Alone in a City of 8.8 Million Residents (Plus Thousands of Tourists)

Big crowds scare me, especially if I do not have someone I know with me to help distract from my

A model of Stonehenge made from the rocks along the coast of the Butt of Lewis lighthouse

imaginings of all the potential things that could go wrong and cause widespread panic. So why would I ever dream of or even feel excited for a day spent all by myself in one of the most crowded cities in the world? I can’t seem to answer this question, but somehow I ended up convincing my friends to leave me behind in London as they traveled to Bath and Stonehenge without me during our weekend excursion.

 

A wax figure of Mary, Queen of Scots, a subject of our studies, at Madame Tussaud’s

The first thing I did on my solo adventure was find my way to and attend Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum. I could tell during our first night in London while we were planning our weekend that my travel companions were not too excited about this suggestion, even though they tried to conceal it and not disappoint me. So I was happy to go to this attraction by myself and spend the time I wanted there without feeling rushed or sorry for making my friends spend valuable time and money on something they didn’t want to do. Afterwards, I returned to the hostel we were staying in and was surprised and happy to find our 20-person dorm room quiet and completely empty, giving me a great opportunity to finish writing my speech for class without any distractions.

With the weight of an incomplete assignment off my shoulders, I found myself with quite a bit of free time. I decided to just wander around and explore the city, and eventually found my way to a tea shop in a district of the West End of London called “Soho.” The shop was incredibly busy, so I barely fit my way into the door and up to the counter to order. Once I got my pastry and pot of tea and sat at a newly vacated table, the charming shop owner asked me if I would mind another customer sitting with me. I spent the next hour or so talking to a gentleman who had lived in London for around five years, who told me all about the hidden treasures of the city most tourists would never discover. After warming back up from the rain and sharing a table with yet another local customer (although he was much quieter), I walked across town to the London Eye, where I would eventually meet back with my friends.

A view from the top of the London Eye, a giant ferris wheel

The crowds of visitors eventually became too much for my nerves, so I wandered away and eventually found myself talking with another Londoner, this time an older gentleman being treated at the hospital I was seeking refuge from the rain in. He asked me what I was studying and what career I eventually wanted to have, and he told me his experience with England’s healthcare system after I expressed my wish to become a doctor. Speaking with these local citizens showed me their perspectives, teaching me much more about the city than I could ever get from simply visiting the most popular attractions.

 

Another view from the London Eye showing Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament

Even though I began the day alone, I ended up meeting and chatting with three other young travelers from Canada and Australia, as well as three people from London. I think what gave me the opportunity to meet them was the fact that I was by myself and therefore open to interacting with people I didn’t know instead of focusing on prior friends. The best part about this “lonely” day, however, was that I could do and see what I wanted without worrying about making others miss out on what they wanted to experience. I was able to get a much more in-depth experience in London by taking the time to explore the city and meet new people, and my friends and I each formed new stories during our time apart to be able to share with each other.

 


Kathryn Smith is a freshman at the University of Missouri- Kansas City majoring in Psychology and Pre-Medicine, with the goal to become a psychiatrist. During the month of July, Kathryn is participating in the UMKC Honors College Program in Scotland.

Student blog entries posted to the Roos Abroad Blog may not reflect the opinions and recommendations of UMKC Study Abroad and International Academic Programs. The blog is intended to give students a forum for free expression of thoughts and experiences abroad in a respectful space.