First time solo travel - Backpacking through Eastern Europe
Bran Castle (Dracula's Castle) in Transylvania
After years of admiring tales of women traveling solo to interesting places, I finally took the plunge and embarked on a 6 week adventure from Prague to Istanbul via Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria.
I planned the trip meticulously, mostly because I love the planning, but also to ensure I'd make it home safely to my daughter, and so that I would have less stress and more time to explore each destination. I prepared for the worst but expected the best.
I had the time of my life, traveling to out of the way places only by public transport, and staying in a mix of hostels and hotels (from 2 to 4 star). I laugh now remembering some of the crazy moments, but they will stay with me forever. I never spoke any of the local languages but met lots of people along the way, both locals and fellow travelers.
Everyone who met me commented on how brave I was traveling through the region alone, but to me it seemed natural, and I never felt unsafe at any stage. It was an adventure in every sense of the word.
My itinerary took me Prague > Cesky Krumlov > Vienna > Budapest > Maramures > Bucovina > Cluj Napoca > Sighisoara > Sibiu > Brasov > Bucharest > Veliko Tarnovo > Sofia > Melnik > Bansko > Plovdiv > Nessebur > Istanbul.
Highlights were some of the hostels I stayed at, a river rafting pub crawl, the painted monasteries, the open-top sightseeing buses, Dracula's Castle, Peles Castle, a tour organised by a hostel in Bulgaria, various hikes, the Rila 7 lakes, the Black Sea Coast, and Aya Sofia (to name a fraction of them).
Even before this trip, I knew that I was capable of anything, independent, and enjoy my own company, but what I underestimated was the kindness of perfect strangers. That's the last memory I will have.
If I did it over, there is only one place I would skip (Bansko), I would eat at restaurants less and stay at hostels more. But other than that, I wouldn't change a single moment. Although, I'd carry a bit less in my backpack.
Perhaps my greatest achievement was keeping my blog, which people seemed to love as much as I did. It enabled me to reflect at the end of each day, visitors could post comments, and to this day I can (and do) often re-read the story of my adventure, which takes me straight back there and inspires me to plan my next one. You can read my blog here gotmybindle.travellerspoint.com which includes many photos.