3 lessons I learned while traveling solo to Norway as a female traveler
The run-up to Norway
To be honest, I did make an incredible road trip across the US west coast in August, but I was so set on taking my planned interrail trip that I just couldn’t let it go. I had an unused interrail ticket and canceled plans, which left me kinda disappointed in myself.
Nevertheless, I think it was this very same event that planted the first seed towards the journey of my solo trip to Norway. I bought the infamous interrail ticket in May last year: A golden ticket, my portal to the adventurous world of travel.
The ticket was worth a month of travel and I planned to travel to Lake Bled (of course) via Firenze and Spello in Italy with a minor detour to the Swiss alps. I was going to stay in hostels, ideally even some camping, and travel by myself for an entire month. Sounds like an awesome plan, right? A little too optimistic maybe.
What stopped me before: Feeling afraid about the world
Let me give you a little backstory about the girl I was a couple of months ago because she was always afraid. Afraid to be on her own but at the same time avoiding social contact with roommates or visiting friends. Afraid to drive the car or accidentally take the wrong train. Even afraid to be alone at night while walking the dog in a neighborhood she’s lived in all her life.
I think you get the idea, that girl was pretty scared of everything that was even remotely new or uncontrollable including solo travel as a woman. Completely nuts for any human being given that change is the only constant in the world. Oh well. Now I hear you thinking: If I was so scared, why did I even buy the interrail ticket? The answer is simple.
What happened when started to listen to my inner voice
While part of me was so frightened by the world, there has always been this other part of me, safely tucked away under my shield of fear. This part has a hunger for adventure, freedom, and trying out new things. Hunger for letting all strings of life a little looser and starting to live. It has always been there, though last year it has grown to a new level of insatiableness.
Not a single day went by when I didn’t dream of traveling and exploring hidden gems of the world. I was just waiting for a sign from the universe. You can imagine that when the interrail company announced a 50% discount in May, I considered that to be the perfect sign. I booked the next morning without having second thoughts and felt jubilant for weeks, being completely in love with life and feeling grateful for all the new doors this would open.
Taking this action back in May was a real Kickstarter for my confidence boost as part of me thought that if I could successfully do this trip, I could do anything. In a way, I was only testing myself. As you might have guessed from the title of this article, however, this story is not about the interrail. So hang on, because we’re almost there.
My next challenge for a solo trip was to pick a month with enough time to leave my work, studies, and apartment behind for a while. Since my studies would be done in the summer, the big plan was to go in July. I had everything sorted out, but when one of my main accommodations got canceled and I couldn’t find something similar, I decided to call it quits.
This seemed like a pretty determining moment for me, as I thought to myself “I am never going to travel, it’s just not for me and I should give up my dream.” Here’s what I learned afterward through a solo trip to Norway:
Lesson 1: Opening your mind leads to a new world
Flash forward to September: I was laying on my parents’ couch while scrolling on a website for work exchanges. Pages and pages went by without feeling excited about any of the opportunities and just when I was about to give up, my attention was caught by someone’s profile. They seemed like the sweetest family and lived on a mountain, surrounded by nature.
Still a little hesitant by the interrail flop, I decided to send them a message as I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It was the best decision I could have made because within 24 hours my flight to Oslo was booked. A one-way trip, with no return date. How exciting!
You may wonder where my fears had gone. Funnily enough, I don’t remember being afraid at all. Maybe that’s because, for the first time, I felt like I was living my dream and the idea of that alone was worth repressing any doubt. In the Netherlands, we have a saying to describe this feeling: “De wereld ligt aan je voeten”, which means that absolutely anything is possible for you.
And that’s how I truly felt because, from the moment I decided to leave everything behind to go to Norway, everything went super smoothly. You know what they say, fortune favors the bold. So go and do that thing you’re so scared of!
Lesson 2: You learn how to be more self-reliant
Anyway, once I arrived in Norway alone everything seemed to fall into place. I felt like I had just found the last golden ticket from Willy Wonka’s chocolate bars and was now getting the grand factory tour. Having made a scary decision that turned out exactly how I had planned in my head made a huge impact on my self-esteem.
The same girl who, only a month before, had been too scared to go home by herself after having dinner at her friend’s house was now in a different country, completely by herself! No friends or family around to fall back onto and without even some knowledge of the country. No cellular data or credit card and zero Norwegian language skills. As someone who loves to plan and prepare everything in fine detail, this was the most unprepared I had ever been.
Needless to say, of course, this unpreparedness brought its challenges. On my second day in Norway, I was asked to pick up a car and drive it back up the mountain. As you might remember from before, I was scared to drive a car. Not that I couldn’t drive safely, I just had very little faith I would be able to handle any unknown situation that might come up.
At the time I didn’t have cellular data to use Google Maps, but I sort of remembered the road from the first time and I was so set on not turning down their request on my second day, that I thought to myself: “How hard can it be?”. Spoiler alert: it was that hard. If you’re still reading, now is the time to shake your head disappointedly.
After carefully being escorted by my host until the first intersection, I missed my exit and although I heard a little voice asking whether I was still going the right way, I didn’t stop until I was on top of the mountain. A different mountaintop. Not that they were so far apart, but I still had to find my way back. You can probably imagine that this was the point where I started to panic: I had no idea where I was or how I was going to get home before dark.
Much exaggerated of course, but that’s how little faith I had in myself. A couple of minutes later I picked myself up, thinking: “If I can travel to a new country by myself, I can find the way back.” So ultimately, with a much lighter heart and some upbeat music playing in the background, I turned around and started driving the exact opposite way. I was relieved to find the way back and later that night at dinner we had a big laugh about it. All’s well that ends well!
Lesson 3: You can form different kinds of friendships
About a week in, someone else from the same work exchange platform joined me for a few days. Since we both came here and traveled alone, we quickly clicked. She came from Estonia and had traveled all over the world doing work exchanges by herself. As you can imagine, I looked up to her and was intrigued to hear more about the adventures she had made.
Both of us had a deep love for nature, hiking, and being outside, so we started going on little hiking tours together. I would tell her about my life as a student in the Netherlands, and she would tell me about the travels she made and the people she met along with them.
Looking at her was like looking at a version of my older self and that made it into an interesting dynamic. Most of my friendships in the Netherlands were based on a version of myself that was living from a place of fear.
Since I had stepped out of my comfort zone and gained so much more confidence, my friendship with the Estonian girl felt completely different from most of the friendships I knew. Even three months later, our friendship continues to increase my confidence in all the possibilities that life has to offer me.
Later that trip when I went to Copenhagen twice and stayed in hostels for the first time, I had very similar experiences. Long-distance friendships that were made spontaneously, but continue to persist and bring about a very new and grown side of me. I am forever grateful for them!
We’re getting to the end of this story, but if there’s anything I want you to remember as a best solo trip tip is to trust your intuition because she will always guide you toward the right things. Going to Norway by myself has been the scariest but easiest decision I think I ever made.
During my solo travels, I made some useless mistakes and felt afraid very often, but just by following my gut I have seen the most beautiful views, made amazing friendships, and gained a lot of trust in myself! At the end of the day, it was all of those small things that contributed to restoring my confidence in myself and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!
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🌈 Do you need more advice to start your solo trip? You can find more articles all at once here!
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👩 Maron Theunis is a female traveler from the Netherlands. She has a passion for writing and taking photos and hiking. A few months ago, she finally started her first solo trip to Norway to get out of her comfort zone. Since then she went to Copenhagen and Germany. Right now, her dream destination to travel to is Sri Lanka.