In my junior year, I spent the spring semester studying in Lisbon, Portugal. I knew that traveling throughout Europe was extremely cheap and wanted to take advantage. Planned trips with my friends didn’t work, for one reason or another, so I decided for my 21st birthday that I would buy myself a ticket somewhere.
I overheard friends talking about Brussels, Belgium and thought to myself, “what’s even in Brussels?” I wanted to find out. I always wanted to do a solo travel trip but fears of the unknown prevented me from considering it as a viable option. However, my semester abroad was coming to an end and the opportunity could pass me by. Out of curiosity, I looked at flight and accomodations; it was really cheap for a round trip and weekend lodging.
I went ahead and purchased, because I knew that I could stay safe by only going places in the day and that I was from NYC so my street smart skills were superior.
The day of, I was super anxious — I thought of scenarios where I could get kidnapped or worse, but wasting money wasn’t an option. I was also pretty sure no one wanted to kidnap ME of all people. Much to my surprise, there was another American checking into the hostel and we were both sharing a 4-person all-girls room. We struck up a conversation and I told her some, not all, details about myself and it turned out we were both in Brussels exploring “just because.”
The next day, we agreed to go sightseeing together. We saw the Manneken Pis and the Grand Place among other sites. After about 4 hours, we had eaten a waffle and seen all there was to see in Brussels. It was slightly underwhelming BUT I was so happy to have someone to share my experience with! Making this new friend was relieving, spontaneous and quite unlike me. I am not used to making new friends and trusting people so quickly. The girl was really sweet though and didn’t strike me as a person with ulterior motives.
After a day of traveling, we came back, ate, and sat at the bar in our hostel. Belgium is famous for three things: chocolate, beer, and architecture. At the bar, we met a whole bunch of Dutch frat boys who were taking an annual trip to Brussels. They recommended beers to us, which were really, really good and told us about their lives in the Netherlands (also got into a debate amongst themselves about Flemish, French, Dutch– I didn’t even know there were more than one language spoken in the Netherlands or in Belgium).
Overall, my first solo trip was SO rewarding and honestly, the random American girl I met from Oregon was a Godsend! She left the day before I did and I spent the day roaming Brussels alone, enjoying the architecture and such. I am so glad I took the risk to travel somewhere alone; Europe is relatively safe and people have high regards for Americans. If you’re reading this and thinking about solo traveling- DO IT!
By : Michaella M.
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( Some amazing architecture I took photos of.)