Three Things I Learned Traveling Alone

(Kelsey Shackelford is the Community Events Liaison at Boone County Public Library.)

I’ve always loved to explore new places. About a month and a half before I got married, I went to Northern Europe alone for two and a half weeks, including Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, and France. It was a part of the world I had wanted to visit for some time and knew my future husband did not want to visit that area. I also wanted to prove to myself that I could make it solo in another country before “settling down,” not that being married keeps me from doing anything I truly want to do. I learned so much traveling alone, but these are three of the biggest things I took away from the experience.

Amsterdam

Safety
Everyone always asks me if I felt safe in other countries alone for the amount of time I was gone. My answer: I chose my locations partly due to their safe reputations.  The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime lists the homicide rate in Northern Europe between 0-2.99 per 100,000 people, while the United States is 3-4.99 homicides per 100,000 people. I felt safer being by myself in most of these countries than I do walking around with my husband in some places in the U.S. I learned that the little blue dot on my Iphone map, which does not require data, greatly assisted in getting me from Point A to Point B, sticking to main pathways as I walked and kept me around other people. As long as I didn’t put myself in an isolated situation, I was fine.

Meeting New People
Traveling alone forced me to branch out and meet new people. I honestly didn’t think I would want to, but after being by yourself for a couple days, you crave some human interaction. I learned staying in hotels is a must if you are traveling alone. I met people from all over the world who were visiting for many different reasons, especially when staying in fully booked rooms with anywhere from 3-18 other people.  Many major cities offer free walking tours, such as this one I took in Copenhagen that provided me opportunities to talk to other travelers in a casual setting. As a side note, I learned to always tip the guide at the end of these tours. Not only is that how they make money, but they were more willing to pass on very useful “locals only” information!

Learning How to Be Alone
Though I did meet other people during my time traveling by myself abroad, I spent the bulk of my time alone. Unless all I wanted to eat were ham and cheese sandwiches from the local grocery, I had to quickly become comfortable eating alone at sit-down restaurants. Visiting museums and other points of interests and having no one to share it with was sometimes a little lonely or made me feel like people were staring at me. The more I looked around at these public places that people typically attended in groups, the more I realized no one cared that I was by myself or gave it a second thought. I was the only person that noticed. I learned traveling alone meant I was experiencing most things by myself, but it also meant I got to choose everything I wanted to do. It was a time I could be totally selfish and not feel guilty.

I would definitely encourage anyone to try a trip by yourself if you are able to, even if it is a close, local day trip. I learned a lot about myself and noticed more about my surroundings traveling alone for two and a half weeks than other large trips. I would still prefer to go places with at least one other person, but I would never trade the time I had with any other type of experience.

Copenhagen

–Kelsey

Kelsey enjoys traveling to new places and old favorites as often as she can, both in the U.S. and internationally. Her favorite places she has visited so far are Edinburgh, Copenhagen, and Charleston, SC. Some of the places she hopes to visit are Seattle, WA, Spain, and Italy.

Here we were on a highway we didn’t know, in a state we didn’t know….

After a week of vacationing at the Grand Canyon, my friend Trudy and I were driving back to Phoenix, and the airport, when we realized we hadn’t had breakfast or lunch — we were hungry! Here we were on a highway we didn’t know, in a state we didn’t know, wondering where we could find a good restaurant. We didn’t want to eat at a chain restaurant that we could find at home in Northern Kentucky (me) or Cincinnati (Trudy). We wanted a restaurant that we had never been to before, a unique place that we could find only in Arizona. And we wanted the restaurant to have good food and be clean and reputable. Hmm… How to choose?

“I know,” I said, “I’ll look in the travel book I borrowed from Boone County Public Library before we left home!” So I pulled out Arizona & the Grand Canyon and started searching for restaurants. We were almost to Flagstaff and were beginning to see signs for Route 66, so I Iooked for something near Route 66. Lo and behold – I found something! Apparently, Route 66 is a famous roadway in Arizona with lots of roadside attractions and quirky restaurants. We had to veer from our route to the airport a bit to get there – head east instead of south, but it was well worth it! We decided we’d go to Cruisers Route 66 Cafe. It had a lot of stars and a rave review and it sounded like it would fit into our meal budget.

Talk about quirky! We loved the place as soon as we saw it!

I really wish I had taken time to snap some photos of our meal, but I was just too busy stuffing my face with the most excellent food! Trudy had a bowl of their house chili which included jalapeno slices and wasn’t anything like Cincinnati chili! And I had the black bean veggie burger – it was to die for! I mean really, really good. I just wish Arizona was a little closer; I’d like to have one of those burgers for lunch today!

I might not have taken time to photograph my food, but I did snap some pictures of the bathroom. I know, weird, right? But the bathroom was just so unique – it had truck tailgates for stall doors!

And lots of interesting wall decor!

So as I wrap up this blog post, let’s recap – My friend and I were driving in a strange state on a strange road and we wanted to find an interesting, reputable place for lunch, so we pulled out a travel book and found just the spot! The moral of this story is, “Always check out a travel book from Boone County Public Library before you go on a trip!”

–Becky

Becky Kempf has been the Public Relations and Marketing Coordinator for Boone County Public Library for 15 years. When she isn’t evangelizing about the library and all the great things it has to offer, she’s out photographing her grandchildren, rusty old cars and anything else that will hold still for a moment!