14 countries. 21 cities. In today’s Women Who Travel Solo, Kathrin Hälbichof shares memories and tips for a solo backpacking trip through Europe.
How did you get started traveling?
Although I have been traveling as a child and during my school days (mostly Europe), the first travel experience where I was really bitten by the travel bug was a four-week volunteer project in Kenya in 2014. I’ve not only learned an incredible amount about the Kenyan culture but also a lot about myself. I discovered that the world has so much to offer and that I really want to see and explore as much as possible.
Why did you decide to take a solo backpacking trip through Europe?
After I finished my Bachelor’s degree in April 2015 I went on a backpacking tour through Europe. This backpacking trip was my first solo travel experience. I think I have been dreaming about this trip for years before I finally had the courage to take the leap and buy a ticket. I always wanted to do a trip on my own because I wanted to do something I can be really and honestly proud of. I also wanted to see more of Europe! I’m from Germany but before the trip, I’d barely seen any other country (apart from France, Italy and England). I think Europeans often forget how incredible it is that we can travel to all those countries without the need to apply for a visa. We can just hop in a train and off we go! So I really wanted to live that opportunity.
What was it like backpacking alone?
I had the best time ever. I always felt safe and I met a whole bunch of incredible people! There are a lot of other travelers and backpackers, so you don’t feel alone at all. The hardest part of my trip was through Albania because there were only a few people speaking English – but they were still very helpful and friendly!
What recommendations do you have for women looking to go on a solo backpacking trip through Europe?
I’ve been to 14 countries and 21 cities on this trip, so I can’t give a recommendation for every place I’ve been to. The places I enjoyed most were Kotor and Budapest. I really loved the Mediterranean landscape in Kotor and the rich history and lively atmosphere in Budapest. So if you go to Eastern Europe I would definitely recommend these two destinations.
What was the best part of the trip?
The best part of the trip were the people I met. I got to know so many people with different backgrounds, with different personalities, and with lots of stories to tell! I randomly met a girl from Ottawa, Ontario at a bus stop in Croatia – sitting beside each other on the bus enjoying the beautiful Adriatic Coast, coming up with ways to pass the time. I met a guy in Prague and a few weeks later we met in Copenhagen again! I met the nicest Greek girls while I was couchsurfing in Patras – they introduced me to the most wonderful Greek coffee shops and bars. I met people from all over the world and I’m still in contact with some of them.
What was the worst part of the trip?
That’s a hard one. Of course, there were challenges but they rather helped me grow as a person than stopped me from traveling. I think the “worst” part for me, personally, was that I sometimes didn’t have a lot of time for myself. I’m an introverted person, so I need some me-time to recharge – which can be quite difficult to get in a dorm room with 10 other travelers. And there is just so much to do and see anyway!
Are there any safety concerns for women backpacking alone in Europe?
I didn’t have a problem with that at all. I always felt safe. As I mentioned before, there are a lot of other backpackers as well, so most of the time you’re not even on your own. I spend some days wandering around alone but never encountered anything serious. Of course, there was the occasional catcalling – but that happened to me in Germany as well. I usually just ignore that (or if you’re witty, just shout something back to them). A general advice would just be: trust your instinct and be confident.
What advice do you have for women who are traveling alone?
As just mentioned, be confident but trust your instinct. I think your charisma can make all the difference: if you feel confident and trust in yourself people won’t make stupid comments. However, if you feel uncomfortable in a situation – trust your instinct! Get out and don’t be afraid to be rude. You do not have to feel sorry for things you really don’t have to feel sorry for!
Do you have anything else to add to inspire women solo travelers?
I just go with: Do it! It’s ok to be afraid and nervous but, sometimes, you just have to say yes to things. It will open up so many opportunities and you will never regret traveling.
About Kathrin Hälbich
Kathrin is a traveler from Germany, currently living in England enjoying the wonders of the United Kingdom. She not only loves to experience different cultures, she also loves books and good stories, so blogging came as a natural consequence. Her blog The Ambitious Bee focuses on studying and working abroad and how your career can benefit from this experience. Follow her on Instagram @theambitiousbee or on Twitter @KathrinHaelbich.
About Women Who Travel Solo
Women Who Travel Solo is a weekly column that shares the stories of women’s solo travel adventures in hopes of spreading the message that traveling alone is not only safe, but wildly rewarding. Inspire other women to travel solo by sharing your story with Something In Her Ramblings. Email Lauren at firstname.lastname@example.org.