Solo traveller Alex Aloi writes about the ups and downs of ‘going solo’.
This January I crossed the Atlantic Ocean for the first time during the longest journey I have ever taken by myself. I had been on airplanes several times before, but never on my own and not for any length of time comparable to the duration of a transatlantic flight.While I did end up learning a lot from the experience, the journey quickly became frustrating to the point of madness when, after a long but uneventful flight across the Atlantic, I became stranded in Amsterdam. Anyone who says that intensive security is the most annoying thing about air travel has clearly never had their flight cancelled. When this happens, your only recourse is to find the nearest transfer desk and get in the inevitably long queue.
When your flight is one of many that have been cancelled due to inclement weather, it is a very, very long queue indeed. An enormous mass of businessmen, families on holiday and relatives returning from visiting loved ones abroad snaked its way through a roped off queuing area as a large number of blue clad airport workers tried to deal with the multitude of angry travelers that the snowstorm had provoked.
As I took my place in line, the space behind me became filled with even more people who were no doubt in the same predicament that I was in, stuck in an airport for hours, not knowing if they would have to find accommodation for the night and fly out in the morning.
“Going solo” only really started to get lonely when I wanted to talk to someone about my troubles. Earlier in the day, when everything was going off without a hitch, I didn’t mind being alone. In fact, I felt more like an adult, taking charge of my life and proving my independence. In the crowd of people waiting to have their flight rebooked, I found that I really wished that I could talk to someone about how frustrated I was.
Unfortunately, my cell phone didn’t work in Amsterdam, so I found myself trying to sort out several different options for getting to Cardiff without the benefit of having my parents for support. I soon found out that my laptop battery had died as well, so I couldn’t rely on Skype or email to get in touch with anyone either. Fortunately, right around the time that I was feeling lonely I ended up meeting several people in the same predicament. As it turned out, many of the individuals who I was in line with were also students from the United States headed to Cardiff. Like me this was their first time travelling abroad by plane and understandably they were not impressed. We started talking about the university and what we were going to study and before long having our flight cancelled didn’t seem like the end of the world anymore. Two of these students ended up sharing a flight to Cardiff with me, and I have to say, I was grateful for the company. Just knowing that we were going to the same place made me feel more secure and confident. We didn’t have a whole lot in common, but it certainly felt better to have someone to talk to during the journey. If everything went bottom-up on us again, we could always put our heads together to find a better solution. Still, we were basically strangers to each other, and if it wasn’t for the fact that we were all going to be studying at the same university, I don’t know if we would even have acknowledged one another. At the end of the term, I am going to have to travel back across the Atlantic to the United States.
I must admit that after my experience in Amsterdam I am not terribly keen on the idea of traveling by myself, but since I travelled here alone it really can’t be helped. Besides, I’d like to think that I’m a bit wiser for all the frustration it caused. Traveling solo can be irritating, boring and lonely, but if you plan your trip well and keep a cool head when things inevitably don’t work out, it can be an adventure in its own right.
Written by Alex Aloi