of international travel. I was instantly hooked, and thrived on the many differences between our two countries.
Since then I have had the pleasure of visiting over 20 countries in Europe and South East Asia. I absolutely love travelling and cannot imagine my life without it. I enjoy so much the experience of visiting new places, learning about new cultures and languages and different ways of life, I enjoy trying new food and drink and soaking up that rich history that New Zealand lacks.
Travelling has certainly changed my life, as has taking that next step into solo travel.
It has made me a more independent and confident person, and it is something I’m really proud of to look back on. Here I share with you an outline of my experience.
I have also written a blog post on Travelling Solo | My Top Tips.
As a lot of you might know, last year I went on an exchange at Konstanz University and lived in Germany for 6 months, and before and after my semester I travelled as much of Europe as I possibly could.
My biggest trip was after the semester had ended when I left Germany and travelled all over Europe from July to September before flying home. I had an absolute blast!
The first part of my big trip I travelled all on my own, for over two weeks. I started from Konstanz, Germany and travelled to Vienna, Austria, then to Budapest, Hungary, through Slovakia up to Krakow, Poland then via Wroclaw, across to Prague in Czech Republic.
|My solo travel, from Konstanz to Prague & all the stops along the way|
I did this all by bus! It is so cheap to travel by bus in Europe, all though it’s not exactly the most fun way to travel, especially when the bus is full and it does take a very long time.
But, it’s all a part of the experience and I relished in getting to see with my own eyes, the very different countries rolling past right before me.
To be honest I was a bit nervous about travelling on my own at first. I was still pretty new to travel, and I had never done anything like this before. Also, I was going to Eastern Europe and I had no idea what to expect. I was a bit nervous as well that I had no data on my phone, I was solely relying on pre-printed maps and notes I had organised for myself before I left, to get to and find my accommodation once I arrived in each place (going old-school!).
But my first 4 nights in Vienna were perfect- it was just like Germany and they spoke German there so I felt right at home.
|Meeting the pandas at the world’s oldest zoo in Vienna! (Yes I asked a stranger to take this pic for me!)|
I had a lovely time walking though the beautiful streets, enjoying the delicious Wurst and Apfelstrudel. I got a 48 hour Hop on Hop off tour which was a great way to see the city and it included a free walking tour and river cruise that I did as well. I visited the famous Schoenbrunn Palace and the world’s oldest zoo.
Budapest for me was a tad more of a struggle. I was definitely in Eastern Europe now! I had a lot of trouble finding my accommodation- it took me hours, and it was down very crumbly and dodgy looking streets, so I was a bit nervous walking around the area. It wasn’t a very English-speaking country, but I got by. I did enjoy my time there, but I stuck to the main tourist hubs and definitely made sure that I was home each night by the time it was dark.
I only had 2 nights there but I again did a Hop on Hop off tour which was great, and I got to see quite a lot of the city thanks to that. I really enjoyed the food and beer and super cheap prices of it!
|Budapest Parliament, Hungary|
Poland and Prague I found more than fantastic. Again it took me hours to find my accommodation in Krakow so by the time I reached Prague I gave up and took the easy road- I got a taxi from the bus station! (Taxis are so much cheaper there anyway).
I felt perfectly safe walking around both cities by myself, but again I did try to not stay out too late just to be safe.
I was in Krakow for 5 nights and met a nice French girl on a free walking tour I did, she was also alone so we met up again another day and had dinner and drinks which was really nice.
On another tour in Krakow- this time a food and drink one, the tour guide was really cool and afterwards offered us all to join him at a pub he knew of that had 1 euro pints (Krakow has the cheapest beer in the world!) and to just hang out. So a lot of people did and it was a really enjoyable day.
It turned out my tour guide was a huge Lord of the Rings fan like me and had been in our New Zealand media and I knew who he was! He had paraded around the streets of Wellington dressed as a goblin trying to get into The Hobbit movies.
|My tour guide & I in Krakow|
So we got along really well. (Actually the conversation first started when I mentioned to him “Nice tattoo- I have the same one!” (The elvish one ring script). Here’s the news article about him if you’re interested: Article.
In Krakow I did a day trip to Auschwitz which was very sobering, and also went on a trip to the Salt Mines. I really enjoyed the Medieval Square (the largest in the world) and all of the very old and beautiful historical buildings.
I had 4 nights in Prague and also went on a few tours there. On a food and drink tour everyone afterwards stayed together and all had more drinks and dinner and that was really fun. We were all from different corners of the world with different stories and the conversations were very fascinating!
So even if you travel alone, there are always so many situations where you can meet new people and still have just a good a time as if you were with friends.
In Prague I made sure to visit the famous castle and I absolutely loved the old town streets and beautiful buildings.
|Medieval Old Town Square, Prague|
From Prague I flew to Dublin where I met up with two of my friends living in London and we had an awesome long weekend there. I went back to London with them afterwards and stayed there for a week before joining a Contiki group travelling from London down through France and Spain.
It finished in Barcelona where I was again solo for 5 more days. I really enjoyed my time there but again tried not to stay out late.
I did just one night when I went to see the Magic Fountain light show, and I was pretty nervous walking around the subways, but as it was very packed with people I tried to move with the crowds to not be targeted as a solo female. I always made sure my bag was strapped over my chest as well and facing more to my front. I was always alert but I never had any trouble.
|Gaudi’s work, Barcelona|
In Barcelona I pretty much just walked and took the subway everywhere, and enjoyed the Paella, Sangria, the shopping and the beach. I loved visiting the Sagrada Familia and Park Guell and seeing all of Gaudi’s work.
From Barcelona I flew to Athens where I did another Contiki tour, this time around the Greek and Turkish islands. It was so magical and I made some great friends, in both the Contiki groups.
After that I just had one more night alone in Athens, and then three of my awesome Kiwi friends flew all the way from New Zealand and met me there. I stayed in Athens for a week in total and then together we went on to travel Italy and finally ended for me back in Germany at Munich for Oktoberfest (which was one of my ultimate dreams come true).
My friends then travelled on but it was time for me to go home after nearly 8 months away.
It was a really incredible trip and I enjoyed my solo travels just as much as any other.
It was truly one of the greatest experiences of my life and I really encourage from the bottom of my heart for you to do the same. Even if it’s just a small trip, you really do get in touch with yourself and you will relish the ultimate freedom of doing whatever you please. You will grow as a person, gain confidence and can take anything that life throws at you!