There often comes a point in one’s study abroad experience when a pattern is developed. You may always take the 3 or the 8 bus every day to class or the city center. You confidently navigate your way around the city via the same route, and don’t need to have your phone out to refer to a map anymore. I am currently in that state.
When this realization came over me, I was booking my flight for a trip to Paris by myself. Flying from Salzburg to Paris’s largest airport would have been over triple the cost of flying from Vienna to Beauvais, a small airport in a small town called Tille outside of Paris. The airport in Beauvais is the 10th busiest in France, but is quite small and remote. I even tried changing my flight and getting my money back, but I knew that this was going to be the type of experience I needed to break the habitual patterns I had developed this semester. I needed this challenge to travel alone. This might seem like a silly thing to avid travelers, but I had never flown somewhere and had to travel from the airport to my Airbnb all by myself before this.
I learned a lot during my journey. Here are some key tips for traveling alone for the first time:
1. Download Google Maps.
I think Google Maps is the single best app to use while traveling around Europe. They’ve had all of the train and bus lines I have ever needed. It also shows exactly how much it costs to get from Point A to Point B.
2. Scope out your route before leaving.
This was something I wish I did even more in-depth. My bus from the airport to city center would’ve probably been significantly less expensive if I had booked it online in advance. It’s also good to be aware of the bus schedule, your train time, and alternate routes depending on the time of day. It’s always better to show up early rather than late.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
The language barrier was definitely apparent while I was in France. My three years of French in middle school did not come to my advantage this weekend. But, this didn’t stop me from asking for help if I needed it — I just found other ways to communicate and get my message across. Making sure you are in the right place is never a bad idea.
4. Bring snacks and a portable charger.
Emphasis on both. I wish I had known this before my phone was on 6% and I hadn’t eaten anything but a singular pistachio macaron in almost five hours and was still three hours away from home.
5. Keep your friends and family updated.
Just in case, make sure that people know where you are. Shoot your family group chat a quick text when you hit the main checkpoints (airport, landing, Airbnb, etc.). You should also let your Resident Director know when you are traveling in general.
6. Take a deep breath.
Freaking out is my personal “go-to” in stressful situations, so reminding yourself to breath is super important. It’s not the end of the world if you’re flight is delayed or if you aren’t making the original bus you wanted; everything will work out in the end.
This post was contributed by Anna Freeda, a student from the University of Connecticut who is spending her spring semester studying abroad with AIFS in Salzburg, Austria.