My First Solo Trip

It was never my initial plan to travel alone. I tried to persuade my husband and intimate friends to come along but they were just too busy to join me during my ideal travel period.

Should I wait? Should I go by myself?

Of course, I want to go with someone who could share my feelings along the way but I could not resist the strong temptation – London is calling!

The red double decker buses, the British Royal Guards wearing cute bearskin hats, and the adorable flowers in Hyder Park. They all enticed me with an urgency to go to them now! So I gave into my impulse. I booked my tickets a week before my departure date and started to pack for my first solo trip. How exciting! However, the anticipation of having to plan everything and make every decision by myself for my first trip to a strange country made me anxious.

All my worries went out of sight once the plane hit Heathrow airport. I was free like a bird! After living in Hong Kong for 7 years, I found the transportation system in London works the same way as in Hong Kong. It is so easy to go everywhere. I immediately love the city more due to the familiar sights and scenes!

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I wandered around happily. Borough Market, the oldest market in London, offered traditional vegetable and fruit shops, smoking and sizzling street food and finest bars and restaurants. St. James Park welcomed me with hundreds of colorful tulips. I was surprised by a beautiful rose latte in a small Cafe in Shoreditch.

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Those antique paintings in 1860 that I bought from Portobello Market in Notting Hill are now hanging in my living room to delight my everyday life. Two street artists in their 50s made me laugh like a kid with a big crowd in Covent Garden.

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Strangers could not be more helpful to take photos of me everywhere during my trip. A guy named James saw me taking a selfie at a telephone booth near the Tower Bridge. He stopped on his way home after grocery shopping, to tell me that there was a nicer one with a post box not far away. I thanked him and walked with him for a while, I would not have gone to that neighborhood just 5 minutes away from Tower Bridge by myself.

I saw a small and peaceful harbor with many yachts, golden flowers shining under the sun, a father was smiling towards his little son who tried to walk by himself. James took several pictures of me and left only after feeling assured that I was very satisfied with those pictures.

I also made two-day trips to Bath and Cambridge.

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The expansive National Rail network in England is so user-friendly. It is so easy to take a day trip by taking the National Rail out of London to almost anywhere in the country or even Paris. The view in the spring countryside was amazingly fresh. The bright yellow rapeseed is spreading all over the hills. It was also the first time in my life to see the black-faced Suffolk sheep, playing on the farm. Like a kid in the candy store, I was so excited seeing loads of cows, horses or sheep as our train sped past them. The overall experience in Bath and Cambridge, especially Cambridge, was like time travel back to medieval age or in Harry Potter movie. The feeling got intense when I was touching those carvings on the wooden desk in a chapel left by naughty students back in 1827.

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Looking back, it was a luxury to travel alone. I ate whatever I felt like and visited places according to my instincts. I even hopped on a black double deck bus for a ghost trip one evening when I wanted to see more (I would not go to a pub at night by myself). I am glad that I overcame my fear and made it happen. I also enjoyed trips that I spent with my parents, my husband, and my dearest friends. But a solo trip made me more confident, empowered and fearless. It refreshed me and renewed me.

Maggie Shi

Maggie Shi

You can contact Maggie at maggie.shiqianqian@gmail.com.

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