Every millennial like myself has a bucket list to travel the world. Trust me, I have a really long list of exotic destinations to visit before I turn 40.
The thing about being a millennial is that we usually don’t have the funds for such bucket list. This was at least until I was invited to visit Amsterdam by a friend who was living there.
I spent weeks making lists of pros and cons before I decided to travel alone to Europe. My friend was probably frustrated with my constant worrying and yes, the list-making drove him up the wall.
When he couldn’t take it anymore he told me,
“What’s the worst that can happen?”
That sentence gave me such a rush of adrenaline, I decided to purchase my flight ticket on the spot.
My journey to Amsterdam had begun.
Here are five things I learnt as a solo female traveler during my trip.
1. My confidence level increased to level 999.
I generally am a confident person, but sometimes, I do have my weak moments – I can’t decide on anything. I end up overthinking and overpreparing.
However, after going on this solo trip, I can say that it has definitely improved my decision-making.
For example, when my friend was working, I decided to take a bus to Zaanse Schans, a Windmill Village located an hour away from Amsterdam city myself.
I was confident enough to ask for directions, and it helped boost my confidence when I finally reached my destination.It was a sense of achievement when I realized that I can do anything if I put my mind into it.
2. Discover your untapped potential
Traveling solo is a good time to explore your untapped potential. Travelling made me realise that my sense of direction is good. I can remember the routes and paths after only visiting the city once.
Of course, except for maybe this one time. I took a train to The Hague to see the famous painting of “The Girl with Pearl Earrings” by Vermeer, one of the most famous Dutch artists in the Netherlands.
I got lost in the town but instead of freaking out, I calmed down and slowly figured out the directions to the museum. In the end I found it!
3. Being able to face new risks and challenges
I’ve been sheltered all my life. I had never wanted to try new or risky things. However, my perspectives changed during my solo trip to Amsterdam. I became adventurous – at least when it comes to food.
For example, I had always had a negative impression on beef tartare. I just found it disgusting and icky, even though I had never tried it.
However, when I was in Amsterdam, I ordered it despite my reservations. I took a first bite and flew to heaven – it was so delicious that I was at the verge of licking the plate clean.
I even tried the local blood sausage from one of the independent breweries in Amsterdam.
Blood sausage is literally made from pig’s blood, but I ate it like a champion. I thought it would taste disgusting based on its look and texture, but it tasted like our local Chinese sausage! I was pleasantly surprised. In fact, it went very well with the brewed beer and the locally made cheese.
The gastronomic adventure did not just stop there. I tried a few other local delicacies and fell in love with it. My favourite Dutch food would have to be the bitterballen.
Bitterballen is a deep-fried ball shaped potato with meat fillings. It tasted similar to croquette, but somehow better. The trick to eat bitterballen is to wait for it to cool down, or else you’ll risk burning your tongue because the fillings are piping hot!
4. Experiencing Freedom
I’ve always been afraid of walking alone on the streets in Kuala Lumpur. I was previously a victim of snatch theft. That snatch incident left me with a constant fear to walk alone.
However, when I was in Amsterdam, I felt safe. I walked alone everywhere.
The crime rate in Amsterdam is so low, that the Dutch prisons are almost empty. They’re currently converting it into homes for the refugees.
Summertime in Amsterdam was the best time to walk about and explore the city. I wandered alone and got lost discovering the beautiful canals for my Instagram account.
The sense of freedom was refreshing, and made my solo travel to Amsterdam unforgettable.
The best thing about traveling solo is that you make your own schedule. You don’t have to deal with other people’s preferences about where to go and what to eat.
I enjoy the idea of wandering around and being lost. When I got lost, I often stumble upon hidden gems.
When I was in Amsterdam, I was walking alone when I smelled something delicious. I followed the scent.
It led me to one of the best chocolate chips cookies in Amsterdam! I will always remember the first bite of that warm chocolate chip cookie.
The chocolate chips melted in my mouth. I even saved the crumbles in my hand with every bite, because it was that good!
I went to The Hague to see “The Girl with the Pearl Earring” – the famous painting by Dutch artist, Vermeer. On my way to the museum, I passed by a departmental store called Primark.
Primark is my favorite departmental store simply because their clothes and household items are very affordable. I can purchase a shirt at €5.
Even after converting it to Ringgit Malaysia, the shirt is still cheaper.
I am obsessed with Primark. I spent half a day there. It was the best half day spent (no pun intended).
I only wished I brought a bigger bag to stuff more shopping, but all I had then was a small recycling bag.
Random things like this made my trip a more fulfilling one!
Truth to be told, I initially doubted going to Amsterdam alone, especially after watching “Taken.”
I was often nagged by my friends and family about being robbed or kidnapped or even having my organs harvested if I were to travel as a solo female.
But I managed to avoid these worst-case scenarios by taking the proper precautions.
For example, I always made sure that I had all the relevant emergency contact information (in both hardcopy and softcopy) just in case something happens.
If a path looks suspicious or dodgy, I will avoid it at any cost.
I strongly believe in my instincts when it comes to traveling. It doesn’t sound very logical, but I believe it does help you make the right decisions.
We tend to overthink and overprepare when it comes to traveling. Sometimes, you need a little bit of spontaneity and make small leaps of faith.
You’ll find that that it’s in fact fun, and good for self-development. All women should try to travel solo at least once in a lifetime!
For more articles on travel, read How I Quit My Five-Figure Salary Job to Become a Travel Writer, and I Travelled a Lot When I Was Younger – Here’s Why It Sucks.