This year, even if you’re partnered, indulge in the idea of a solo journey, an affair filled with passion for experiences and sights, and filled with the enchantment of chance encounters and desserts all to yourself.
Here are six reasons to consider a solo journey by train during the year’s most romantic holiday.
- Possibilities – When you travel on your own, the world opens up. You become more approachable, if you wish to put out that energy. Suddenly, strangers offer to share their food on a train, enquire after you if you look lost, and smile at you more often. And if you’re single, there’s always the chance of a romantic tryst…. It’s not for everyone, but travelling by yourself does permit connections that simply won’t happen when you’re paired. It’s also an opportunity to put down your phone and ignore social media for a few hours, whilst you absorb the atmosphere around you. And more than any other mode of travel, a train journey affords the freedom to move around; you can visit the dining car, chat with seat or tablemates, or, if you prefer, keep to yourself.
- Confidence – Travelling solo can push your boundaries and force you out of your comfort zone. And you’ll only know how good you are at getting out of a bind when you find yourself in one. What do you do when you’re waiting for a train with a large bag and you have to buy a snack, go to the toilet or do anything that would be easier without luggage? If you’re with a partner, you have them watch your bag. If you’re solo, you get creative. Problem-solving, asking for help, and working through sticky situations on your own are great ways to boost your self-esteem. If there’s one thing that comes out of travelling solo, it is a sense of your own competence.
- You set the pace – When you travel by yourself, you get to do whatever you want, whenever you want. Want to sleep in, and eat breakfast in bed? There’s no one to stop you. Want to spend the day checking out Renaissance fine art in Paris, or maybe the Currywurst Museum in Berlin? You do you. Gone are the negotiations and compromises of travelling with another person. While those aren’t always bad things, on a solo trip you can indulge in the pleasure of owning your journey entirely. And independence is popular: a recent study showed that being able to “do what they want” is the top reason people travel solo.
- Compassion – Only when you’ve ridden the highs and lows of solo travel can you understand what it’s like to be alone. Your awareness is heightened, and you’ll have new empathy for the unique situations solo travellers can be in. And as you’ll be more likely to engage with people around you, your human connection will be concentrated. You might recognize a bit of yourself in the confused 20-something in the railway station, and help them understand that even you’re traveling on your own, you’re not alone.
- On trend – Solo travel is on the rise, according to a report by the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta). Thanks to improved technology and a growing number of apps, planning, navigating and connecting is easier than it’s ever been, offering solo travellers more peace of mind. Apps offer live-journey times and train platform numbers, for example, easing some of the stress of arriving at an unfamiliar station.
- Special offers – Often, it’s cheaper to travel in pairs, but solo travelers’ value are starting to be recognized. Tour operators are responding to the increasing demand by offering a range of options for solo travellers, often with discounts, and you’ll now often find them entitled to somewhat ‘special treatment’ by some travel companies. For example Intrepid Travel has doubled its offering of independent trips this year, and Uniworld.com is waiving or reducing fees on a selection of river cruises for solo travellers, including trips in Venice and the gems of northern Italy and Bordeaux.
Loco2’s top five recommended destinations by train for solo travellers:
Whether you’re hoping to meet that special someone this Valentine’s Day or just out to enjoy yourself with new friends and dive into European culture, Loco2 have compiled their top five destinations that are accessible by train.
- Vienna, Austria – Vienna is a showpiece capital, with a compact central area which is easily explored on foot. Some of the grander boulevards and formal gardens drip with Habsburg nostalgia. There are churches and palaces aplenty, cream cakes and schnitzel galore. In short, Vienna lives up to every stereotype. A superb rail network means that getting anywhere else in the country, from Innsbruck to Kitzbühel to Graz, is easy. Vienna to Innsbruck by train is a beautiful 4-hour journey.
- Germany – Too many choices can be a good thing, and that’s what you’ll encounter in Germany. You could hang out in Berlin to experience the city’s edgy cultural scene. This year, the traditional Hohenzollern Palace (Stadtschloß or City Palace) in the heart of Berlin will re-open under the banner “Humboldt Forum” and will include museums, restaurants, auditoria and more. To explore other cities in Germany, take advantage of one of Europe’s greatest rail networks. Head to the art hub of Düsseldorf, the beer gardens of Munich, or the restored city of Dresden. Take the train from Berlin to Munich; it’s a 4-hour journey.
- The Netherlands – The Netherlands are tailor-made for rail travel. The country benefits from a very efficient rail network with punctual trains running at regular intervals on all routes. All major Dutch cities can be reached in a train ride of three hours or less from either Amsterdam or Rotterdam. You can get wonderfully lost in the tiny streets of Amsterdam for a week, though you’d do well to venture out to see smaller cities like Utrecht or the art capital of Maastricht. From Amsterdam to Maastricht by train it’s just over two hours.
- Barcelona, Spain – Busy Barcelona is one of the best places to travel alone. This vibrant city is full of culture, arts, architecture and sport. You can sit back and watch from the café-lined boulevards, or you can escape the hustle and bustle by heading out to one of the city beaches on the excellent transport connections. If you want somewhere a bit quieter but equally as beautiful, go to Girona – this city in northern Catalonia is one of Europe’s prime cultural destinations. Catch one of the many trains from Barcelona to Girona; the journey takes only 40 minutes.
- Verona, Italy – Nestled into the shadow of the Italian Alps, Verona is somewhat understated despite an incredible history and a cracking location – the famous city where two star-crossed lovers famously took their lives in the name of true love. Verona has plenty of entertainment for solo travellers, such as the art galleries and museums. Plus, if you’re looking for romance, you might find your soulmate at the ‘Verona in Love 2019’ festival on Valentine’s Day (9th – 17th Feb).