Why I probably won't travel alone again
Why traveling alone might just not be for me
or how I took pictures of all the doors in Tallin
Why traveling alone might not be for me
Traveling from Finland to Estonia isn’t that big of a trip. You hop on a ferry and in a matter of hours, you’re there. So when I decided to take my first solo traveling adventure, I thought Estonia would be the place to go, just as a change of scenery for a few days. In the week leading up to Easter, I booked a ferry ticket, found myself a host on Couchsurfing, and prepared for my own mini adventure.
Tallin is a small city with not very much going on in it outside of the Old Town area. And I, having taken this trip only out of convenience and the pressure of knowing that if I had come as far as Finland it would be shameful to not go to Estonia, did not plan out my trip very much. The only item on my to-do list was to go to a vegan chocolate shop that two of my friends had highly recommended.
This lack of planning was both a blessing and a curse. However, it led me to unexpected places that I likely would not have gone to had I been traveling with other people.
I ended up wandering the streets of Old Town three times. The first time, I did it with a walking tour (I now think walking tours are the single best thing to do wherever you go), which gave me privy to the small stories that give a place it’s heart and soul. The second time, I walked through some of those same places again— the ones that had made bold impressions on me and left me wanting to explore more. I also explored some new places in that second round, seeing those places that were bold and loud and screamed for attention.
It was the third time that I walked through the streets, once many of the shops had already been closed and the only things open were cafes and restaurants and the odd bar or two, that I realized why one should travel alone.
In walking through the old streets in the quiet, as dusk crept in, I started noticing the little things that gave the place its charm. I took pictures of graffiti an artist had written that pleaded the tourist to enjoy the moment. I saw attractive alleyways and colorfully distinctive cafes. Most of all though, I saw the colors and designs of doors and spent the better part of the evening taking pictures of them.
These quieter parts of the city would have gone unnoticed with a group of friends because with friends we become necessarily social. The constant stimulation that they give is fun and lively but what I discovered in Tallin was that there is something to be said for the reflective solitude of traveling alone.
That all being said, I may not ever go on another trip by myself. My lack of planning meant I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what I was going to do next, and in the process experiencing considerable anxiety that I was somehow missing out on the things that were a must do while in Tallin. The doors, which were beautiful and exciting still could not fill the void of only having a highly disagreeable host to talk to while I was there. And there was something scary knowing that I had nothing familiar to turn to in moments of distress.
Perhaps, however, this is the tradeoff we must make for those unexpected moments. Those moments when we realize the beauty of the doors around us or in the landscape or in the people. Perhaps this is the tradeoff that lets us experience the marvels of traveling alone.
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Author Avanti Chajed is an educator from the US working on her master's in Finland. When not working on her thesis, she enjoys running, reading, and chocolate. On her Blog, she writes about her experiences all over Europe.