Traveling Solo

Amsterdam, Netherlands

The door’s bell tinkled as I entered the red-painted restaurant, and the waitress caught my wide-eyed look. “You can have the corner if you’d like,” she said, directing me to far right.

Feeling special, I walked over and sat at an embroidered stool.  The tiny counter was attached to a wide window overlooking a castle-like building, some boutiques, and a wheelbarrow full of flowers.  There were salt and pepper shakers and a bowl of rock salt on the counter.  But I am not special; I’m just traveling alone. 

I was visiting Amsterdam to see my sister and her boyfriend; but since she had a 9 to 5 job, she put an OV-chipkaart in my hand and told me to “just explore.”

Me, the youngest sibling, the spoiled baby of the family – roaming a foreign country unsupervised?  In all my past trips, I was scolded for wandering off by myself. 20170708_210726112_iOS

Now, I sipped the foam off my cappuccino, warming myself after a long morning of biking in the rain.  The city is bikeable, of course, but I am bad at reading street signs and good at getting my wheels trapped in tram rails.  I let myself recover after a few days of locating museums, demystifying public transportation, and being completely responsible for myself.  20170708_210618876_iOS

I’ve come to realize that I like being a solo tourist.  True, it’s hard navigating without help, and I make lots of mistakes, and I’m very slow by myself—but I can take my time with things.  My itinerary suits me and only me.  I can just take in without having to provide commentary and small talk to a companion.  I don’t have anyone to please or accommodate.

My most recent phase of life began with a similar solitude: Philadelphia’s big music festival, which I attended as a new student of Penn and new resident of the city, mostly unaccompanied but also uncompromising in my enjoyment.  I remember feeling free, explorative, and so much like myself.  Something about being the only one you know in a crowd does that to you.

That experience of independence marked the beginning of my college life.  Is this my new new chapter?

I was so content.  And excited for the rain to resume.  I knew (according to the weather app) that after it ebbed again, it’d be clear to bike.

Things I saw in the Netherlands:

  • Keukenhof tulip gardens
  • Van Gogh museum (very nice interactive guide)
  • Rijks Museum
  • Canal boat tour
  • Haarlem market
  • Vondelpark
  • Van Stapele koekmakerij



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