My First Time Alone in a City

I have always wanted to travel. To hop on a plane, pull out my headphones and look out at the clouds with a heap of anticipation. I have traveled and I am thankful, but traveling alone is a new world I have eagerly waited to experience. On May 27, 2017, I took my first solo flight in a glorious red and blue Southwest airplane that allowed me to drag two huge suitcases to the airport for free (thank whichever deity you prefer because packing light does not exist for a girl spending a summer in a different state!) Then, a week later, I was frolicking around Washington D.C. with no tour guide or partner; just me.

You Just Have to Go

Understandably, I was a bit anxious about going out on the town alone. Sure, I had done plenty of things on my own, but not in a big city where I could easily get lost or mugged. Ridiculous, I know, but these are things you worry about as an innocent twenty-year-old girl. However, I hid my nerves and hopped on the metro.

I didn't have much of a plan. I just knew I wanted to go to Chinatown. So, I got off at the Gallery Place - Chinatown stop, whipped out my phone and took a look around. I ended up at the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Portrait Gallery. It was exhilarating! I could wander around at my own pace, admire the photographs and smile at strangers.

My aimless wandering allowed me to experience the freedom of being alone in a city. It was an incredible feeling and I honestly don't think my words can do it justice, but I will try:

The first time I saw the views of London, I fell in love. I felt awe and adoration and I was so happy I could explore this city with my mother and classmates. But when my Nike soles hit the pavement of an unfamiliar sidewalk, my ears heard the melodies of street performers and eyes witnessed the bustle of shoppers and tourists, my heart was overwhelmed with the excitement and buzz of being completely alone in a city. I felt anxious and nervous and wary, but I was also giddy like a little girl. It was like the excitement you feel in your chest on Christmas morning when you still believe in Santa Claus and hope you were well-behaved enough to get that Littlest Pet Shop playhouse this year. (Excuse me for reminiscing on my childhood.) It was a strange mix of being young and innocent while being a 20-year-old feeling like she was finally exploring the world outside of small-town Indiana. It was liberating and exhausting and beautiful. I think traveling alone is something every young person needs to experience. It gives you a completely new sense of freedom, yet it also makes you realize how many amazing people you have in your life. Because as great as it is to go on your own adventures, at the end of the day you wish your closest friends and family were there to share it with you. Despite that, there is still something special and rewarding about taking on a new city completely by yourself.

A Soy Sauce Disaster

After meandering through the museum and being let down by a boring shopping mall, I stumbled across a little sushi place. And apparently, I was the only one who stumbled across it that day. I took a deep breath and went in, the only customer in the entire restaurant. I ordered my sushi and stared at my phone like most millennials would do. And when my sushi arrived, the awkwardness only got worse. I decided to put some soy sauce in my cute little soy-sauce dedicated dish, and my very uncultured-self decided I needed to shake the bottle; I guess it's just a habit to shake your condiment bottle. But it turns out soy sauce bottles don't actually have a lid. Instead, they have these very convenient openings on the each end. So, as you can imagine, soy sauce went flying everywhere. All over the table, my hands and my white shirt. And I know they were watching me the entire time. I calmly cleaned my mess and fumbled with my chopsticks so I could eat my sushi in silence. Unfortunately, I've had better raw fish wrapped in rice and seaweed. Maybe the emptiness of the place should have been a sign.

Oh, There's the Washington Monument

After my uncomfortable dining experience, I retreated back to the metro station and decided to go to the waterfront. I was slightly disappointed by the fish market, but as I walked around I noticed signs leading me to the Washington Monument. I had no intentions of going downtown, but I figured, why not? So, I kept walking and eventually stumbled across it. I have to say, selfie sticks are kind of difficult to maneuver. However, it did come in handy for that picture you're looking at right now.

My first solo excursion in the city was an interesting one, but I was proud of myself for doing it. Traveling can be an intimidating and courageous task. I think I learned a lot and didn't get lost, which is impressive for someone who is directionally challenged. So, I'll consider it a win and a good foundation for future spontaneous solo outings.

Have you experienced your own solo travel adventure? Tell me about it in the comments below. I'd love to hear your stories!


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