Solo travel isn’t for everyone. But it should be. I believe that everyone should travel alone at least once in their life.
My first solo trip was in 2017. One day I just decided, “I want to go to Sweden.”
I’d always been intrigued by Swedish culture. I’ve read 13 books by Swedish author Henning Mankell who wrote the Kurt Wallander series. Wallander was a detective in the Swedish town of Malmo. I also fell in love with “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” by Steig Larsson. I was obsessed with all things Sweden. And let’s not forget Pippi Longstocking. I mean a girl who lived alone in a castle with her horse, who wouldn’t want that lifestyle?
I bought my plane ticket toward the middle of March for travel in April. As I tax professional, I always plan a trip right after April 15th. It is important to decompress and recover from the stress that is tax season.
As this was my first solo international trip, I wanted to do plenty of research and make sure that the hotel and activities that I chose were safe for a solo female traveler of color. One of the first things I did was choose my hotel. After researching a few options, I went onto Google Maps and did actual street views of the locations.
WHERE TO STAY
One of the prime locations in Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the Sodermalm district. I was determined to stay there because it seemed like such a cool and hip area. But when I looked at the street view of the hotels that were in my price range, they all seemed to be on side streets, almost like alleys. I didn’t think that was the best idea. Instead, I chose the Nordic Light Hotel right in the center of town, next to the Central Train Station. It was a perfect location because the hotel was about 50 feet from the station, and it was in busy and well-lit part of town.
HOW TO GET AROUND
In addition to the location of the hotel the other thing that needs to be considered is transportation. Stockholm has a great public transportation system. And it also has Hop On Hop Off buses. I’m a HUGE fan of the Hop On Hop Off. One of the primary reasons is because the bus routes are usually designed to have stops at all the prime tourist locations. Before leaving the states, I ordered the Stockholm Pass (now called Go City). With this 5-day pass I had metro, bus and Hop On Hop Off access for the entire trip. It did not, however, include the Arlanda train from the airport. That was a separate ticket fee.
WHAT TO DO
I’m a museum nerd. I love a good museum and Stockholm proper has over 50 museums, most of which I accessed with the Stockholm Pass. It took me a few tries to realize that my pass also entitled me to skip the line. My favorite museum was the Vasa Museum, named after the Vasa, the preserved 17-century ship that sank in Stockholm in 1628. To say that the ship is the centerpiece of the museum is an understatement. It is literally the whole museum. I also loved the Nobel Prize Museum which showcases the work and ideas of the Nobel Prize Laureates. I would recommend starting with the Nordic Museum where you learn about the life and cultural history of the Nordic people. I don’t remember the exact price of the City Pass, as I’m sure it has gone up in the last 5 years, but it was worth every penny.
WHEN TO GO
I went to Stockholm from April 26 to May 2. The weather was cool but not cold. It didn’t rain the entire time I was there. I was able to walk around during the day without feeling too cold. The one mistake I made was that May 1, was my last day in Stockholm. That day I’d planned to ride the free bus to THE Ikea. There was a bus stop about a block from my hotel. Me, and about 20 other tourists sat and sat and sat and no bus ever arrived. Like NO bus. Not the Ikea bus not the city bus. Nothing. After about an hour we all realized the bus wasn’t coming. I walked down the block and took the Metro to Gamla Stan, the old city center of Stockholm. Once I got off the train, I realized there were people everywhere. Like EVERYWHERE. There were crowds and protests. Why you ask? Because it was May Day, also know as International Workers’ Day. Here in the States, we don’t really celebrate May Day. Our Labor Day is in September and that’s the day we hang out with friends and family, bbq and chill. We don’t protest. But in much of the world and particularly in Europe, May Day is a big deal. In Stockholm the streets closed to traffic, the buses stopped running and most of the city shut down.
It was interesting to see and be a part of. I ended up walking over 10 miles that day, purely because I had to. But it was a cool thing to experience. Although I never made it to Ikea. Had I realized everything was closed on May 1 I would have gone earlier instead of waiting til the last day. One suggestion I have, is when planning your trip, make sure you find out if there are any local or state holidays that may impact your trip.
I believe a solo trip is something that everyone should do at least once in their lives. It’s an eye opening and soul-searching experience. How comfortable are you being alone? How comfortable are you with silence? Can you navigate a foreign country where you don’t speak the primary language? Can you eat in a sit-down restaurant by yourself? These are questions we don’t usually have to answer. But stepping outside of your comfort zone. Being comfortable with being uncomfortable. These are the ways in which we grow and develop as human beings. These are the ways that we learn who we are and what we are capable of.