Traveling Alone: Taking the Leap 10


I’m just back from another round of tours and a rip-roaring good time in Europe. I’ve been going through my email and wanted to share a message about fear and traveling alone from a reader.

I’ve written occasionally about debunking travel myths and countering travel fear. The world is never perfectly safe, but my personal feeling is that it’s not nearly as scary as the media makes you think. Letting fear keep you away from realizing your travel dreams breaks my heart. This beautiful world is full of surprise and delight, I want you to see it too, to feel the things I’ve felt.

It’s easy for a professional traveler–a tall, scary, street-smart woman–to tell you that you should not worry. It might be easy to blow off my advice because I’m just not you, and I understand that. Because of that, I want to share the experience of a reader, possibly like yourself, who did take the leap.

This message left me crying in my cappuccino. I often think I write just to entertain my cat, and it was so moving to know that my ramblings have made an impact on someone. I hope she will inspire you as she did me.

Hi Sarah, hope you’re well! I just wanted to thank you for your article about travelling to Europe during this time of terrorism. It helped me so much!

I had a trip scheduled to The Netherlands and Belgium. As a big consumer of news, I was getting more afraid to go, especially since I was traveling alone. I travel alone quite often, but the thought of being affected by terrorism and being alone, really frightened me.

I almost cancelled my trip, but then saw your post. It reminded me that Europe is a big place and the chances of something happening were quite small. Your words also confirmed for me that my love and “need” for exploration needed to be prioritized over my fear of the “what if”.

Next Friday I will have a surgical biopsy for possible endometrial cancer. This trip was important to me as a reminder that living life is important because you never know what the future holds.

Long story short, I left San Diego for that trip to Amsterdam and fell in love! As I explored Rotterdam, took a cycling trip through the polderlands and windmills of Kinderdijk, visited small van Gogh villages, I took every kind of public transportation known to the Dutch and did just fine. Going to Bruges, as a precaution, I made four train changes to avoid Brussels, which I felt was a smart and prudent thing to do, to ease my anxiety. The changes were a lot, but I knew I was making the wisest choices to still continue on my journey.

I enjoyed my short stay in Belgium, in and out, no problems. Now, with some jet lag, I am up early ready to head back to work.

I am so grateful that I had this two-week experience, especially not knowing what my future health will look like. Thank you for the support, the nudge to have faith and take the chance. I was as safe as I could be, and I had a beautiful and fulfilling life experience.

I thought about your words a lot, and I really wanted to thank you, personally. Safe travels to you! Enjoy, enjoy!

The moral of the story….go. Go now. Traveling alone is just fine. Non si sa mai. We never know. Go see, feel, taste, touch and be a part of this world before it’s too late.

Many thanks to this reader and all the other readers who write and inspire me to keep up this crazy project. It’s an honor, and the feelings are mutual.


About sarahinitalia@yahoo.com

Sarah Murdoch is a tour guide and guidebook writer for Rick Steves Europe. Her blog, Adventures with Sarah, focuses on packing tips, travel stories and advice for planning the best trip possible.


10 thoughts on “Traveling Alone: Taking the Leap

  • Peggy Hobart

    Sorry, this is off topic but can you please send me your packing list? My husband and I are traveling with 2 carry ons for close to 3 weeks in mid September to Italy. This will be a HUGE challenge for me but I’m excited to do this!! I love your blogs!!

  • Jeanne Supple

    Love this thread! I began my travel in 1973 with what was SUPPOSED to be a six week journey-three weeks in Greece and three weeks in Ireland. Instead I met some Aussie backpackers in Naxos and traded my suitcase for a backpack called my parents from Thessaloniki and informed them I was going to Australia! (My mother spent every day after that saying the rosary for me😊).
    I never made to Australia (well I did, but it was 30 years later) but I was gone 18 months in Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, Egypt Sudan and Kuwait. I met and married a boy from Chicago and had my first child in the Kuwait Maternity Hospital before finally returning to Canada with my new family. Along the way I met wonderful and some not so wonderful people, saw many amazing sights, got sick, recovered, was a guest of the cousin of the King of Kuwait and learned a fair bit of taxicab level Farsi and Arabic.
    It changed my life by broadening my horizons and building trust in the Universe.
    When my daughter was old enough I practically shoved her out the door to work in a cruise ship and it changed her life too!

  • Terri Kenny

    My husband is not interested in traveling via airplane therefore I travel alone. Recently my 85 yr old active, full of life Aunt passed away after 5 months of cancer. She was a runner, a healthy eater. She was a force of nature who was a former pre school director and a caregiver for the seniors at her church. In the late 90’s she and her husband made several trips to Europe and her well preserved photo albums spoke loudly to all, travel when you can. Her son (my cousin) died at 61 from ALS, my sister 57 from cancer. I will travel as long as I am able. I have felt safer in Europe then some American cities. Oddly, I found Seattle to be the worst for questionable people milling around on the streets. Thanks for the great blog post!!

  • Mary Laase-Celik

    My first trip to Europe was in 1970 from Portland, OR. It was for 10 weeks with a new backpack and sleeping bag, a used copy of Europe on $5 a day, and a $279 flight on a charter airline that went bankrupt the next summer. Traveling was MUCH different then. It was a lot more difficult to communicate, but I am so happy that my relatives saved the aerograms I wrote, filled on both sides with microscopic writing. Oh, the joy and wonder of that first trip. I went alone that summer (with no reservations) after my first year teaching 8th graders. It changed my life. I learned at a young age that I could make it on my own. That trip led to frequent summer travels across ‘the pond’ and to SE Asia. Thirty years later I retired and worked a few trips as an assistant guide in Turkey (and one in Europe) for Rick Steves. Last summer I spent a month traveling alone in Turkey and never felt anxious. This September I’m going to Sicily. Still on the bucket list are the ‘Stans, Uzbekistan in particular, more SE Asia and maybe Cuba. The travel lust just never ends. Now, if only the knees hold up!

    • sarahinitalia@yahoo.com Post author

      Wow, I haven’t met you, I thought I knew everyone in the “family”. If SE Asia is on your list, I’ll be doing Thailand and Indonesia in 2019. Nice to meet you, virtually 🙂

  • Kim

    What a wonderful message you received Sarah. I remember as a high school student back in the late 80’s and the Gulf War happening, my high school had planned a trip to Germany, Belgium and France. It was cancelled because the parents were scared that something would happen to their kids. To this day I am still sad that it had happened. I know that I have lost a chance of a life time to see those amazing countries and experiences. Since then I have been lucky enough to travel by myself to New Zealand and Singapore. I loved every minute of it and was so thankful that I took the leap. I have also gone with a couple of other people to places just after major events occurred and had a wonderful time (Egypt) where the locals have thanked us for coming to their country.

  • Margaret (Peggy) Hammond

    At the end of May, I packed my Rick Steves back pack, and headed for three weeks in the U.K. I arrived at Gatwick and activated my rail pass for my trip to York. From York headed up to Edinburgh and then Inverness for two weeks in the Highlands. Just me, my back pack, my rail pass, an occasional bus ticket and really good walking shoes. I then started South and celebrated my 70th birthday on the Glastonbury Tor….every step of the trip was magickal. At no time did I feel unsafe or lonely.
    The one thing I noticed on this trip is that winging it is a little more difficult. By that I mean I usually travel with no reservations except for the first and last nights. It is still possible, but it seemed like more people are traveling and lodging requires a bit more effort…welll worth it though! Except for the Arnot House in York, I was unable to book at any of the Rick Steve’s recommended B and Bs…they had been booked way in advance. Since I am mindful of my first night, I had booked way in advance at the Arnot House….so glad I did….it was wonderful…my last nights? The Covenstead in Glastonbury and a quick night at the Ibis in Bristol on my way to Heathrow.
    I enjoy traveling with family and friends, but I really love traveling on my own.

    • sarahinitalia@yahoo.com Post author

      That’s a great point. There are more people traveling and because reserving on the internet is so easy, people do book ahead more than in the past. I also love my alone time!

    • Jeanne Supple

      Margaret, how did you get in my head? Your trip is EXACTLY the trip I am planning from August 22-September 14!
      North to York, then Edinburgh then Inverness. Want to hit Lake District, Cotswolds and Cornwall before Bath and London! Can you give me/is a more detailed itinerary and let us know if there were any spots you would give a miss to in hindsight?
      Thanks in advance!

      • Margaret (Peggy) Hammond

        I went to York because I had fond memories of my last trip there with my then teenage daughter. I decided to skip London, so took a train directly to York…my anticipated jet lag did not happen so I spent a relaxing two nights in York before heading to Edinburgh. I did not spend much time in England because my focus was the Highlands and then Glastonbury. So I did not not do the Lake District or the Cotswolds but instead bundled up and went to Inverness and Orkney. I love the wilds of Scotland.
        On the way to Glastonbury I stopped in Carlisle, pleasant surprise, I had never been there. Had a delightful time exploring. When you travel alone, people are especially friendly and helpful. In all my travels I have found that the best times are had when you just allow the journey to unfold. You will have a great time. I finally learned to let go of the fear of missing something in favor of appreciating the path ahead.

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