Two and a half weeks until I leave for Spain and then I’m outta here! I finally booked my hotels and have to say that finding one in Barcelona was the hardest for me. I did a lot of research on the different areas to stay and probably asked for recommendations a dozen times. So before I get into this post, I wanted to share a little story about what happened with booking my hotel. It just goes to show you that things always work themselves out.
I searched Trip Advisor for what felt like an endless amount of time for a hotel that was affordable, clean and in a good location. There are several areas in Barcelona so I was trying to find the best one for me and my travel needs. Everything was either super expensive for just me, not available on my dates or the places just looked really crappy and I could tell from the reviews I would not feel comfortable there for 5 nights alone. I tried reaching out to a few hotels for media rates like I usually do, but unfortunately hadn’t heard back from anyone. My fellow blogger babe Shareen recommended this one budget hotel to me via twitter that is in the perfect location. It’s a small one star boutique hotel, but it’s clean with free breakfast, central, and has everything I need. The rooms are small, but that’s normal for Europe. Plus, I wouldn’t be there much anyway. I checked on TA and they got a lot of great reviews, but they didn’t have my dates available. The hotel ended up messaging me on twitter, asked when I would be there and told me they actually had one room left and would give me a good deal. Amazing, right?! Unfortunately with the time difference in Spain, several days went by and we weren’t able to connect. I started getting worried as I still didn’t have anything booked and a lot of places were quickly becoming unavailable. I decided to just “bite the bullet” as my dad would say and pay more money for a hotel than I had initially planned to. I found a 4 star that was nice and quirky located in the Eixample area, a little further away from the tourist section but still central. I looked at it as having the best of both worlds in a sense. I literally just talked about this on my Insta Stories last night. I was smart about it though and made sure to book a hotel with free cancellation in the hopes that the other hotel would reach back out to me. And guess what? Two days later, I woke up this morning to an email from them and they still had a room for me at a super affordable rate! I was able to cancel the expensive hotel, save myself a lot of money and now I’m going to be in closer walking distance to everything. It’s just funny that after all of that, everything fell into place.
Feeling a little stressed from the planning of this entire trip sort of inspired me to create this Confessions Of A Solo Traveler post. I talk all the time about how incredible solo travel is and how much it changed me, which it has, but there are a lot of other elements to it too. I thought it would be a good idea to shed a little bit of insight on this. I don’t necessarily want to call it the negative side of solo travel, but I think there’s pros and cons to everything. I guess you can say these are my least favorite things about traveling alone.
Planning is overwhelming.
It’s a lot! Planning any type of travel arrangements can be stressful, but I think it’s on a whole other level when you are traveling by yourself. You start to pay more attention to location, safety, and budget. I can be so indecisive at times and don’t have anyone to bounce ideas off of and weigh options with when it’s just me. I have to do double the research as I don’t have anyone to help out with this. Between the flights, trains, accommodations, creating a budget and some type of itinerary, booking tours, etc. it’s a lot for one person to take on. The good part though is that you get to call the shots and have the freedom to do whatever you want on your own time! I have literally spent hours
researching all the countries/cities that I visit for the first time. It’s so important to have some type of knowledge of where everything is located, the best way to get there, safety concerns, tipping customs, etc. I tend to rely on google maps to see where all the main attractions are situated in relation to my hotels. This has been helpful. I kind of
overwhelmed myself even more by adding on a 3rd city in Spain, but I know that once I am there and immersed in this beautiful country, it will all be worth it.
I really try my best to lower all my costs when traveling solo although it’s not always easy. I haven’t exactly built up the courage to stay in hostels just yet as I know this is the most affordable type of accommodation. There is also the AirBnb option, but sometimes those are expensive too. So for now, I’m paying for hotels and without anyone to split the cost with, it definitely adds up even when staying in a more affordable place. It’s also the same thing with going out to eat as well as taking cabs/ubers. When traveling, most of our money gets spent on meals and transportation. Usually when I’m with a friend we will order a bunch of things to share and then just split the bill. A tip I’ve learned is to look for hotels with a free breakfast included in your stay to get you going in the morning without any extra charge. That’s one less meal a day you have to worry about paying for. As long as I have my coffee and a little bit in my stomach, I’m good and ready to take on the day. I like to treat myself to at least one dinner at a nicer restaurant and try to have all my other meals at more affordable places. I’ve done this so far on all my solo trips and it helped a lot. It’s important to still treat yourself, but you can do it within reason. Another huge tip that I’ve mentioned before is skipping the cabs (just take them at night) and using the metro or bus during the day for way less money. You should also take advantage of the hop on hop off bus too if the city offers it, which most places do.
You have to be extra cautious.
You should always be alert and cautious, but when you’re alone it’s sort of on another level. I don’t mean this in a paranoid way, it’s just different. You don’t have anyone to sit at the table or the bar and watch your things when you have to use the bathroom. You don’t have anyone walking the streets with you to help you navigate through the crowds of tourists and locals or to help you out if God forbid you get pickpocketed. You basically don’t have anyone to look out for you, so you have to look out for yourself more than usual. This taught me a lot though and many ways it helped me tap into a strength and confidence that I didn’t even know I had. It forced me to be way more alert and aware of my surroundings, which actually helped me to have a deeper appreciation for certain things. I’m sure these are a given, but here’s a few tips for extra safety. It always helps to get friendly with the front desk and concierge at your hotel and keep them aware of your whereabouts. I did this at my hotel in Paris and I loved how they always checked in with me on my way out since they knew I was alone. Never walk empty streets by yourself late at night. Always wear a crossbody bag in front of you that closes in a secure way. Nothing on your shoulder. Never put your purse over the chair or on the chair next to you. Keep it in on your lap in front of you. Don’t put anything in your pockets. You can even wear a hidden travel belt that goes under your clothes. Leave most of your money in the hotel safe. Only take what you need to get through the day. The less cash the better. I heard and read some crazy stories about the pickpocketing in Barcelona. It’s on a whole other level, so I can’t lie it does make me a little nervous. I just have to be even more careful than usual.
You have to rely on strangers to take your photos.
Most bloggers travel with a photographer, another blogger or their husband/friends, etc. They have someone with them, so they can count on capturing some amazing and beautiful content. It’s not exactly like this when you are on your own. Blogger or not, I have always loved taking pretty photos, especially when traveling. When I went on my first solo trip to Ireland, I remember feeling a little anxious and wondering whether or not I would be able to capture my trip in the same way. I learned very quickly that I had to just be bold enough to ask strangers to take my pics. Quite often in London and Paris, I asked several different people to take the same photo just for me to get ONE good one. But when you’re traveling alone you literally have all the time in the world, so I didn’t mind. Plus, my mentality is that I have no idea when I will be back here in this moment, in this country in this exact spot again in my lifetime, so I have to take advantage and capture it now. I have no shame in asking more than one person to snap my camera for me. Now asking a stranger to take your pics can be scary because of course there’s that fear of them running off with your camera or phone. This is why I always feel it out and ask other tourists, typically families who have their own cameras or another person on the same tour as me. I’ll usually go up to them and ask if they would like me to take their photo. Typically, they always say yes and then I ask them to take mine. This is how I made friends with a NJ family on the Pont Neuf bridge in Paris and they invited me into the Lourve with them and gave me a free pass. I wrote about that here. It’s also how I became friends with Dana, the girl I met on the Cliffs of Moher tour. It can sometimes be a great way to meet new people. Just feel out the vibes.
You don’t have anyone to share real-time moments with.
When a place has been on your bucket list for such a long time, it’s so incredible when you are right there in person living in that moment. There have been certain times though when I wish that I could have had a friend or even my mom with me to experience it together. I remember feeling that way one night in Paris when I walked over to see the Eiffel Tower light up at night. Everyone around me was sitting on the grass and drinking with their friends or their significant others. I was just sitting there alone looking up at the magic in front of my eyes. For a moment, I did feel a little lonely. For a moment, I did long to be there with the love of my life, even though I haven’t met him yet. But, that little bit of loneliness quickly turned into a more empowering feeling that I made it there and did it on my own. That kind of feeling makes the whole journey worth it even more. Even though I don’t have anyone with me physically, I tend to use Snapchat constantly to share my experience. This also makes me feel like you guys are right there with me, even though you aren’t.
Regardless of these downsides, I’m still a huge advocate of solo travel and believe the good outweighs the bad. Until you experience it for yourself, you will never fully understand the way it feeds your soul and strengthens self-love. It’s therapeutic, freeing, inspirational and honestly makes you feel like a badass for traveling around the world on your own. Spain will be the 4th country that I’ve traveled to alone in less than 2 years. If I can do it, so can you! Hope you enjoyed this post and thanks so much for reading! Happy travels.