The Guide for the solo traveler backpacking Europe

  • Budget hours for people watching. Pass your time doing it in a restaurant, do it at free breakfast in the hostel, do it mid break in an art museum and do it to pass the awkward time between late afternoon and early evening. Observe the tourists, try spotting the locals. Realize they're all tourists and begin to wonder where the real residents actually go. 
  • Engage in conversation with those in your hostel room. Realize they may only speak three words of English. Breathe a sigh of relief given the conversation turns into one with just you. And really, every solo traveler needs some time to talk.
  • Head to a bookstore and scan the collection. Notice that all their "new" international books mean new back in 2005. Ask for the Hunger Games. Laugh a little when they ask if you're looking for the one in English. Um duh, what other language does it look like you're planning on reading? Opt for a sappy Nicholas Sparks novel when told Hunger Games is out of order. 
  • Never rely on Italian tourist information spots. They, without fail, will be closed.
  • Realize your converter doesn't fit into the smaller than normal electrical socket holes. Accept that your iPhone won't charge (no free wifi for you!) and that your hair straightener won't work. Decide to sneak using one of your roommates when she leaves the room. See sparks fly when you plug in your straightener. Go for the camp- style, braided pigtails. Disregard the strange looks you will receive while wandering the streets. 
  • Realize mid-wander that your hostel map leaves out the majority of streets.  Refer to the five-page map out of the hundred pages of info in your chunky Europe, student travel book. 
  • Welcome the extensive wait to enter museums. See it, rather, as a pleasant way to pass time. 
  • Pretend Euros are fake money and stop trying to save. Take yourself to a sit down restaurant, lunch and dinner. Stop thinking others are staring at you. They probably are and for a split second, are wondering why a young one like you sits alone. Feign confidence and ambivalence. Open your book and read. 
  • Smile as you watch tourists video recording the surroundings. Think back to the times your father once did the same, recording each family holiday you took... back in the 90s.  Smile even more as you notice the few using an iPad as a camera. Which, like, has yet to make it to the socially acceptable list.  
  • Glance over and realize the man at the end of the bench sits alone. Look around and notice that out of the many, others too wander by themselves. Like you, they too travel alone. Accept that it gets lonely, experiencing Europe by yourself. But take comfort that others around you are doing just the same. And then pinch yourself, a reminder that you’re having these thoughts while sitting in Europe, while living the college student dream.
  • Turn back and carry on. Europe awaits your adventure, and you, alone or not, are here to seize it.

5 Response to The Guide for the solo traveler backpacking Europe

March 20, 2013 at 6:56 PM

this has given my that little bit of laughter as i'm sitting here in a boring as fuck intro to accounting lecture and makes me want my solo euro trip to come faster

May 16, 2013 at 11:52 AM

Hi Emma,

My name is KC Owens, I’m a college student and I love to travel! While cruising the Internet, I found your site and really enjoyed reading your posts. I have been to countries all over Europe with just my backpack and a camera. Since I am a college student and I have significant bills, it can be difficult to find ways to travel the world. However, I have done this several times, with less than ten pounds of luggage and while on a college dime!

I was hoping that you would allow me to write a post for your blog to share my tips and tricks with your readers. I put a lot of time into my traveling, it is my biggest passion and I would love to inspire others by sharing my stories, mistakes and triumphs. I look forward to hearing from you!


KC Owens

May 16, 2013 at 9:10 PM

Hi KC,

Thank you so much for your message. I'd love to have you write for the blog! Email me: and we can chat it out!

Would love to hear of your travels... ten pounds of luggage! In my book, that absolutely takes skills!

Speak to you soon!
Happy Travels!
- Emma

October 28, 2013 at 9:26 PM

I admire you for doing all of this.
I am a 20 year old female and am wanting to backpack across europ next summer. I have 5000 dollars. Will this be enough?
Secondly, If my friend cannot afford to go I am very hesitant to go by myself, mostly because I dont know if I will be safe or not!
What is your advice regarding this? Should I plan out what I do in each country or which countries to go or should I just wing it?

November 26, 2013 at 11:10 PM

I wasn't the biggest fan of traveling alone—but it's absolutely an adventure and you'll meet people along the way! Just wing it... it's all a part of the fun!!

As for budget, yes you can definitely get by on $5,000. Stay in hostels, take buses, dine in grocery stores instead of restaurants... good luck!!

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