While watching movies when I was younger, I often heard the teen-aged protagonists talk about backpacking through Europe. I always wondered if I’d ever get a chance to do the same with my friends or family. It was soon after I finished college that my mother actually offered me an all-expenses paid five-day trip to the Netherlands for my birthday! The only catch was that I had to go alone because none of my family members were free to join me. It was too good an offer to decline, so I pounced on it! After a couple of months of running around to get my visa done, get enough currency exchanged and fix a place to stay, the day of my flight to Amsterdam Schiphol International Airport (via Helsinki Airport) finally arrived.
If the amount of nervousness I felt could be bottled, it would’ve filled a thousand jars! I didn’t know what to expect and the anticipation was starting to get to me. You know that feeling you get when you’re really scared and you’ve got a line of sweat on your brow? That’s exactly the way I felt then.
At the Delhi international airport, I stood in line for immigration with the weirdest chain of thoughts in my mind - “what if they think my visa is fake? What if they lose my luggage? OH MY GOD! WHERE IS MY PASSPORT? Oh it’s right here in my hand!” So after making it through all the security processes, I finally made it to my flight. I sat down with sweaty palms and a sort of nervous shiver running down my spine - I was going to travel alone for the first time and everything started to sink in.
Several hours after takeoff, the captain announced that we were about to land in Helsinki, Finland. I had to change flights there and that was another colossal obstacle. I was so scared that I’d lose my way in the airport, miss my flight and be deported from the country. I tried to rein in my wild imagination by taking deep breaths. When we finally started to deboard, I was so relieved to see signboards everywhere which led me to the correct terminal.
This second flight was very short; within forty-five minutes we had landed in Amsterdam. I trotted along to the baggage collection area, fingers crossed, hoping that my luggage hadn’t been lost. I was so glad when I saw my suitcase smiling at me from the conveyor belt. After collecting it, I made my way to the exit and found a taxi which took me to the small studio apartment that I had booked on Airbnb.
The drive to my Airbnb took about thirty minutes. It was right in the heart of the city and was a walkable distance from the tram station, museums, a host of shops and a canal with boat riding facilities. When I arrived, my host was waiting to welcome me to his cozy little apartment (which also had a functional kitchen). He assured me that it was a safe area and that he stayed in the opposite building if he was needed.
In the five short days that I was there, I tried to visit as many places as possible - the famous windmills, Madam Tussaud Museum, the architectural marvels at Rotterdam and I even got a chance to dip my toes in the North Sea. I will admit, I was very scared the first day that I stepped out to explore the city. I actually got lost (and this was after the host had kindly provided me with a map of the city). But I didn’t mind it at all because by losing my way, I actually stumbled upon some great places to eat. *yay food*
I think one of the most important parts of a trip is the place you stay at. It’s something to come back to every night and should feel as comfy and as convenient as home (like my Airbnb accommodation!). My advice to anyone traveling alone would be to pick your accommodation carefully - read reviews and measure its proximity to modes of travel and to convenience stores. Apart from that, be mindful of your belongings and be a friendly tourist who keeps the environment clean.
Solo travel was a great experience and now I’m kind of hooked to it. I never knew I had it in me to travel alone (but apparently my mother did!). It taught me how to be self-reliant and confident in my decision-making skills. And I learnt that it’s alright to be scared, but that it’s more important to move beyond the fear. Because if you don’t, you might miss out on some amazing experiences. So have faith in yourself and go see the world!
* This is a sponsored post for Airbnb. If you haven’t signed up on Airbnb yet, use POPxo’s referral link to get more than ₹1,000 off on your first stay. You can also check out this wonderful Airbnb in Hauz Khas, Delhi where the POPxo team is currently staying.