The Art of Being Alone: My Solo Trip to Hamburg

Headshot of Sydney Braun.
Sydney Braun
April 19, 2023
Skyline of Hamburg including the river, buildings, and spires from older churches and buildings.

Studying abroad in Berlin was something of a restart for me. Although a few students from my home university enrolled in the same IES Abroad program that I did, I did not know any of them before we had a brief orientation for the program at our university in the United States. In my few months in Berlin, I have been lucky enough to meet many amazing people and form friendships with people from all over the United States—and even some from Germany and other places—that I hope will last a lifetime. But going into my study abroad experience, I set some goals for myself, and a large one was to do what I wanted to do regardless of who else was interested in doing it with me.

It was this mentality that led me on a solo trip to Hamburg, about a two hour train ride from Berlin, to see a German band that I love, Abwärts, in concert. My friends in the program were not familiar with the band, but my interest in Germany’s 80s music and subculture was one of the main reasons I decided to research Berlin as a study abroad destination in the first place. Even though this meant I would be making the trip alone, I was not going to pass up the opportunity to see one of my favorite German bands from the 80s perform live!

After arriving, checking into my hostel, and taking a long walk through Hamburg, I got to the venue two hours early. It was a general admission concert and I was hoping to be in the front row, since this was the opportunity of a lifetime for me. While waiting, I made friends in line! They came from all over Germany to see the show, and were shocked that I was a fan who came from the United States. We talked for a long time, both in line and while waiting for the band to take the stage, and it was an incredible experience to be able to talk about bands I loved with other fans, since I rarely meet people who even recognize the names of German bands in the US. 

When the band came onto the stage, it felt surreal. There I was, in Germany, seeing musicians that I have loved from a distance for years in person. The concert was an absolute dream—even more wonderful than I could have imagined. Not only was I able to make it into the front row, but I also managed to meet one of my favorite German musicians and get autographs from the band. This night was a night I will never forget, and I still can’t believe it was real!

I spent the next two days exploring the beautiful city of Hamburg. Hamburg is a port city, and seeing the Elbe River flowing throughout the city was so gorgeous. I even rode on a ferry that is included with the public transportation ticket! I explored some of the areas known for sustainability that I had learned about in one of my IES Abroad classes (HafenCity), visited my favorite Bundesliga football team’s stadium (St. Pauli - Millerntor-Stadion), and treated myself to a nice sit-down dinner.

My trip to Hamburg was one of the best trips of my life! I was able to operate on my own schedule and was able to see and do whatever I wanted to see and do at that moment. Going on a weekend trip by myself solidified my confidence in being alone, something that I've been working on throughout my time abroad. Though I've addressed building my confidence in being alone in past blogs, traveling by myself without having plans to meet up with friends at my destination has been the biggest leap of faith for me so far! I’ve realized that my ability to genuinely enjoy being alone will allow me to have so many amazing experiences and go on adventures that I may never have gone on otherwise, like my weekend in Hamburg. I’m excited to bring this newfound skill with me through life and see what other wonderful things are waiting for me!

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Headshot of Sydney Braun.

Sydney Braun

I am a junior at the University of Michigan and am double-majoring in Environment and Communication and Media (Class of 2024). I’m from Brookeville, Maryland, and apart from writing and blogging, I love music, playing the guitar, drawing, learning, and exploring new places. My passion for advocating for the environment as well as my interest in the culture and history of Berlin led me to this study abroad experience, and I am thrilled to be able to share it with you!

2023 Spring
Home University:
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
Environmental Studies
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