Soloing isn’t just a travel style but a brand new way of experiencing travel altogether. In study abroad, it is something you'll quickly hear about. As a very social person, it was always something I feared. For me, traveling alone meant taking a step towards independence. To some travelers, making plans and traveling completely alone to a foreign country is not a big deal. To me, making plans and traveling completely alone to a foreign country was a very big deal. In terms of study abroad experiences, it is like graduation.
To clarify: When in a travel abroad university program, you travel to a foreign country to live and learn for a semester. You are alone in the sense that you probably are not familiar with anyone else in your program. That being said, you have resources available to you to ease the process and are put into an environment with other students who are going through the same adjustment. It’s also for a much longer period of time (a semester versus a weekend.)
I took my leap into the world of solo-traveling last weekend. I visited London which has always been a destination on my travel list. I would have been upset if I hadn’t had been able to visit the city while living in Europe. Most of my friends at IES Abroad had already traveled to London and were looking to explore new cities. On the Sunday afternoon prior to the week of my trip, I decided to book my ticket. I am so happy that I did.
Following my Thursday morning German class, I left for the airport. It was chaos from the start. The local Austrian authorities seized and searched the airplane for the flight I was to go on. This delayed my flight for several hours. As I was waiting, I met three Americans who were studying abroad in London. We shared our power converters to charge our phones and bonded over our experiences living overseas.
Much later than I had anticipated, I arrived at my hostel in London. Fortunately, the city I chose to visit alone spoke very good English and allowed me to use credit cards so exchanging money was not completely necessary. This made the city much more easy to navigate. I quickly made friends with one of my 13 hostel roommates. She (a girl roughly the same age as me who was from Tokyo but studying in Sweden) and I went to get Indian food together. That was the first night of my travel alone.
Prior to leaving Vienna, I made breakfast reservations for Friday morning. A Londoner friend of mine recommended I try a café and told me that it had one of the best views in the city. He was right. It was the perfect beginning of my tour of London.
I spent the rest of my day doing whatever I wanted to do. I freely roamed the British Museum and Tate Modern. I wandered neighborhoods and went book shopping. I even saw the big landmarks: Big Ben, London Eye, and the Tower of London. I walked across both the London Bridge and the Millennium Bridge and neither of them fell down! I ate some of the best mac and cheese I have ever had at Camden Market. I did everything I wanted to do on my time and it was wonderful.
Saturday morning, the red double-decker bus I took towards Buckingham Palace took a detour. After riding twenty minutes in the wrong direction, I discovered that the bus routes for the day were altered because it was Lord Mayors’ Show, one of the best known events in London. (It dates back to the 16th century!) It was only a few minutes later that I accidentally walked into the full celebration. I spent the next three hours watching a delightfully British parade. I was even waved at by the new Lord Mayor of the City of London as he made his way to the Royal Courts of Justice to swear his allegiance to the Crown.
Following the show, I decided to pay a visit to the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery. I then took a break to eat proper fish and chips. I finally made my way to Buckingham Palace where I thoroughly enjoyed the colorful fall leaves in the palace gardens. My day continued with the Victoria and Albert Museum and the National History Museum. I strolled through Harrod’s and admired the Christmas décor. After a small break at my hostel, I met up with a friend from my university for dinner.
The next morning, I headed back to Vienna! (The story of my journey back to Vienna can be found on my previous blog post: American (Abroad) Horror Story.) I arrived back in the city by noon on Sunday, giving myself enough time to complete assignments and study for my classes the following day.
My trip to London was fast and action-packed! I am so grateful and happy that I was able to go. Going alone gave me the freedom to do what I wanted, when I wanted, however I wanted. Although companionship can be wonderful, I don’t think I have ever enjoyed being alone as much I did that weekend. It was something I not only wanted to do but really needed to do. I would highly recommend that any student going abroad make at least one solo trip.
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<p>A small town Florida girl, my passion for anthropology took me to the bustling hub that is Atlanta, Georgia and is now taking me to the antiquated and beautiful Vienna, Austria. Compelled to write anecdotes and real-life narratives, blogging will be my diary as I discover and embark on a caffeine fueled and culturally invigorating adventure far from any that I have experienced.</p>