Once a year I get an urge to pack my bags and go. By myself. It often arises from a persistent feeling of restlessness and being stuck, not getting anywhere. So I switch locations for a couple of days, and get a breath of fresh air. This year my place of choice was London. I’ve been wanting to return here for the past year and a half. So the choice was simple. However, once I arrived I started questioning my motives for coming here. Was it actually my decision? Or was it made for my by Instagram? Some of my favourite photographers work from London, sharing a great deal of their lives in this metropole. Quickly I acknowledged my feelings of doubt, but I also concluded that nothing could be done, except for enjoying the three-and-a-half days I had.
So I woke up early, grabbed my bag and camera, and wandered around. Just days before my arrival a new book filled with routes taking you through the unexplored and less-appreciated areas of London written by the curater of @prettycitylondon curator Siobhan Ferguson. She was so kind to explain to me where I could get a copy, so I bought one upon my arrival. That was the best decision I could have made. During my hours of exploring I came across hidden gems that I otherwise never would have found. So if you ever go to London, pick up this guide. A little advice: the book is quite hefty, so not easy to walk around with. What I did, was enter the routes in Google Maps, and walk around with my phone.
It didn’t take long to get rid of that nagging question in my head why I even went here. London is yet another city I felt right at home. My days were spent walking until my feet hurt, riding the tube for longer distances, sightseeing from a bus when I just couldn’t walk anymore, eating delicious allergy-friendly food to keep me fuelled, buying too much stuff because that’s what I do, reading for fun and my thesis, observing passers-by, taking too many pictures of everything, and getting to know the people I shared a dorm with.
When I travel by myself I choose to stay in hostels, rather than in a hotel. But I limit the dormsize to four beds. That way the amount of other travellers I have to share my room with stays limited. Although, this time there were seven different men occupying the three other beds in four nights. That was a record. And something that got me wondering where other female solo travellers stayed. Previous years I either stayed in a female dorm or in a mixed dorm where actually where other women. But this time, only men. The upside to that is that they arrive, there’s a little small talk, and then they go to sleep. So it’s quite easy company.
What I love most about solo travelling and staying in hostels are the chance encounters I have. Over the past nine years I have met a young woman in the Philippines who travelled the world by herself, igniting the spark within me that travelling the world was not too far out of my reach, I’ve met an eighty year old man on the Ramblas who bought me a coffee and showed me the streets of his Barcelona on a two hour walk while sharing his stories in Spanish which I did understand but hardly spoke, I had a long conversation deep into the night about life and cultural differences in my dorm in Geneva with a young woman from Zimbabwe, and this time I met a young men in my dorm room the day before I left and we talked for hours about our very different yet surprisingly similar job perspectives of helping other people work through difficulties in life. And when I left at four in the morning he even woke up to wish me a safe journey home. In my experience these encounters don’t happen as easily when you travel as a couple. So I highly recommend this way of travelling. However, you do need to trust your gut feeling. If you get a sense that something isn’t safe, take measures.
Two notes at the end of this post. The first is more of a warning: the main subject of all my photos are houses, plants, and street art. So that is what you’ll see scrolling down. For a more diverse set of images, see my previous post on London. The second is about travelling with food allergies in London. That turned out to be quite simple. In every cafe and restaurant I was asked about allergies, and they followed up after asking the kitchen if something was suitable for me. Once I even had to sign a waiver when I said that a little shallot reduction in the hollandaise wouldn’t cause any trouble. That’s how meticulous they are about allergies. Other places should take an example. That’s it. Thank you for reading, and enjoy the images.
Explore some of my favourite areas by foot: Notting Hill, Holland Park, City of London, Shoreditch, and Spitalfields, find a cookbook or two at Books for Cooks, visit an interesting exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum.