Slow girl travels fast

An insight into how solo travel can be positively life changing

Kimiko Cheng
16th February 2024
Image credit - Kimiko Cheng
Last month in an attempt to fight the January blues, I took advantage of the cheap budget airline flights and set off to Spain. Unable to wait for my friends to make up their minds, I went by myself.

Solo travel has previously been perceived as an activity for people with no friends, but now it’s “cool”. Truth be told I didn’t even ask my friends to join; who would want to travel with vegetarians, picky eaters, or people who don’t enjoy art?

Safety is one of the biggest concerns for first time solo travellers, especially women. Walking through the streets determined not to be a victim of the rife pickpocketing I’d been warned about, I kept all my important belongings in a bumbag tucked under my hoodie and zipped up my jacket pockets.

Big cities in Spain are a non-stop party, clubs are open until the early hours of the morning, and afters at 6am is a common occurrence. While I chose not to participate in that side of the culture, I did walk through the streets to catch a train at 6am. Only one drunk man tried to speak to me, but left me alone when I made a face at him. Not only are bars and clubs open later, book shops were open until 9pm.


Big cities in Spain are a non-stop party, clubs are open until the early hours of the morning, and afters at 6am is a common occurrence.


The limitless nature of the solo trip has its downsides. One might be tempted to fill every crevice of time with exploration and culture, so make sure to take time to soak in your surroundings, and enjoy nature. I learned this the hard way; three cities in six days takes a toll on your body (even if you are at the peak of physical fitness).

I spent two days in Bilbao, Madrid and Spain. In Bilbao, the Guggenheim Bilbao museum houses the artwork of some big names in modern art such as Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol, Jean Basquiat, Mark Rothko and Yayoi Kusama. While the permanent collection was on par with that of the Tate Modern, the architecture and temporary exhibition of Picasso were impressive. I visited the regionally renowned La Ribera market on the canal and learned that pinchos had a greater presence than tapas in Basque country. Pinchos are a small dish either on a skewer or piece of bread, it could be anything from prawns to ham with jam.

Madrid was abundant in art with the Museo Nacional del Prado showcasing Greek sculptures from 515 BCE to Picasso in the 20th Century, including a remarkable array of Spanish paintings with the main themes of royalty, death, and religion. In El Retiro Park the variety of buskers, from poets with typewriters to musicians playing the rims of glasses, ignites a desire to find your passion. It’s the perfect location for people watching or being that mysterious girl in the park reading a book.

I happened to be in the capital city during Dia de Los Reyes (Three Kings Day) and the night before, when a 2.5 hour procession took place. Although it also happens in other cities, Madrid scales up the celebrations tremendously. Whether you’re religious of not, you’d enjoy the atmosphere of thousands lining up to catch a glimpse of the parade. Children stood on open-top buses and pelted sweets at the crowds, people held open umbrellas upside down to catch them and some even brought step ladders for a better view. However when I asked a Spanish local where was the best place to watch, I was told “at home on television”. 

In El Retiro Park the variety of buskers, from poets with typewriters to musicians playing the rims of glasses, ignites a desire to find your passion.

I finally reached Barcelona on a crowded train, which made me miss the first class train with reclining seats that I’d been on two days prior. All the tourist sites were worth going to, although I wish I had gone to the International Mass at the Sagrada Familia and saved €26. Despite that, it was gorgeous, especially when the light shone through the rainbow stained glass windows. Its beauty was ethereal and maybe I could’ve been persuaded to believe in God.

While my trip focused on art and food, your solo trip could be anything you want it to be. In solo travel you are accountable for your own enjoyment and no one will push you to have fun, so you have to carpe diem. Happy travels.


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