My First Solo Travel Experience

Solo travel. The two words that always made my spine shudder in utter fear and anxiety. Something I would have never considered doing if you asked me a few years ago. However, as you get older, you get braver, well in my case anyway. I recently went to Paris which entailed of a three day press trip with an option to extend for an extra night and day. Going all the way to Paris, it felt like the right thing to do especially as it is one of my favourite European cities too. I had it in my head there would be others that would be doing the same thing but I was so wrong…

Everyone was heading home on Sunday afternoon which left me on my lonesome in the middle of a foreign country faced with a dilemma and what I could only call a panic attack. I felt anxious like no other moment in my life, but I couldn’t let it show. Getting back to my hotel room after the trip had ended only to lie down on my bed thinking “What the hell am I going to do?!”. The thought of actually leaving my hotel on my own made me feel physically sick. It didn’t help that we had been chauffeured around for the past 3 days so I didn’t have to use the Metro either until now.

By all means, i’m not dependant on others to do things. In fact i’m an extremely independent person but when i’m on foreign grounds with a language barrier it becomes more daunting than normal. Especially as I am the sort that prefers to share memories with others.

There was only two ways to spend my last 36 hours in Paris. I could either sit in my room wasting what is an amazing opportunity to see more of the city or I could brave it and leave, explore and actually try and enjoy myself. As a travel blogger, I thought about blog content and I said to myself let’s do it for the blog. BE FEARLESS. After all, that’s one of the reasons I named my blog accordingly in hope I would be exactly that one day.

I popped into the shower to try and reduce some of the tiredness that by body had held onto from the past few days, changed into a fresh set of clothes and set out. By this moment, I was reminded by a Parisian friend of mine that I lived with in my first year of university that we had planned to meet on my visit. Winning. I had something to look forward to in the evening, but I needed pass the next four hours before meeting said friend.

I ventured onto the Metro, with a blind eye and no tube map. Opened up City Mapper (which is a god damn life saver) and searched for the nearest station to the Sacre-Coeur.

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Somewhere I had visited before on my travels to Paris, but something just felt so right about visiting all the touristy spots whilst I was here.

I went on to explore Monmarte, the surrounding areas with which is filled with lots of small boutiques, fromageries, restaurants and of course pharmacies. I think it is amazing how the use of building space is so well utilised with the smallest and cutest places to eat are packed to the brim with tourists and local Parisians. So lovely to see.

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Something just didn’t feel right though. I was used to pointing things out to my company, having a giggle at weird names of shops and having a fun time together. I felt a bit alone. Trying to hold it all together, I was counting down the hours until I was going to meet Adele. It couldn’t come any faster.

It wasn’t long before I was in the company of a familiar face in the beautiful Bercy Village in Cour Saint-Émillion. Back to doing what I do best, eating good food, drinking wine, reminiscing and catching up on 2 years worth of updates.

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Before I knew it, it was almost 11pm and time to get back. Grabbing the Metro back to the hotel was a doddle, as I soon realised it was exactly like how it was in London. I started getting a little bit more comfortable with the whole solo travel situation, but tomorrow was another day.

You know the saying, a new day, a new start? Well I found myself back in yesterdays anxieties again. Eating out alone is something that I struggled with doing back in London, even though many of my friends encouraged me to give it a go. When you’re in a different country, you have no choice or you starve. So I let my guard down and popped into a local cafe near the hotel for traditional French croissants. It’s the first time I had ever said “for one” but I guess I had to get used to it. It being a weekday, it was fairly quiet and with other local residents seated nearby having their morning coffee it seemed like a much less daunting moment than expected.

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Onwards and upwards. My whistle stop tour around Paris included visiting a beautiful Mosque, French pharmacy for a few skincare bits, Notre-Dame and The Eiffel Tower.

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The great thing about being behind your own camera is being able to get the shots you want, but sometimes it’s nice to have a portrait of yourself in front of some tourist attractions. Having someone with you allows you to take pictures of each other and perfect them, but when you’re asking other people around you whilst you solo travel you sometimes end up with shots like this…

Solo Travel Fail

Annoying? Yes. Frustrating? Oh so very, but it can’t be helped. That is one of the things you soon have to accept if you solo travel. Luckily I had been to Paris a couple of times before and had already had captured those memorable shots.

The last stop of my time in Paris was at the famous Angelina tea room. How could I possibly come all the way and have a taste of the divine hot chocolate and a piece of tarte au citron?! It was another “for one” moment in a full tea house, but the staff were very accommodating by putting all the single diners together in one area. A nice touch for those who feel awkward dining solo, like me.  There were a few looks and mutters coming from various angles, but I took a deep breath and looked around. I shouldn’t feel unwelcome for wanting to go somewhere on my own, so I indulged into a mass amount of sweetness with pride and it was utter bliss.

Angelina Tea Room

Before I knew it, I was making my way back to Gare Du Nord in my chauffeur driven transfer to return back to London.

Thoughts of my first solo travel experience? Challenging and a great experience but it certainly is not for everyone. I loved being able to do what I wanted, when I wanted without having to worry about others. It was also nice just to have some peace and time to myself just exploring a city. Boundaries were pushed and things I wouldn’t have done at home were achieved, which I was pretty proud of. However, all in all nothing beats having a friend or family member to enjoy your travels and take pictures with, especially as travelling is meant to be memorable. I certainly would not rule out solo travel in the future, but it’s not the first thing I would jump at the chance of.

Have you travelled solo before? If so, what are your opinions? 

Until next time…

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  • I do think some people like to push the necessity of ‘solo’ travel but I personally prefer to make my memories with other people. Good on you for giving it a go though!

    • Aftab Pathan

      I totally agree Angie! A lot of travel bloggers put pressure on needing to be able to cope and travel solo, but it isn’t for everyone.

  • Well done for getting out there and exploring solo! I actually quite enjoy solo travel but I do sometimes miss being able to have a laugh at silly things or pointing things out to a companion and while I’m fine eating alone in restaurants I’d never go to a bar on my own so evenings can be a bit strange if I don’t plan them very carefully! x

    • Aftab Pathan

      Thanks Lily! I think it’s great if you need to get away to get some space from your usual routine or just need a few days of freedom and serenity.

  • It can be daunting, especially the first time, but it looks like you coped really well. Once you find your personal solo travel rituals (like a pampering night in your hotel room or editing photos with wine or cake), it will feel more comfortable.

    • Aftab Pathan

      Thanks Neily! You’re definitely right there, it’s all about getting yourself into a routine of how you do things and just finding comfort in that.

  • Great post and GREAT effort Aftab! I love how honest you were about the whole thing and glad that you still enjoyed Paris alone. The good news is now you’ll know where to take friends when you return! 😉

    • Aftab Pathan

      Thank you Katie. It was all because of you, encouraging and preparing me before the time came. Honesty and credibility is what keeps things interesting. However, I do feel Paris is one of cities that gives you enough to see/do without feeling too alone.

  • Well done for pushing yourself outside your comfort zone, not everyone gets the courage to do so. It’s easy to forget that everyone is different which is what makes the world such a wonderful place – some of us prefer being alone whereas others need company to feel comfortable and there’s nothing wrong with either! x

    • Aftab Pathan

      Thanks Leanne. It definitely was quite an experience. You’re so right there, it is easy to forget but it’s adventures like this that make you learn more about yourself.

  • Well done you! Solo travel is HARD. I’m not a huge fan of it as I get so lonely after about 24 hours. I think it’s something everyone should do/try at least once though!

    C x | Lux Life

    • Aftab Pathan

      Thank you Catherine. I totally get what you mean, but i’m glad I tried it and might even give it a go for longer next time!

  • Sounds like you rose to the challenge, Aftab! I know what you mean, it’s nice to share special moments with someone else but on the plus side, you get to visit exactly what you want when you travel solo 😉

    • Aftab Pathan

      That’s so true, the flexibility was nice. I just need to find someone to travel with who gives me the solo travel benefits! 😉

  • I don’t usually travel solo because like you, I love sharing memories with others be it family, friends, or significant other. But I’m a 50/50 Extrovert/Introvert so I crave, nay, NEED alone time to ‘regenerate’ myself so I’m just as comfortable travelling in a group as I am wandering a foreign city alone and asking ‘table for one, please’. Although the one huge advantage of travelling with at least one companion is having photos taken of oneself, which for me is not so much an exercise of narcissism as a ‘blog necessity’…! x

    Posh, Broke, & Bored

    • Aftab Pathan

      I totally get what you mean. I’m more of an introvert at home and in comfortable surroundings but prefer approaching new situations in company.

  • Solo travel is a fabulous challenge and something I think everyone should do at least once so top effort there! The first time I traveled to Europe was solo; I spent time in Dubai, KL, and Hong Kong alone before jumping on a bus tour for 3 weeks… I had an absolute ball! It’s been a while since I’ve done a solo trip though, and I think after getting so used to having someone else with me, I’d feel lonely too… but it’s all good for the soul!

    • Aftab Pathan

      Wow Connie! You were definitely more braver than I was, that’s for sure. Exploring big countries like Dubai and KL is impressive. I think I would definitely give it a go again, might as well since i’m young.

  • Good for you giving it a go though!

    • Aftab Pathan

      Thank you Emma! It wasn’t easy, but I managed it and i’m proud of myself for doing it.

  • This is something I definitely need to do at some point as I’m very much the type of person who lets anxiety run my life, and I feel like throwing caution to the wind, and being adventurous would be a huge confidence boost for me and be fun too! Like you said, you could have just waited around in your hotel room or gotten out there and experienced thingsl, and I’m glad it went well and you had fun too! You’re inspiring me to do the same, and you got some lovely shots as well! – Tasha