One of the great joys of travelling is the opportunity to stretch and challenge yourself. It also gives you a sense of freedom and a chance to try something you might not try at home.
These moments of personal growth are multiplied when you choose to travel on your own.
I was recently asked by a DF reader to share my advice for anyone wanting to experience solo travel in France.
It won’t come as a surprise to regular readers that France is my favourite destination when travelling alone. And it’s fair to say that I’ve picked up many helpful tips over the years. These learnings usually arose when I had refused to budge from French soil, and Scott had been keen to explore further afield…
My Top Tips For Solo Travel In France
Pack Lightly And Stylishly
Yes. Yes. I know I bang on about packing lightly all the time. But it is important. If you are on your own, you need to be able to manoeuvre your luggage without injuring yourself. Or exhausting yourself. The stylish part probably needs no further explanation. You are going to be in France after all. Look to pack neutral colours, travel friendly fabrics and don’t forget the ‘must have’ accessories – cross-body bags and scarves.
Some adventurous souls can easily head to a new city on their own with nothing more than a passport and their credit card. That collection of souls doesn’t include mine. Personally I find I am more relaxed when I am as organised as possible. My advice is to book your travel plans – doesn’t matter if it is a train, plane or an automobile – as well as your accommodation. You might want to book any ‘must do’ activities too.
It is also worthwhile having a vague idea of where you need to be and how you are going to get there. For example, many French cities offer the convenience of a Métro rail system. No matter which city you are headed to, it’s much better to know which Métro line you need to take before you arrive at the station. This strategy saves you having to work it out via one of those big station maps (which always have a ton of people milling around them).
And if it is your first time in a particular French location, you might want to take a cab/car from the airport or train station to your accommodation. Keep copies of your tickets with you, together with maps or directions on how to get where you are going.
But Leave Some Space In Those Travel Plans
Plans are one thing but don’t fill up your days with so much that you put yourself under pressure. Travel takes you out of your comfort zone. Things that you might manage quickly and easily at home – like finding your hotel or a restaurant – can take way longer when you are travelling. This is especially true if your French isn’t strong. And then there are the seemingly inevitable transport delays. Knowing you don’t have to rush and that you have time to sort yourself out can take a lot of stress out of proceedings.
Back Up Your Documents
Regardless of whether you store your travel paraphernalia digitally or travel with ‘old school’ paper copies make sure you leave a copy with a friend or family member so you can access them if they happen to get mislaid while you are travelling.
Use Your Time Wisely
When you travel on your own, it can be easy to get distracted. Or put things off. Having a list can keep you on track and stop you from getting to the end of your trip disappointed in what you did or didn’t do.
Learn A Few Key French Phrases
In the decade we’ve been travelling to France, we’ve seen a real increase in the amount of English spoken. Particularly in Paris. However, while it is easier and easier to travel in France speaking only English, you will find it is less widely spoken the further away you are from the major centres. This doesn’t mean you need to be fluent, but if you want to get the most from your solo travel in France, it’s worthwhile learn enough French to allow you to appear polite. And memorise a few key a phrases – in case you get lost, need help or would like to get a table in a restaurant.
Take A Journal
Solo travel in France provides space that we don’t always get in our busy lives. And all sorts of ideas, emotions and feelings can bubble up. A little journalling can help you capture both your creativity and any lessons you might learn while you are on your own.
Take Something To Read
A book in any format is a handy thing to have in your bag. It can stave off boredom and can provide excellent distraction if you find eating alone a challenge.
On The Topic Of Solo Dining
Eating in a restaurant alone can be a daunting experience when you are at home, let alone when you are travelling. I was pleased to discover that solo diners are very welcome in French restaurants, as dining is considered an art form – one where the diner becomes completely engaged with their meal. When I really started to pay attention, I realised that there were numerous solo diners in restaurants everywhere.
If you are feeling a little uncomfortable about dining alone, make sure you choose a restaurant that has one of your favourite dishes on the menu and take the time to truly enjoy it. Additionally, a book or a tablet can be very helpful if you are new to solo dining. And, as an added incentive, remember that solo diners do seem to get good tables and excellent service!
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