It was one of those in-the-spur-of -the-moment decisions so I didn’t exactly think it through when I decided to throw Russia into the mix. I love to go off the beaten track, but you won’t see me heading off to Nigeria or Syria anytime soon. And I ended up having a great time in Saint Petersburg, and if you ask me today, I’m glad I went.
My safety comes first so I only visit places that are super safe. But this whole experience has taught me that traveling solo to an off the path destination isn’t worth it if you spend more time being worried than happy.
I don’t always travel solo nowadays but I do still occasionally head off on my own to various corners of the world, and the majority of my long term and short term trips over the last decade or so have been solo ones. It is really common to meet new friends on the road, either on an organised trek or by sheer chance.I’ve heard all the criticism and disapproving comments over the years with friends, family and even general acquaintances alike all uniting in their unified belief that I have gone insane. Other travellers and backpackers always end up congregating in transit stations, long distance coaches or overnight trains, hostels or backpacker bars, and all it takes to meet them is a little bit of confidence and that amazing little word ‘hello’.While getting our bags from the bus, we talked about travel plans and I told her that I was heading to Russia.She stopped unloading the bags and looked straight at me: “Alone? ” she said as if “Seriously, what are you thinking? But I had apparently decided to leave my safe, secure and open-minded home country to go to a place that was not those three adjectives.Look for casual restaurants with communal tables or large bars that are good for socialising.
Try a pub with a good kitchen as the atmosphere lends itself to meeting people.A little worrying is fine – especially if it’s your first solo trip, but if you can’t enjoy your trip because of it, then it’s not worth it.You should either pick another destination or bring a friend.And there I suddenly was, standing in the middle of an Estonian bus station, trying to defend my decision. Although nothing happened to me while I was there and while I only went to Saint Petersburg, which is more European than Russian, I still feel like I crossed a personal line. I worried sick throughout my trip to Riga and Tallinn, and instead of having the time of my life, I spent too much time going back and forth on my decision.The truth is that my choice to go to Russia was made on a whim. When I travel solo, I always research the destination, read up on local scams, find a good hotel with excellent reviews and make sure that the destination is absolutely safe. I’m a big fan of solo travel and in my heart I believe that everyone should travel solo at least once. But it’s important to listen to that inner voice and distinguish between fear and intuition. I get scared all the time, but most times there’s nothing to it. Other times though, it’s my intuition telling me that this is dangerous and that I shouldn’t do it.The irony of travelling solo is that you need never be alone.