The Story Of My First Solo Trip | Edinburgh
Hello everyone, so as some of you might know, a few weeks ago I did a poll over on my Instagram about whether or not you would be interested in reading about my personal travel stories. To my surprise, the answer was a unanimous yes! I had a few stories in mind when I asked the question, with this one top of the list, and so I'm here to tell it!
First of all, a bit of back story: I suppose in the grand scheme of things, I haven't been a travel lover for THAT long. My first ~real~ trip as an adult was only back in September 2016, and I did little to no organising for that trip at all. The trip came as a good distraction after I broke up with my childhood boyfriend (we all know how much that first one really hurts) and right after a year of attempting to discover who I was when not attached to somebody else at the hip. One old friend actually called me "the most co-dependent person they'd ever met" that year, and as much as I think it was a little harsh, it wasn't half what I needed to hear.
Cut to 6 months later, I'd done my big trip and caught the travel bug hard. I'd then also gone on a weekend away to Paris for my friends 21st birthday too, but it suddenly dawned on me that I was the only one of my friends not at university, and nobody had the time or money to go away with me again for months, if at all that year. I was experiencing my first ever bout of itchy feet/ post-travel blues, and was consuming crazy amounts of travel content in an attempt to satisfy my craving. All of a sudden I stumbled upon various articles and videos from people like Nomadic Matt and Backpacking Bananas about travelling solo. Initially I dismissed them as 'oh I couldn't do that' and skipped straight over them, but as the itch grew stronger I kept finding myself going back to them again and again.
Eventually I got to a point where I realised that actually, if I didn't have the guts to go somewhere by myself, I probably wouldn't get to go anywhere for a while. That didn't sit right with me.
And so I did piles of research on things like where to go, where to stay, tips for solo female travellers, tips for first time solo travellers, etc, and decided that I wanted to test the waters by going somewhere close to home and somewhere that spoke the same language as me. After all, how much could really go wrong if I could ask for help or book a last minute journey back home if I hated it? I settled on the idea of Edinburgh. I'd never been to Scotland but had always wanted to, and there seemed like there was a lot to see to keep me occupied (I was convinced I'd need to be busy from morning to night in an attempt not to be painfully aware that I was alone).
So I booked Edinburgh! I got the coach there and stayed in a hostel in order to do it as cheaply as possible, and I also went over Easter weekend so that I didn't have to take any time off work- genius. The trip went better than I ever could have imagined and the city now holds a dear place in my heart (I even dedicated a whole post to how much I love it, read it here). Let me tell you what I got up to and why I think it was the perfect first ever solo trip.
I was nervous to set off when the day came but had psyched myself up for so long that I was running on enough adrenaline to fake some confidence. I arrived without any hitches -perfect, nothing to knock this "confidence" I was working with- and quickly realised that not only was Edinburgh's city centre a really good size for my first solo trip (not too big and daunting) but that my hostel couldn't have been in a better location (I still highly recommend The Baxter to this day).
My first day was spent trying to feel comfortable with being by myself. I forced myself to have a "table for one" dinner, bought one singular ticket to a Real Mary King's Close tour and sat by myself for a drink in a pub while watching a live band, even if I did hide away in the corner a bit.
Top tip: if you're going to be eating/ drinking alone, take something to do while you wait for your order to arrive whether it just be a book or a Netflix show downloaded to your phone. I even sat organising photos or writing in my travel journal a few times, it can be anything.
The first evening was relatively uneventful as the adrenaline wore off in one foul swoop and sent me to bed early. The next day I woke up with some real confidence, and it was time to put it to use. I took myself to breakfast, easy, and then headed out for some more solo exploring. At one point on my way up to the castle (which at the time I was convinced was the palace as I had my map upside down the whole time- the trip was a real learning curve in many ways) I was approached by a couple of men in kilts handing out flyers for the Edinburgh Pub Crawl that night, and I took a flyer for no other reason than to be polite. I didn't even look at it at first, but after my trip to the castle I realised that the day was quickly getting away from me and I had no plans for that night. I stared at the flyer and bounced between conflicting thoughts of "you can't do a pub crawl alone, you will look so odd" and "sod it you're in Edinburgh, why not, you can do whatever you want". Eventually I gave my head a wobble and realised that the only person saying I couldn't do it was me, and I didn't know nearly enough about the subject to be giving advice.
I rushed back to my dorm to get changed and found that a few new girls had checked in to my dorm, all of whom were travelling alone (I stayed in a female only dorm for an extra level of comfort since it was my first time). I was no where near confident enough to spark up a conversation at this point though, so I just smiled at them and started getting ready. All of a sudden one of the girls came bounding over to introduce herself. That confidence seemed to perk everyone in the room up a little and we all got chatting about who we were and what we'd been doing that day. Another of the girls noticed that I was getting ready to go somewhere and asked what I was up to. I explained about the pub crawl and that I wasn't even 100% sure yet, but I hadn't had to book anything so it was fine either way. I'm still not really sure what came over me at this point but I suddenly found myself asking if they wanted to join me, convinced they'd say no or that they had other plans. I couldn't have been more wrong- all three of them said yes!
The four of us went on to have one of my best travel nights ever, still to this day. The tour guides were hilarious and the group was FULL of solo travellers, plus the addition of booze made conversation start flowing instantly. I couldn't believe I'd nearly talked myself out of it. We toured 7 of the best bars in the city and danced our way into the early hours of the morning, we even had shots at midnight as the morning marked the start of one of the girls' birthdays. The 4 of us stuck together all night and even swapped numbers, I still hear from them every now and again now which is amazing.
The next day I was a little.... worse for wear, let's say. And to make it worse, all 3 of my new friends were checking out that morning. I had a small panic about how I was going to fill a full day with sightseeing while feeling so ill, because don't forget, there was no way I could spend a day relaxing in my own company, no way at all! I forced myself up and out, but after a short walk I realised that the fresh air was actually making me feel worse. I had two options: spend my last day on this trip feeling awful and ruining the memory of it, or suck it up and force myself to stop and spend some time relaxing even if I ended up feeling a little lonely. And so I headed to the supermarket for a hangover cure and went back to my hostel. I sat for hours in the common room, curled up on the sofa reading and watching movies until I felt human again. And I didn't feel lonely at all, not once. It was a revelation, I didn't need to be busy 24/7 to keep myself occupied, I was perfectly content with my own company. It changed everything.
That night when I was just about finished feeling sorry for myself in bed, a new girl checked in to my dorm. I was desperate to get out for one last night in the city before I left the next morning, and there was absolutely no chance I was convincing myself that I shouldn't, we were done with that nonsense. I forced myself to talk to my new roommate and found out that she was a theatre designer from Iceland who had just gotten back from a week-long tour of the highlands. I was eager to hear all about her trip, as well as her life back in Iceland as it became instantly apparent that we had loads in common (I was in a design job at the time, too). I asked her if she wanted to go for some food and a drink to continue our chat and she said yes straight away. We did some googling and found out we were right around the corner from Rose Street (highly recommend), and headed out for pizza and a few beers. We sat chatting for hours and again exchanged numbers/ social media, I speak to her often even now and love watching her other adventures on Facebook.
I have never felt more invincible than I did on that last morning. I took myself back up to the castle to capture one last photo of my trip, which is the photo you can see at the top of this post. It's still my favourite ever travel photo because you can see how happy and proud of myself I was in that moment.
Since then I have travelled solo lots more times both around the UK and internationally, including to places like Bath, London, Los Angeles and on a trip to Belgium where I went to both Bruges and Brussels. I still stand by the idea that the scariest thing about solo travel is making the decision to do it. I promise you the only thing stopping you is yourself, and you've never done it before, so how can you be qualified to give that advice? Some things to help convince yourself are:
- You WILL make friends. Travelling solo makes you a lot more open to conversation with strangers. Even if you're not confident enough to engage first, somebody else will be.
- Someone will always have some sort of second hand horror story to tell you about someone who went solo travelling, or someone who went to your specific destination alone, especially if you're a girl unfortunately. Just remember that bad things happen everywhere, and as long as you follow basic safety instincts and travel advice, you'd have to be really unlucky for anything bad to happen. And that's all it is, bad luck.
- There ARE ways to make it easier on yourself or a little less daunting if it's your first time. I wrote a whole post all about it here.
And that's all from me for now, sorry it's a long one, it's a story I'm very passionate about! Where do you think you'd like to travel solo? Or if you've already been, where did you go first? I'd love to know!
Speak soon, Meg x