I have never traveled alone- until this week. This first time I came to Europe, I was 15 and was with 30 other teenagers from our high school German club, plus adult chaperones and our teacher. The second time was in the summer of 2011 when my cousin Margo and I backpacked around Europe- a celebratory trip as we had both just graduated from college. When I went to New Zealand a few months ago, I was visiting a friend living there and a few other friends came halfway through my trip and we all traveled together. Every time I have traveled within the states, it was always with family or friends- or to go visit family or friends. So, although I have traveled often, I have never been alone.
This week I took the train north to Hambug, Germany’s second largest city- and I did it all by my lonesome! It’s such an exhilarating experience to be in a large foreign city by yourself and you can literally do anything you want. I arrived in Hamburg in the early evening on Tuesday and first checked in to my hostel to drop my back. It was getting dark and getting cold, but I had spent the entire day on a train and wanted to walk around a bit to explore.
I walked up and down the streets surrounding my hostel and finally found a typical German restaurant for dinner that looked delicious. I had a perfect little table upstairs in the corner by a window where I could people watch as I ate. Now I have never minded eating alone- I actually quite enjoy it from time to time, but it was in this moment that I started realizing I was totally alone and I had no one to hang out with that night. I went back to my hostel after dinner and walked straight into the bar with one mission: find a friend. And that I did! Sitting next to me was Andrew, from Australia, who had just spent the semester studying in France and was now doing a tour around Europe before returning home. He had also just arrived in Hamburg and he also was alone. After some conversation, we decided to check out a bar in the St. Pauli district that had live music for free. The St. Pauli district is the cool, hip area of Hamburg where there are great bars and restaurants. It reminded me a lot of Brooklyn. We had a great time listening to an Irish musician named Stephen Kavanagh play the acoustic guitar with lots of cover songs we knew.
My brother has a really great friend from Hamburg, who unfortunately doesn’t live there anymore, but he gave me lots of great tips about places to go/things to see. He also hooked me up with a friend of his who lives in the city. Louise and I met the next day for brunch at a fabulous little place in the St.Pauli area called Unter Den Linden. Afterward, she showed me around the neighborhood a bit and we finished with some delicious cake from a cute bakery called Herr Max. If you go to Hamburg- you have to check it out! The rest of the afternoon I wandered and did a bit of sightseeing. It really is a beautiful city with an amazing mixture of centuries old architecture mixed with new modern architecture, sitting right on the harbor.
One of my favorite hobbies is swing dancing. I picked it up back in Austin, but really improved the 3 months I spent in San Diego, as I was taking weekly lessons the entire time and learned 4 different styles of swing (east coast, lindy hop, charleston and balboa). Most large cities have some sort of “swing scene”, so I decided to check out Hamburg’s. I found a bar that did a free Wednesday night crash course, followed by DJed swing music, every week. And it was in the St. Pauli neighborhood- so I knew it had to be a great place. I went by myself and really enjoyed it! I got to know some of the regulars who attend every week. My favorite dance partner was a 65 year old man named Jörg! It was awesome getting to swing dance in a foreign city and to find out that it really isn’t that different than it is in the states!
My last day in Hamburg the sun came out and I enjoyed wandering around parts of the city I had not yet seen. I caught a train back that afternoon and was back in Aschau that night. It was a quick trip, but I love how chill it was. I did lots of exploring, coffee drinking and eating- and all on MY time. I made new friends and can now not only check a new city off my list, but also check off “traveling by myself”! I would love to return to Hamburg sometime, and I will definitely be traveling alone again, too!
Have you ever traveled alone? If so, what was your experience like?