You read that correctly. I traveled solo to 17 Countries in 59 Days.
Exploring (read: getting lost) in over 39 cities in Western Europe. Did I mention it was my first time abroad? I had traveled to Mexico and the Bahamas, but this was my first hop across the Atlantic. I’m a firm believer that everyone should take a solo trip at least once in their lifetime. I just never knew mine would take me so far. Further than I could have ever imagined.
So, you’re wondering “Coco, how did you plan such an elaborate trip?” Answer is: It was a mix of spontaneous, randomness and an organized tour. Months before I departed from Atlanta, I booked a 24 day tour with Expat Explore. Expat Explore is a travel company that designs guided tours to Europe, U.K, Turkey and Greece at budget prices. They handle literally everything — the lodging, the transportation, the excursions and tours, and even include most meals. All you have to do is hop on the bus! I booked the “Absolute Europe” tour, which has been restructured as the ‘Best of Europe” tour. They offer single and multi-country tours ranging from 7 days to 26 days for all budgets. You can find out more about Expat Explore and their hassle-free travel packages here.
Spent the last 24 days with 40 strangers from all over the world (Vietnam, Malaysia, Australia, Canada, Mexico, UK, USA, India, Qatar) traveling around Europe on a bus. Sounds crazy but we made it!!! 14 countries, 25+ cities, 6 different currencies, 2 chipped teeth, 6 pairs of broken sandals, 2 dislocated knees, pillow fights, coach parties, and a faux tour leader… And I wouldn't trade them for the world! Love you guys!! #expatexplore
The best part of organized tours is that you have the freedom of traveling solo, but the comfort of being in a group. My tour had 39 awesome people, from all over the world: Malaysia, Canada, Qatar, Australia, Mexico, the UK, and Vietnam. It was the best time of my life! The only con was that we often only spent 1- 2 jam-packed days in each country. It’s a great way to see the highlights and come back again for deeper exploration. But, how many people can say they’ve been to 4 countries in one day?
A year before the trip I set up a savings account for only travel. I set aside $100 every pay period. Overall, I spent less than $3,000 USD for the entire trip. For my return flight to/from Europe, I used a friend’s Companion Pass on Delta. I paid the taxes which were $89. The tour was the largest cost, which was $2,100. I booked early and got the early bird discount, plus received a referral discount by a friend who had booked with them previously. You only have to put a 10% discount to hold your spot with the balance due 30 days before departure. This allows you to lock in the early bird rate and save up the rest. For my Paris, Brussels and Greece excursions outside of the tour,
I stayed in hostels, booking through HostelWorld. I spent typically no more than $25 per night. I took advantage of the free walking tours organized by the city tourism boards and walked or took the metro. I traveled on the MegaBus going from Paris – Brussels- London, which cost me $44 total. My flight to Kos, Greece from London on low-cost carrier, EasyJet, was only $30 one way, I took a overnight ferry from Kos to Athens $55 (which saved me a hotel stay) and packed my lunches and snacks to avoid unnecessary spending.
I had a mishap overstaying and had to book a $225 flight back to London from Athens, since I had already bought tickets to the Wireless Festival and didn’t want to miss anything! All these costs were booking at the last moment, you can save even more by booking in advance.
From May 20th to July 19th, I took planes, trains, buses and public transportation around Western Europe to over 39 cities in 17 countries.
Here is the route:
Atlanta – Paris – Versailles – Brussels – Brugge – London – Paris – Burgundy – Avignon – Pont du Gard – Arles – Grasse – Nice – Monte Carlo – San Mimigiano – Tuscany – Pisa – Florence – Rome – Vatican City – Assissi – San Marino – Venice – Grimmelwald Grund – Jungfrau – Interlaken – Dachau – Munich – Salzburg – Vienna – Budapest – Bratislava – Prague – Dresden – Berlin – Amsterdam – Volundam – London – Kos – Athens – Valas – London – Atlanta
Most people considering traveling solo, especially women, are most concerned with safety. Being safe and feeling safe are always important for your own sanity and being able to enjoy such a sick experience. From my experience, I feel that Europe is one of the best places to have your first solo trip. Out of the 39 cities I toured on this journey, I would say that Paris and Barcelona were the cities where you were more likely to get scammed, robbed, or taken advantage by a gypsy cab. Again, being in an organized tour gives you the security of being in a group and having new friends to roam cities with.
Here are a few tips for staying safe while traveling alone:
- Keep you valuables hidden. Be sure to lock them in the hotel safe, hostel lockers, or hide them out of plain sight.
- Before getting in a taxi or hiring a driver, have an idea of the appropriate route, how long to your destination and how much it should cost. Google is a great way, but there are great travel apps to help you like Taxi-Calculator or Uber.
- Beware of walking down dark alleys at night. If you feel uncomfortable ask a local or group of passers-by if you can walk with them.
- Keep small bills and coinage, as some shop owners or taxi drivers will claim they “don’t have change” and expect to keep your change. Nah, bro. you can take this pocket full of euros though!
- Also, don’t pull out large sums of cash in public. Have an idea of how much your next purchase or the day’s excursions will cost and keep only that in close reach.
- In bars and nightclubs, don’t leave your drink unattended and only take drinks that you have seen made. In most European cities, its quite easy to point out the American tourists. I swear, we really are the friendliest tourists. Strike up a conversation, ask if they mind if you hang out since you’re riding solo. And voila! you have new drinking buddies! This is exactly how I made friends on solo trips to Portugal and the Philippines.
- Most of all, use common sense. If it doesn’t feel right, then it’s not right for you. You don’t owe anybody anything. Your safety and well-being ALWAYS comes first.
Overall, it was the trip of a lifetime. It was truly life-changing. I quit my job to take this trip and it was the best decision of my life.
Traveling solo taught me:
- How to be my own best friend
- To always trust my gut
- To be resourceful in the weirdest ways
- How to wash & dry laundry on the fly
- That a smile and a hello will take you far
- Not to be naive to people’s
- That there are bad people, but you can’t live thinking everyone’s out to get you
- To pack light and travel far