Hello, my name is Abbie and I am doing a solo trip through Europe. If you don't know me, I am the Marketing Director and a competitive gymnastics coach here at Jam Hops. Tuesday, May 24th I departed Minnesota for a three and a half week backpacking trip through Europe and have been learning many things on my journey. As a feature on our Jam Packed Blog, I will be sharing some of my experiences as a first-time solo traveler and hope to be an inspiration to anyone wanting to take the leap!
As I am finishing up the first week of my first solo trip in Europe, it feels like I've grown a lot! Tuesday I departed from Minneapolis to make my way to Milan Airport. It didn’t start to sink in that I was doing a solo trip until I landed at the JFK airport for a connecting flight and realized that I, in fact, would be figuring it all out on my own. When first planning the trip, traveling solo as a female was definitely one of my biggest fears. As I continued to plan, do my research, and read the stories of other solo female travelers, my fear grew less and I realized that I would love to be able to inspire others to overcome the same fears I once had.
When I’ve traveled in the past, I’ll occasionally fly to meet someone at a destination, so I think my instincts assumed that was the plan. Landing at the New York airport it finally set in that I would be fully depending on myself this time. Having this realization put my instincts into defense mode, triggering all of those old fears and doubts I once had: “Will I be able to find my way?” “Am I going to be in danger?” “Will I be able to make friends?” etc. Though those fears returned for a moment, they quickly disappeared. On Tuesday night, almost instantly after getting off of the plane to transfer terminals, two sisters named Julia and Laura were also traveling to Milan and took me into their group. This seemed to set the stage for my trip and gave me the confidence to continue asking for help. Meeting those two women was a great reminder that being a solo traveler does not mean you have to do it alone. I quickly learned that as long as you are willing to reach out to strangers, you will find people who are willing to help you along your journey.
Wednesday morning, after a 6-7 hour overnight flight, I arrived at Milan Airport to take the train to Como, Italy. I’m not going to lie, I do not do well when it comes to directions and have struggled with that the most so far. I won’t go into details, but there have already been multiple panicked, sweaty scenarios at the train station platforms.. but nevertheless, I’ve found my way so far. Other than the few struggles finding the correct train platforms and bus stops, the trip has been quite easy to navigate. To be fair, I did make sure that the first few hostels had an easy and walkable route from the train station, but still, I’m impressed with myself.
Though I have been excited about hostel living since the start of planning my trip, that was a topic that made many of my family members and friends cringe. Like anyone would be, I was a little skeptical of staying in a hostel and sharing a dorm with complete strangers, but the more I researched, it seemed to be the best option to meet new people as a solo traveler. Using the Hostelworld app, I was able to look at reviews of the hostel’s location, safety, atmosphere, cleanliness, and more. Having this resource gave me an idea of exactly what I was getting myself into and allowed me to gauge how easy it would be to meet people and access the city. Once I started booking places to stay, I would show the property to my worried family and friends in hopes of easing some of their concerns. Seeing all of the reviews, information, and pictures sometimes would not only ease their minds, but would also create excitement around my trip. That’s one of the reasons I’ll continue to use Hostelworld for future adventures.
The first hostel I stayed in was Ostello Bello Lake Como. Ostello Bello exceeded all expectations for what dorm life would be like. The hostel itself was so beautiful, the dorms were spacious and comfortable, and the location was convenient. My room was on the fifth floor with no elevator, which could be seen as a bad thing when you’re carrying a 50lb. backpack, but I loved it! Despite the five-story climb up a spiral staircase, you were rewarded at the top with a beautiful glass ceiling that gave you a view into the clouded blue sky and lit up the entire stairwell. After reaching the top of the stairs, you were greeted by the room 15 door and a hallway that lead to a small laundry room. I liked that it was the only room on the floor, making it feel a bit quieter and more private. When entering the room, I was excited to see that it was filled with beams of bright light from the skylight windows. The storage lockers were huge, beds were pretty comfy, and showers were clean, making me feel very comfortable staying there.
On top of the comfortable rooms, the hostel also had a secret garden, a terrace off of the kitchen, a cute bar for locals and hostelers alike, and friendly staff that made the stay extra enjoyable. All of the communal space made it really easy to meet people, but also made for a good area to read a book, or do some work. I have not yet mastered the skill of approaching a random group of people. Despite my fear of embarrassment, I was able to start a conversation with a solo traveler from the U.K. the first night and hung out with my Aussie bunk mates the next night at Karaoke. It’s really cool to be able to meet a group of people one night and make plans to go on an adventure with them the next. Hopefully, I can become a master at approaching people by the end of my trip!
Lake Como, Italy in my experience, seemed to be the perfect destination for a solo debut into the traveling community. The location was fairly close to the airport, felt very safe, and had beautiful views and loads of friendly people. I would definitely go back and highly recommend it to anyone looking for an easily accessible destination with amazing views, good food, and a variety of activities.
Alla Prossima Lake Como!
Author: Abbie Rockstad