So I’ve written about my West Coast road trip and my time in NYC and Baltimore, but how did I get from one to the other…
After spending 2 weeks with the boys in our Chevy Cruz it was time for them to go home and me to find a new travelling partner. In Vegas we had met camp friends, I arranged to meet them in San Fran for a night before me and one of the guys headed to Toronto and Niagara Falls – Read about this soon. From there I spent 2 days at a fellow counsellor’s house in Ann Arbor, MI – upon arriving there I had no further plans except I was leaving the States on the 19th of September.
This was when I needed to come up with a new plan for my final 10 days or so of travelling. I wanted to see DC, NYC, Florida, stay with the Horse Riding Director in Cincinnati and I had a friend in Philadelphia to see. There were several people left from camp still travelling so I quickly contacted these guys only to find out my dates were clashing with everyone – I had 2 choices; travel with them but miss out of some things, or travel solo and do everything I wanted.
I never expected to be spending 10 days travelling on my own, I certainly hadn’t given it a thought until I realised any other plan wasn’t going to quite work out. I had been in the country for nearly 3 months I felt pretty confident, with my lonely planet guide and a good sense of direction. I was sure I could do this. I booked Greyhound buses as my way of getting around, making sure I wrote down the address for the station and the times. If I was going to do this alone I needed to be extra prepared, I booked up hostels for the first few stops and after leaving Ann Arbor it was just me and a bunch of strangers until I got to Cincinnati.
After a late Greyhound bus I reached Detroit for my connecting bus, this was where the scariness started. Sitting alone with my massive rucksack on wheels, homeless people wandering around begging for money and my bus nowhere in sight I panicked. Why had I decided to take the bus? I tightly gripped my bags and turned my iPod up so I couldn’t hear anyone who tried to talk to me. This got me through the hour I had to wait for the connecting bus but never again will I sit in Detroit bus station on my own. It’s a busy bus, I have someone sitting in half my seat the whole journey and I really miss my boyfriend who went home 6 days ago. I arrived in Cincinnati and see the Horse Riding Director before I get off the bus, what a relief the first journey done.
Two days later I was on the road again heading for Washington DC, yet again the bus was late but this time I wasn’t sat in the station on my own. I headed to Columbus to change buses, only to be told my bus doesn’t have a driver and we could wait up to 2 hours (meaning I would miss my connection). Some guy kicks up a fuss and then upon realising I’m English spends the next 30 minutes or so talking to me, at first it was creepy but he genuinely seemed nice and had a kid my age. I finally got on the bus over an hour and half late! This means I’ll miss my 2 am connection but as we arrive in to the bus station by some miracle my connection is still waiting. After quick dash to the toilet, praying they didn’t leave without me I was on the bus and soon asleep. After arriving in DC I quickly worked out the route to the hostel and head to the subway, with my 80lr bag on as a rucksack. In my trackies I’m sweating and so hot by the time I reach the subway, everything is hazy, it keeps going black, I have to sit down. I have no idea how I do not faint, I sit there for a while drinking water willing myself not to cry. After taking my trackies off I hit the subway and then hike the second road to the hostel.
The next 2 days pass in a successful blur, I meet my friend Lucy who lives here she shows me around and I get to see everything I want and even shop. Unfortunately I don’t make friends in the hostel but when you’re travelling alone and underage for drinking it’s a little hard. After the subway ordeal I decide to hike the mile and half from the hostel to the bus station (it wasn’t that bad) for my next bus to Baltimore – which is actually on time!
I arrive and figure the bus out to the city centre, once I get on and realise everyone is staring at me – I’m not sure if this is because of my huge bag or that I’m the only white person on the bus! Scared at first but when I ask someone where to get off for the hostel road they are so helpful and kind I quickly relax. Read about Baltimore here. I get so lost getting back to the bus station, as the original road I got off at was a one way street. After a lot of wandering, asking, panicking and willing myself not to cry I find the bus stop and after waiting forever manage to get on the right bus to the station. Yet again the bus is late and I end up waiting hours at the station, thank goodness it is quiet and un-nervy.
It’s the moments where I’m getting lost and don’t know where I am going that scared me the most travelling solo, no one to be lost with you and no one to help you find the way. I would nearly always have to will myself not to cry. I didn’t mind eating on my own or exploring the city on my own I only had myself to worry about but it was the evenings that got lonely and the getting lost that was scary. But the worse thing was falling over with my rucksack on, it made me so unsteady and several times a random stranger picked me up off the floor!!
I get to Philadelphia much later than planned! I again decide to walk the 10 blocks to the hostel instead of taking the subway, it’s quite far and my rucksack is feeling heavier and heavier but I make it to 3rd street and start searching but don’t find it. I suddenly remember it’s on Bank St and spot it straight away, Read about where I stayed in Philly.
The last 2 days have been great, even on my own. I have been able to explore the cities at my own pace and go exactly where I want to and spend half the day just wandering to take a photo of something. I really miss my boyfriend as we spent so long straight with together, but I’m really glad I stayed and did this extra travelling solo. The biggest fear has been the actual travelling alone, getting myself from one place to another and not being accosted by any strangers. But these things actually turned out okay and the only real problem with the Greyhound’s was that they were always late!
My final destination was New York City, taking my last bus in to this city, we get stuck in traffic but that’s okay, I’m so excited. I feel like I have made it, all summer long I have known I would end up here. But it’s when I arrive at the hostel after spending ages figuring out the subway, my excitement gets drained. The place is everything the bad reviews said it was, I had to chance it as I didn’t have enough money for a hotel and couldn’t find a single hostel with space for all 3 nights. But from the moment I arrived I knew I had done the wrong thing! I waited half an hour to be checked, then the lift was broken and there was no one to help me lug my bag up the stairs. The room was smaller than a box and the communal area was so tiny it was basically non-existent. This hostel experience ruined my last few nights and really put a damper on my solo travelling. It was here I realised I don’t enjoy being on my own, I don’t enjoy places where you can’t socialise because you are too young to drink and I certainly hate hostels that don’t provide a decent communal area.
My 10 day solo experience was something I could never have imagined myself doing at the beginning of summer, but when plans don’t work out you have two choices. I decided to push myself and see if I can do it, and I can. It wouldn’t be my first choice way to travel but I would rather go solo than not at all.