Nyhavn Harbor: I arrived just in time to snap the classic Copenhagen photo before dark on Friday night, March 29th.
This past weekend, I took a solo trip to Denmark. Prior to studying abroad, I would have never believed that I would take a weekend to go somewhere all by myself. To me, studying abroad was always about making friends and doing things together - so a solo trip seemed counter intuitive. Then I got here, and started meeting people who all had goals of doing at least one solo trip.
Why? I wasn’t really sure.
So I looked further into it. Solo trips are becoming increasingly popular among young adults. There is a whole tourism sector and genre of YouTube travel videos dedicated to traveling alone. There are lots of articles and books you can read about solo travel as well. I was very skeptical going into it - I had never been to Scandinavia, or done a trip alone. I had always drawn my travel experiences from the people I was with. Here are some of my thoughts from my first solo trip.
Is it anti-social to travel alone?
This was my biggest worry about solo travel. I love being able to share memories with others when I go somewhere. One of my favorite parts of a trip is getting to talk about and share memories with your friends or family. This trip, I was not going to get the opportunity to do that.
What I didn’t realize was this: You can make new friends! In my head, solo travel would be this thing where I just quietly backpack around and stare off into the sunset. While that does seem to happen sometimes, I quickly realized that lonely travelers search for other lonely travelers. After my first few hours in Copenhagen, I checked into my hostel. Almost immediately, I met another guy from Canada in my room who asked if I wanted to get dinner with him. We ended up spending a lot of the weekend together. I met so many people in one weekend that I never would have otherwise.
At the same time: Is there anything wrong with keeping to yourself? Absolutely not! Some of my favorite times this weekend were walking the city alone. It was really fun to be able to take any street you want, stop for as long as you want without dragging someone else along with you.
Me taking a selfie (I had no other choice) in front of the Little Mermaid Statue.
Is that “Personal Growth/Finding Yourself” thing just a gimmick?
Ok, so I think this is probably a pretty personal question. I don’t think most people are going to “find themselves” after a few days, or a week alone. However, as cheesy as it may sound I think there are many opportunities for personal growth. Personally, I have a really hard time making decisions. I usually end up others making them for me. On a solo trip, you have to make them whether you want to or not.
Another thing that I think improves when you travel alone is your overall sense of awareness, and problem solving. I had to fly into Malmö airport, which is actually in Sweden, and take a train to Copenhagen. When I booked the plane ticket and checked google maps, it seemed quite easy. Little did I know, that the airport was about 40 minutes from the city, which then was a train ride across the water away. Not knowing any Swedish or Danish made it a little more interesting yet.
Malmö Airport, Malmö(Sweden), and Copenhagen (Denmark)
Getting to and from the airport to the city was my most challenging feat, and the thing that was the most nerve wracking. When I stepped out of the airport, and saw only Swedish writing everywhere... I was thinking “why in the world did I do this”. After some deep breaths and following pictures of buses, I found a bus that took me to the Malmö City center (40 minutes away) and then transferred via the first train I found that said København.
Waiting at the bus station in Malmö.
The point of this story is that although it was very stressful, I think it really helped me to gain a new level of patience and self confidence that I did not previously have. Usually I always need to get an outside opinion, but this was a scenario where I just had to go for it.
Is traveling alone safe?
This question isn’t as easy to answer. I think this is an important question depending on where you go, and your age, gender, and ethnicity. Admittedly, I knew that Scandinavia is a very safe place, so it made my decision a little easier. One thing I will say, it isn’t a bad idea to check the US state department's current status of the location you want to visit. Everywhere I have been in Europe (Northern, Eastern, and Southern Europe) have felt very safe. However, you should always proceed with caution and take the proper steps to make sure you aren’t a possible target of a pickpocket or scam. Even though I was in Copenhagen, I still always kept my wallet in my front pocket and locked my things in the Hostel.
The hostel I stayed in - lockers are below each bed.
Now - you should not let this stop you from traveling. With all the negative news in the world, it is easy to think that there is nowhere safe in the world. I am of the opinion that it is easier and safer to travel now than it has ever been. Smartphones alone make a world of difference from even twenty years ago. Here is a Rick Steves Quote that I find very interesting about traveling and safety. Many today are worried about coming to Europe due to terrorism. This is his response:
“Travel is still a huge unifier - perhaps a more vital force for peace than ever. If you hate terrorism, the most effective way to fight it is to travel a lot, learn about the world, come home, and help our country fit better into this ever-smaller planet.” - Rick Steves
What do you even do?
Easy-whatever you want!! This is the blessing and the curse of solo travel. I found it to be a blessing the entire time, but I know that isn’t always the case. There can be some tough periods of loneliness.
If you are doing a solo trip in a large city - I highly recommend doing a walking tour. Even if it’s touristy, just give it a chance. In Europe many cities have free walking tours where you tip the guide afterwards. They have an incentive to do a really good job, and they always do. I learned more in three hours about Copenhagen than I had in my entire life! You learn history, and often meet other travelers.
Farmers Market/Food Truck
Eating dinner alone in a restaurant may not be the easiest thing to do, so consider stopping at a food truck or the local market. You will likely find cheap and tasty food that you can take with while you while you explore the city. I found it a fun way to experience good food for a little cheaper than average.
Go to a Museum
Although this is very dependent on whether or not you like Museums, I have found museums more enjoyable when I am alone because I can go at my own pace. If you are feeling lost and don’t know what to do, a solo trip to the museum could spark your interest into another area of town you have not seen yet.
That’s all I have for now. I hope I have inspired you to get out and try a solo trip. Keep in mind, it can be something as far away as Copenhagen, or as close as your back yard!
Thanks for reading,
One of the best preserved streets in old Copenhagen (much of the city has been destroyed by fires numerous times).