I was tired and full of self-doubt when I landed in New York. Was it the right decision to come here? Shouldn’t I have just called off my trip and gone home instead? Am I really that horrible egoistic person my travel buddies made of me?
This trip to New York should have been the grand finale of a six week trip around the US with two friends, but then we had a massive fall-out about how we were traveling and spending our days. Eventually the fights led to a catastrophe and the only option left for us was to take separate paths. As the two of them got along much better, I was the one ending up all by myself. But instead of flying home – I thought about that for a while until my friends at home reminded me of how much I had wanted this trip – I flew from L.A. to New York like planned. And the city became my savior!
I had found a really nice Airbnb in Brooklyn where I stayed with other people from all around the world. Before exploring the Big Apple I had to meet one of my former travel buddies for a last time, to sort out some things regarding flights and reservations we had made together. While the actual meeting was business-like and pretty efficient, it led me into a valley of tears. Why and when had it all gone wrong? Could we ever be friends again? And also some grudging thoughts such as: I hope she is as unhappy as me.
I am not proud of these feelings but at the time, I couldn’t help it. After some moments of crying in the streets of Manhattan I decided to make the most of the following seven days; I went to the top of the Empire State Building, took a walk in the Central Park, explored the High Line, saw the Statue of Liberty, visited MoMa and the Guggenheim Museum, where I saw one of the most inspiring exhibitions I have ever seen and enjoyed an installation on the rooftop of the Metropolitan Art Museum. The exhibition included fake hedgerows and confusing “mirrows” that were mirrors and windows at the same time – and it kind of mirrored my situation as I was still reflecting on the whole situation and at the same time constantly observing myself critically.
While I began to enjoy sightseeing and shopping on my own, I also loved being together with my flatmates who where mostly solo travelers too. One night we went out in Williamsburg, had some craft beers, danced wildly and on our way back home we stumbled over a guy sitting with his typewriter (yeah, the old ones) on the corner of a street. We started talking with him and he told us he was an artist and author and that he would write a poem for us if we give him a topic. It was not just one of the best souvenirs I’ve ever received, but this night also made me realize that I am not as horrible as I felt coming to New York. Talking, dancing, drinking and laughing with people I hardly knew had given me strength and courage. My self-doubt began to disappear into thin air.
My mood had changed and so did I. Strolling through Brooklyn I asked a guy to take a picture of me and not only did he do that, but he also invited me to his release party. In that moment I, who had always been a careful, if not fearful person, realized the many opportunities solo traveling gives you. For me solo travel became about taking chances, being (more) open-minded and trustful in mankind, and then experiencing so much kindness and serious interest.
With a big smile on my face and a lot of stories to tell, I left New York again. I could tell that the week had changed me, given me confidence, and shown me how good I am at solo traveling and how much I can enjoy it. Somehow New York had mended my broken heart.
That trip to New York is now almost three years ago and it took me quite a while to realize how much I learned about myself. I learned that (almost) every down has a bright side too. I lost two friends on the road, but in the end it strengthened my personality and made me an independent, self-confident solo traveler.
This is a guest post by Judith Wessels.
Judith was born in North-West Germany and traveled almost every part of her home country when she was young. Leaving her hometown also became the starting point of traveling the (western) world. As Wanderlust is almost constantly hitting her you can either find her making plans in Hamburg or backpacking through Eastern Europe.