Usually when I travel by myself, I feel way too rushed to go sightseeing all the time. I often feel like I should just enjoy and slowly take it all in. Surprisingly, sometimes I don’t feel like doing anything at all and just enjoy standing still in a foreign place.
I love traveling by myself simply because of all the unexpected things that can happen when you don’t know what is going to happen. I call them miracles.
So it was my last day in Houston before I would head to Austin to visit some friends I had met while I was living in Buenos Aires and it was one of those days when I didn’t feel like doing anything but staying in the hostel and reading. It was also a Sunday and I still kind of wanted to visit this art gallery (The Menil collection) that was one of the few things that my “1000 places to see before you die” recommended in Houston. On top of that, it was just a short walk away from the Hostel I was staying at.
So after a relaxing morning I got up and walked to the gallery. On the way to the museum area, there was a small private Catholic college campus that I walked through. Now, it was a Sunday, so there was not much going on, but there is just something about an American college campus that is so special – they are young, inspiring, peaceful places. We all know them from movies and personally, I have visited several friends on college campuses around the US.
Anyway, I walked through this campus and took some pictures, because this one had an interesting church. I noticed a security guard coming up, so I was immediately cautious. Maybe I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of certain things? I left the campus and walked around a little more. Suddenly a golf cart pulled up just behind me on the sidewalk. “Jump in for a free tour”, the man driving the golf cart said to me out of nothing. It was the security guard from campus. I did not know what to say. “You are not from here, are you?”, he said. Was it that obvious? So I jumped on the golf cart, still surprised. But I was glad I did. The man gave me an amazing private tour of the campus, throwing in some German nibs (he had lived in Germany for a few years himself). He told me about the history of the buildings (one of the faculty buildings was the birth house of Howard Hughes, the aviator) and we entered the church I found so interesting. I was actually short on time, because I had a date with the Italian guy I met at the airport, but the tour was so interesting. This would have never happened, had I not gone by myself.
This morning, 2 weeks after that day, I was having breakfast in the same hostel, when a lady came up to me and said “You don’t want to go to the Space Center, do you?”. She was older, had long gray hair, was wearing a long fur coat and a cowboy hat. She was the kind of person you would call strange or crazy. I said “Not today, no” (I was planning on visiting the NASA Space Center the next day). She said: “Oh, well I just don’t want by myself. I am not used to doing things by myself. The thing is just that if you wait on other people, you never get anything done.” As much as I felt sorry for her (and I know very well how frustrating it is to wait on people), I did not go with her. To me it did not matter if I went by myself.
The next day I got ready for my solo trip to the Space Center. I had not done a big trip by myself and was excited. I bought the ticket online and looked up the itinerary. When I went to the room to get my jacket, a British girl that was staying in the same room, asked “Do you know how to get to the Space Center?” She was my age, but we had not previously spoken to each other. Eventually, we went to the Space Center together and had a blast together. Getting there and back turned out to be more complicated than expected, so I was glad I was with her.
The thing is, if you wait on people to do something with you, you are more likely to wait and never doing anything. If you are fine doing something on your own for the sake of doing it, you are more likely to meet interesting people and have amazing, unexpected experiences. All I can say is do your own thing, trust yourself, be cautious, and have fun!