There are many opportunities to travel throughout the programs at DIS, but often the thought of going alone can be daunting. I was lucky enough to study abroad in the Spring in Spain, and did three weeks of independent travel in between my programs, as well as some solo day-trips during session one.
The main benefit of traveling alone is that you get to choose what you want! Your time is truly personalized and you can spend it however you want. Unlike school trips or traveling with others, your schedule is not dependent on what others want. I have found that I have been able to truly maximize my travel days while alone.
I have made both countless memories and mistakes throughout my time traveling alone, and have compiled some of the experiences and advice to help encourage more students to embrace traveling alone. I have included both my solo trips to Frankfurt, Germany and Vilnius, Lithuania as examples.
Hotel vs Hostel
To start, here is the main difference between a hotel and a hostel. Hotels include a private room with a bed and bathroom. A hostel is a shared bedroom in a dormitory style, with a communal bathroom with other guests. Most hostels have lockers or locked spaces under beds for personal items and suitcases.
Things to consider when choosing
- Privacy – hotels typically allow for more privacy, but nowadays hostels are beginning to offer private room options. I am a huge fan of capsule hotels (like the photo below), which provide a mix between hotel and hostel.
- Budget – hostels are typically cheaper, but in larger cities they can be the same price as hotels.
- Facilities and services – complimentary breakfast, free airport shuttle, and swimming pools are common amenities and services for both hostels and hotels. Typically the price of your stay will increase with the amount of services included.
- Location – this is the big one. Typically, prices increase the closer you get to the “city center” or important landmarks. Don’t let this deter you, choosing a more affordable option further away can be great, especially if you are close to public transit or nature reserves and parks. I booked a hotel in Vilnius that was a 10 minute walk to the metro, and it was much quieter and peaceful.
Research is very important. Look up landmarks, museums, parks, or famous restaurants ahead of time to mark down locations, and make sure to check site hours and schedules for holidays. During my Germany trip, I was able to book student tickets to the Frankfurt Opera to see one of my favorite works, Francesca Da Rimini!
Guided Tours can be great. I have done many guided tours and activities while traveling alone, and using sites like Tripadvisor or Get My Guide make it easy to book online. I booked a day-long tour of the Paneriai memorial park and Trakai castle in Lithuania and it was amazing!
Don’t over-plan! Many of us have been to events or on trips with others that have EVERY. SINGLE. MINUTE. PLANNED. Having a strict schedule can be stressful, and has caused me to get burnt out quickly due to not having time to relax.
Food (The Best Part of Travel)
As a vegetarian, my experience will differ from some, but I believe these tips can be helpful nonetheless.
- Research locations and types of food – I have ended up at meat-based restaurants too many times to overlook this part. Finding spots near your activities and museums can be very convenient.
- Saving money – Don’t be afraid to stop at the local grocery store and grab some snacks and even some sandwiches to save money (I have even made instant ramen in a wine glass before).
- Try new foods! I was able to try Ukrainian borscht, a cabbage and tomato based soup, and spinach and curd Kibinai while in Lithuania.
How to Enjoy Being Alone
Being alone can come with occasional boredom, so here are some ways to enjoy your time solo.
- Read a book – virtual books such as kindle unlimited or book apps save lots of suitcase space.
- Download movies and music while you have wifi, then enjoy offline!
- Invest in hobbies – I personally draw a lot, and I bring my sketchbook everywhere.
- Take in your surroundings – slow down and really savor the sights, smells, and feeling of a place. It helps occupy your time and get a stronger understanding of where you are.
Overall, traveling alone gives you so much freedom, independence, and helps you grow as a person. Exploring a new city, country, and culture is one of the best ways to expand your knowledge and perspective of the world. Safe Travels!