Travelling Alone: the Highs and the Lows

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When I planned my post-camp travels I originally had a travel buddy, however things changed, and I wound up doing the week and a half trip from Texas to Miami on my lonesome. I’ve travelled alone before in Australia, but this was very different in lots of ways. Australia is designed for backpackers, they are everywhere you go, there are organised ways to meet people and travel with people and everything feels very safe. The US doesn’t have so much of a backpacker culture. I found this out pretty early on during camp when my American colleagues said they didn’t know what a hostel was. Hostels do exist in the US, but they are few and far between, only accessible if properly sought out. They’re also used differently, I met Americans who had just moved and were househunting, I met a few Europeans and a few other post-camp travellers but not many. So not exactly the same carefree traveller lifestyle as Oz.

My first stop after leaving LA was Austin, Texas but I had a night stopover in Houston as I booked my flight at a silly time. Not exactly a great first impression of Texas or a good start to being alone… the hostel literally looked like a crackden, it was falling apart and was eerily empty which was so creepy especially because I had to leave the door open for air con. Naaat a good night. Early morning I was up for my megabus and had to wait an hour in a parking lot filled with druggies and homeless people. Safe to say Houston was not on my list of places to return. I finally made it to Austin, in an actual nice hostel called Firehouse, and took a day trip to Barton Springs. Planned myself a nice day of sunbathing, thought I’d get a selfie in the springs and plop I slipped and fell on my ass, bringing my phone down with me. Down down into that water. When will Joy ever learn to keep hold of phones. That is the million dollar question. So that kind of ruined my day a bit, had to find some rice and go phoneless whilst I prayed to the phone gods to save my trusty Samsung.

Being alone with no phone is not a fun time. Whilst my phone was ricing I walked down the famous 6th street where lots of live music was happening which made me happy. This is something London lacks, you would never walk down a street and see loads of bars with free entry and great live music. I watched a bit of blues in Friends with a Guinness but there’s only so long you can make one $8 Guinness last, so I was in bed by 10. The next day I went in search of something to entertain me and fill the phone void, and I found a cat colouring in book. That’s right. I ate tinned lasagne for dinner, but I splashed $20 on colouring in. Priorities. Trust, it came in useful during later mishaps…

That evening was my overnight bus to New Orleans, still with phone in rice so feeling fairly vulnerable. The first leg was fine but then we stopped off at – guess, only my favourite place – Houston. Midnight in a dodgy bus station in Houston, for reals not my idea of a fun time. I was on edge constantly, hyper aware that I stood out like a sore thumb as probably the only white young woman there, obviously foreign. Back on the bus some man decided it was a great idea to talk to me and warn me about New Orleans nightlife. I lied and said I was meeting friends and he was all ‘oh good, just stick with them and you’ll be fine’. Great. As the sun came up I began to feel vaguely sane again (what is it about the dark that makes everything more scary and daunting), and arrived at my New Orleans India House hostel so early that all my roommates were still asleep.

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Too wired to sleep, I jumped on a streetcar and explored the French Quarter. I got a nice coffee, found an amazing jazz band playing on the street (living up to expectations) and lay in the park doing some colouring in. I then decided the time had come to buy a phone. Jack was bringing me one to New York but I could not wait that long. For safety reasons, obvs. Being reunited with communication was a beautiful moment ❤ I may have spent $50 on a phone but I was still such a cheapskate that I hung around outside Starbucks to steal their wifi rather than buy something. Wifi life, serious.

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New Orleans ended up being one of my favourite places in the US. At night I went in search of Jazz and I found many many jazz bars playing beautiful music. I watched a nice lady sing smooth songs at The Spotted Cat and I drank a smooth budweiser. Get me all American and shiz. New Orleans is also famous for seafood so I sampled a shrimp gumbo and it was fantabulous. One of my best moments was at the famous Cafe du Monde where I was served a mountain of beignets (French doughnuts) with a mountain of icing sugar on top, and I ate them all in my tummy. That plus superb coffee = best breakfast. In general New Orleans just had a really good vibe, cool but not hipster, southern but welcoming, creative and colourful with character. But still I didn’t feel that I could experience it properly on my own. I saw great restaurants and fun bars and pretty lookouts but I just wished someone was there to see it with me!

I had a similar feeling in Miami, once I got there. The night of my flight was also the aftermath of the hurricane so I got cancelled on, and not wanting to part with more money, I decided to wait out the 14 hours in the airport. This was where the cat colouring in book came in really useful… I sat outside Dunkin Donuts and coloured my life away until some woman was like ‘wow, you’re really working hard on that, keep up the good work’. I was like do you think colouring in is my job..? I spent a hilarious hour on the phone to Jack and Ryan drunk in Ireland trying to translate their mess into actual language which passed the time. Finally I got my butt on a plane and made it to Miami, the last stop before the big NYC.

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I stayed in South Beach at a fairly nice hostel called Beds ‘n’ Drinks. I guess pretty much everyone goes to Miami for the nightlife but with me being friendless and penniless (okay not penniless but saving for adventures to come), I decided to stay in my little area rather than brave the big bad city alone. The heat in Miami was unreal, two hours on the beach and I felt like the sun had lobstered me already. I alternated between sunbathing, exploring botanical gardens, writing in cafes (yeah I’m one of those), and window shopping. And when I ran out of things to do I went back to my hostel and ate some super noodles in bed. Oh that high life.

I did come across one of my favourite quotes of all time on the side of a Miami hotel: “Everything in the universe has rhythm, everything dances.” I settled into a bit of a groove being alone in Miami, it wasn’t exactly fun but I made the best of it and went for long walks on the beach and dinners in the square (with my trusty colouring in book, of course). Miami was cool, but I still had the feeling that I wasn’t doing it properly. It was like I was looking at all these places through a looking glass, thinking, this would be a really cool place to come. And then thinking BUT I’M HERE. I just couldn’t really experience or enjoy the places in the way I wanted to. It just goes to show (cheesy line coming up) that a place is just a place, and it’s the people you’re with that make it a destination. Good job next up on my list was NEW YORK BABY and being reunited with Jack..!

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