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How one Interrailer fell in love with solo travel

 

 

Rachel Schnalzer

Senior Writer

7 December 2023

 

“What is your story?”

 

A senior traveller posed this question to Amina on a train to Bologna, out of the blue. He was a fellow passenger; she sat down near the man and his wife soon after departing Napoli Centrale. 

 

The man’s question sticks with Amina to this day, several months after returning home from her trip. 

 

“No one ever asked me that before,” Amina explained. “It was so beautiful.”

 

Amina, a traveller from Stuttgart, Germany, told the man about her family, about how she grew up with seven siblings. She told him about her friends. And she told him about how her train ride to Bologna was part of a much larger Interrail journey, her first time travelling by herself.  

 

“I just kept talking and talking and talking,” she said with a laugh. 

Amina also asked about his life and travels, his children and grandchildren. Back home in the United States, he had been a professor in San Diego, California for many years before retiring. 

 

These days, he drives for Uber. “He told me that he really loves meeting new people,” Amina said. “He and his wife were so nice.” 

 

Along the ride, the man offered Amina some life advice: “Be nice, be kind, and be the best person you can be,” she said. “It was so beautiful.” 

 

For Amina, this simple yet profound encounter underscored the power of solo travel – the connections that can be forged by simply being open to a conversation with a fellow train passenger.

 

“When you're on a plane, I never ever talk to any of my neighbours,” she said. But in a hostel or a train, things feel different, Amina said. 

 

Amina’s natural friendliness while travelling solo is a result of her childhood, she said. 

 

“Of course I was afraid, because I was going alone to new countries with different languages but, all in all, I'm the person I am because of my family,” she explained. “I just grew up with so many people, so it is easy for me to talk to people.” 

 

This openness has served Amina well, time and again, on her travels using the Interrail Pass. 

 

While working at a hostel in Rome, Amina met a young woman who seemed familiar, but neither of them could place where they had met before. 

 

“We knew each other but we didn't know from where,” she said. “We started to talk about where we travelled…then we realised that, several months before, we met at a bar in Budapest.” 

 

The two travellers spent the next few weeks working together in the hostel, marvelling at the serendipitous way life brought them back together. 

 

Amina’s Interrail journey on the two-month Global Pass first took her from Stuttgart east to Prague, Budapest, and Vienna. 

 

Travelling solo with the Pass allowed Amina to keep her schedule flexible. For example, she decided to stay in Budapest for three days longer because she had such a good time in the city, with the fellow travellers she met there. 

 

“You just go with the flow,” she said. "I met fantastic people and enjoyed the time in Budapest."

Budapest

Later, she dipped into Italy, visiting destinations such as Venice, Rome, Bologna, Pompeii, Capri, and Naples. 

 

Her experience in Naples holds a special place in her memory. While she was staying in the city, Italian football club SSC Napoli won its first Serie A title in 33 years, causing the city to erupt in raucous celebration.

 

Amina watched in awe from the street of her accommodation as the wild festivities unfolded. 

 

“I was a little bit afraid…I didn't go to the city, we just went downstairs to the street,” she said, overwhelmed by the energy around her. “It was so crazy. It was like New Year's everywhere, I really loved it.” 

 

Experiences like these rarely felt lonely, Amina said. “Whenever I go to a hostel, I'm very excited. I love to meet new people.”

 

Her advice for people who are curious to try travelling solo? “Just do it,” she said. “You can be so flexible and you don't have to be afraid and you can just do your thing.” 

 

At hostels and other communal accommodations, she recommends taking the leap and striking up conversation with other new arrivals. “Just talk to other people…break the ice at the beginning,” she said. “They will be so grateful that you talked to them." 

 

Amina remembers a time when she said hello to a fellow German traveller. “She was so happy that I just talked to her, because I think it was her first hostel,” Amina said. The two women spent the day together, sightseeing and getting to know each other. Even though they live in different parts of Germany, “we are still good friends today,” Amina said.  

 

Now, back home in Stuttgart, Amina thinks often about her trips using the Interrail Pass and the people she encountered along the way – from the surfers she met on a trip to the French coastline, to the retired professor from San Diego who asked Amina to share the story of her life.  

 

“I don't know my story yet,” Amina said, thinking back to their conversation. “But I will try to create my story.”

 

“Maybe one day I will just sit like him, in 50 years, and ask Interrailers about their own story.” 

Feeling inspired by Amina's solo travels? With Interrail, you can:

Tour Europe by train with 1 Pass
Experience the highlights and hidden gems 
Travel flexibly on trains that don't need reservations
Stay conscious and travel sustainably