On my first day of biking from Vienna to Budapest along the Danube Cycle Path, I was a bit nervous about undertaking the journey by myself. There were couples enjoying a scenic getaway, groups of friends enjoying an active reunion and families enjoying some quality time together along the Danube. I began to think, would I be missing out on part of this experience by taking on this trip alone?
The end-of-trip reward: seeing the Parliament building in Budapest along the banks of the Danube. As it turned out, I had nothing to worry about! The experience of cycling along the Danube by myself actually allowed me to discover sides of solo travel that are unique to cycling. Here are my top 3 takeaways:
1. Go at your own pace
While walking or hiking in a group, small differences in speed between group members won’t necessarily result in a large physical gap. When on a bike, even slight variations in each person’s “comfortable” speed can result in huge distance gaps. This can make it difficult for groups to stay together. Biking solo, however, you’re totally free to cruise along as quickly or as leisurely as you’d like! Depending on the day, the location, or how I happened to feel at any particular moment, I relished the freedom to bike along at my own pace; making detours, occasional pit stops, or picking up the pace to shorten the time to my next destination. I finished each day feeling a sense of pride and achievement that was uniquely my own.
Solo biking: fun in all conditions!
2. You’re not really alone!
It’s important to keep in mind that, whether you’re on a route as popular as the Danube or not, there will inevitably be other bikers completing similar itineraries, who will soon become familiar faces along the way (making the route ideal for beginners). Whether you choose to join a large, friendly group for the whole trip, or simply exchange smiles with a cyclist who you remember from earlier in your trip, you’ll establish a feeling of community that will enhance your overall experience. I found this to be especially true on the Danube, where the daily sections of the path are pretty standard, so new faces become familiar quite quickly. The weather on my trip was a bit of a mixed bag (wind and rain on more days than one), and while this may have been a bummer if I were truly alone, it turned into something to laugh about over drinks in the hotel bar with fellow travelers.
You’re never alone for long on the Danube!
3. Stop and smell the roses…
…or, continue biking along while you metaphorically smell the roses (remember: go at your own pace)! Either way, one of my favorite parts of biking from Vienna to Budapest was the freedom to think and observe the sights and sounds of the Danube. When you’re in a group of travelers, these gems may go unnoticed. I saw a man being wished a good day at work by his mother, who handed him his lunch basket over a wooden gate in a small town in Slovakia. One afternoon, I took time to explore the historic castle and basilica of Esztergom, Hungary. Another afternoon, I sat for a half hour enjoying a clifftop view overlooking the mighty Danube. If I’d been with a group of travelers, I may not have been able to take in all of these nuances that made my bike trip so unique.
Spectacular vista over the Danube from the basilica in Esztergom, Hungary[/caption] Whatever your next bike trip may be – whether traveling along the Danube or taking a spin around your neighborhood – I hope that you give the world of solo biking a try. In addition to the myriad of benefits that surprised me along the way, I’m sure you’ll discover your own ways to fall in love with this method of exploring the world. If you’re looking for trip inspiration, check out our blog on Exploring the Danube by Bike & Boat. For more info about my trip, take a look at our Danube Cycle Path: Vienna to Budapest itinerary, or contact one of our specialists to create a unique bike adventure of your own.