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.

My Grammy Experience

(Alisa Snow is a reference librarian at Boone County Public Library.)  

With the 60th Annual Grammy Awards happening this Sunday night, I am getting
nostalgic about one of the coolest musical experiences of my life. In 2005, I had the awesome fortune of winning a trip to the Grammys from Q102. I won through the Q102 Rewards program on the radio station’s website. Every day I would log on and answer trivia questions, enter daily code words, and do other things to earn points. I had been saving up points for several months and I used up all of them on entries for this trip. By the time the contest ended, I had over 3,000 entries. I am nothing if not persistent!

On the day that the winner was going to be picked, I could barely contain myself. I was sitting at my desk at work when my phone rang shortly after noon. When the caller on the other end introduced himself and said he was from Q102, my heart started pounding furiously and dropped into my stomach.

I’ll never forget the excitement of landing at LAX. Just getting out of Cincinnati for a whole weekend in a cold dreary February was awesome enough. A friend once described me as the most music-obsessed and California-obsessed person she knew, so this trip was definitely a dream come true.

The radio station put us up at the Wyndham Belage Hotel, just off the Sunset Strip. On our first night there, we attended a meet and greet with British singer Joss Stone. She is truly a supremely talented individual, and she was exceptionally kind and gracious.
The next morning we set out on foot to do some exploring. I was surprised to learn that we were right around the corner from the Whiskey-a-Go-Go. Having read many rock music biographies about such varied artists as the Doors and Motley Crue, I was familiar with the history of the place. I couldn’t help thinking, “Jim Morrison stood on this sidewalk!”

The ceremony was the following evening. I’ll never forget the feeling of getting ready in our hotel room and putting on my lavender silk Grammy dress. (It was the first dress I had tried on. It fit well, and it made me feel like dancing, so I knew it was the one.) We met a couple of other contest winners who were staying in our hotel, and we shared a cab with them to the Staples Center. Because of the heavy security, the cab driver had to drop us off several blocks away from the arena. Once inside, we discovered that our seats were way up at the top, but I didn’t care. I was beyond thrilled just to be there.

One of the most memorable performances for me was Melissa Etheridge and Joss Stone’s tribute to Janis Joplin. It was Melissa Etheridge’s first major public performance since undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer, and her electrified performance brought down the house.

Another high point for me was seeing Keith Urban perform in a tribute to southern rock. This was also the year that John Mayer won Best Male Pop Vocal Performance for his song “Daughters.” Los Lonely Boys won Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group for “Heaven” and they were a part of the show’s opening. From our vantage point, we could see the artists waiting in the wings, preparing to take the stage. It was surreal to see Bono in an unguarded moment before coming out to perform.

Returning to our hotel after the ceremony, we went up to the rooftop pool and basked in the warm California night. Coming back home the next day felt like reverse culture shock. No more palm trees, no more sunshine, no more glamorous California Grammy life. Every year I watch the show from my couch and reminisce about one of the most unbelievable experiences of my life. Maybe I’ll try on my lavender silk Grammy dress and see if it still fits.

–Alisa

Alisa Snow is a reference librarian at the Main Library. During awards show season, she can usually be found on her couch with a big bowl of popcorn.