GREAT MEMORIES: MY FIRST SOLO TRIP TO OTHER COUNTRIESIvana
Once you’ve been abroad, it’s hard to stay and live in your own country. You always want to see new places, see new lives.
This month I want to explain my first solo trip to other countries! I went on my first solo trip on 23 September. Deciding where I should go was difficult for me. Because I was trying to go to many countries but also I had to think about my free days and budget. I made many routes and changed my plans. But I realized that when I made a long route, I was getting more anxious. So I decided to make an easy route plan.
First Route: Zagreb -> Sarajevo -> Mostar -> Kotor -> Dubrovnik -> Zagreb
First I went to Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. I stayed at a hostel near Baščaršija. When I arrived at the hostel, I started to meet people. Almost everybody in the hostel was a solo traveller. Somebody was travelling for months, somebody was doing a short trip but a common feature was being solo. We shared our memories, gave advice about travelling, and talked about our experiences and countries. I stayed two nights in Sarajevo but after two days, I didn’t want to leave Sarajevo.
After Sarajevo, I went to Mostar. Mostar was amazing. Vibes, the old bridge and the lake look great. Also when you learn more about Sarajevo and Mostar’s history, you feel closer to the country. My Mostar trip was short. I stayed the night there. I think, one day is enough to visit Mostar but if you stay longer you won’t get bored because Mostar’s atmosphere is pleasant. I recommend that you join Sheva’s Free Walking Tour. He is local and he knows almost everything about Mostar and Bosnia Herzegovina. It takes around 3 hours but I think you won’t get bored, especially if you are curious about Mostar’s history and traditions.
My next station was Kotor, Montenegro. First of all, Kotor is an amazing city. When I arrived at Kotor, I loved the mountain. Mountains are so close to you. You can hike around the mountains. Then a great view awaits you.
I stayed at a party hostel in Kotor. Every evening, guests were meeting and playing beer pong. So it was great for meeting new people. If I talk about my travelling route in Kotor, first I visit the old town. The old town is so small. Then I hiked to the mountain for around an hour and arrived at the Castle of San Giovanni. If you go to the fortress from the old town, you should pay 8 Euro and for sure it is easier but if you use a hike way, you can go to the fortress for free.
I sit a bit in the fortress and just watch the view. Most of the people were sitting and enjoying the landscapes. After going back to the old town, my legs were shaking a bit because of walking but it was worth it. I had just two nights in Kotor so I didn’t rest after hiking. Directly I passed to Perast.
Perast is a small town near Kotor. If you are bored in Kotor because it is crowded, you can go to Perast and sit in calm. Because there aren’t many people and you can go by bus in 20 minutes. If you want to get information about anything in Kotor, there is a Tourist Information Desk in front of the old town gate. You can ask if you need help and get a Kotor map. In my opinion, Perast was not special but for sitting and drinking coffee, it can be a nice place.
In the evening, I went back to the hostel and played beer pong with others. I remembered that I slept just 3 hours in 34 hours because I wanted to travel around Montenegro but also spend time with people. So I chose to stay awake and continue to have fun! But I felt younger when I did this. I can sleep later but I can’t come to Kotor every day and meet these people.
And in addition, a hostel is a good option for solo travellers because every day new people can come and you can meet new people. Some travellers choose to stay at least 4-5 nights in a place. Sometimes for a few months. They say owing to this situation, they don’t have to rush and they can travel more calmly. I liked this situation. When I stay one or two nights, I have to do everything in a day and I have to say goodbye to people that I met soon. I would prefer to stay more but it can be difficult if you don’t have time and enough budget.
Anyway, in the morning I left for Kotor and passed to Dubrovnik. The bus takes five hours from Kotor to Dubrovnik. When you arrive in Dubrovnik, you should walk half an hour (3 KM) to the old town from the bus station. I can say that Dubrovnik is a nice city, especially its vibes, but I had a bit of a high expectation because of people’s compliments. For me, Dubrovnik looks like Split, but more expensive. When I visit somewhere, I want to see many places: churches, fortresses, mosques, monasteries etc. But in Dubrovnik, if you want to go to the Wall of Dubrovnik, you should pay 250 Kuna. I cannot say whether it is worth it or not, probably if I could see it, I would like it. But if you have a limited budget, paying these prices is hard. So Dubrovnik is a nice place but I didn’t stay in Dubrovnik. I had a night bus at 21:00 and went back to Zagreb. It takes about 12 hours by bus.
Second Route: Zagreb -> Sofia -> Skopje -> Zagreb
I won’t say that Sofia is my favourite city. Yes, there were great churches and places. But it is a big city and the city’s vibe was not exciting for me. But I was lucky because I met great people in the hostel. We spent time together all the time. I loved Saint Alexander Nevsky Church. Also if you are curious about arkeology, you can go to Saint Sofia Church and Underground Museum.
I was planning to stay two nights in Sofia but I didn’t want to leave those people so I stayed one more night. I had a bit of a funny memory there. In the hostel, there was a room where 18 people were staying. First, when I heard it I was shocked. Because I didn’t see this option on booking.com. I learned that you can see it just on the hostelworld website. When I see the room, it looks a bit weird because it is downstairs and looks like a prison. But I decided to stay in this room on my third day in Sofia because I thought it would be more fun and it was cheaper than my room. First, I paid 36 euros for two nights and stayed with 8 people but I learned that another room is 8 euros! If you are doing a budget trip, it can make a huge difference. By the way, there was one more room upstairs like downstairs. But I think downstairs is better. Scarier but there is more space.
Anyway, My Sofia journey finished and I went to Skopje on 11 October. The bus takes about 4,5 hours from Sofia to Skopje. When I arrived at the bus station, I couldn’t find wi-fi. So I tried to find the hostel with the address and offline map. It was a bit hard and I decided to ask people. People were kind and helped me. Also, I saw three women on the road and when I asked them the hostel’s address, I learned that they also stayed at that hostel! I like this kind of convenience. I realized that there are a lot of Turkish people in Skopje. Also, there is a Turkish Bazaar (Old Bazaar) in Skopje. So language was not a boundary for me in Skopje. For example, one day I wanted to buy a burek (pastry), I spoke in English but the owner of the bakery answered in Turkish.
Another day, I went to Millenium Cross. There are two important places outside of Skopje. Millenium Cross and Matka Canyon. You can go to Millenium Cross by bus but I prefered hiking and walking until the cable car (Vodno). I walked for almost two hours. If you like hiking, I recommend it because the forest is nice. But you should know that you will be tired at the end of the road. If you have hiking shoes, wear them and don’t forget water. When I arrived at the cable car, I used it but also you can continue hiking. But I was tired and I didn’t have time for more hiking. And the view from the cable car is amazing! You can watch Skopje and the forest from above. And the tickets are so cheap! A two-way cable car ticket is 100 Macedonian Denar (1,5 Euro). I would recommend looking at the cable car time.
The view from Millenium Cross was great. You can see Skopje. But Millenium Cross is in Vodno Mountain and the mountain was in the fog. I couldn’t see the view a lot but still, I liked the landscape and spent an hour there. I think, whether you like a place or not depends on your point of view.
I went back to the center and walked around the centar. If you go to Skopje, you will realize that you will see a lot of statues. I like some of them. I felt like I was seeing a historical scene. But some of them are a bit unnecessary for me. If the statue is meaningful, it can be great but for example, the statue of a woman jumping into the sea means nothing to me.
Another day, I joined a free walking tour. I highly recommend this tour. Zoran is local and he explained his city in a funny way. I like his energy. It was almost three hours but I didn’t get bored.
After Skopje, I spent time in the center and went to the bus station for Zagreb. The bus from Skopje to Zagreb takes 12 hours. I guess I got used to staying on the bus. It was not hard for me at that time.
I can say that solo travelling was great. When I did it for the first time, I had some concerns. I was thinking, I will get bored, want to go home again, and cannot manage the trip. But when I started, I wanted to stay longer. I was upset when I went back home. Because when I see new places and meet people, I want to see more countries and cities. But I know that it is not ending. Once you’ve been abroad, it’s hard to stay and live in your own country. You always want to see new places, see new lives.
TIPS FOR BEING SOLO TRAVELERS
- You can stay in a hostel. Hostels are generally cheaper than hotels. And you can meet new people. Hostels have 8-bed mixed, 6-bed mixed etc. Depends on the hostels. You can check booking.com or hostelworld. People write reviews about hostels. You can check the reviews and choose your hostel. I recommend that you choose a hostel near the center of the city. It will be easier to travel around the city.
- Couchsurfing: If you want to stay in a place for free, you can use Couchsurfing. Some people may want to host you. If you wish to meet local people, you can also use Couchsurfing.
- If you buy a night bus when you go somewhere, your accommodation will be free. Sleeping on a bus can be hard but a good way for a budget trip.
- You can join a free walking tour. There are free walking tours in most countries. Tour guides explain the history of the city, culture, people, tradition and more in these tours! They work tip-based. If you like touring, you can give a tip to a tour guide.
- If it is your first solo trip, I recommend that you check all of the tourist places beforehand and make a plan. For example, “First day I will visit these places, second place these places etc.” If you know what you can do in the city, you will not be bored because your days will be full. When you get used to being a solo traveller, you can be more spontaneous, if you want. I always check before where I can visit.
- If you cannot manage your first solo trip or you didn’t like it, I recommend that you should give it a second chance. Sometimes, journeys can be great but also can be hard and boring. All of these things are experiences.
Writer: Evin Arslan
Photos: Evin Arslan