Sunday, November 2, 2014

Netherlands Adventures!: A Solo Trip to London, Part 2 (My Overall Experience)

I wanted to write this second post just to get the rest of my thoughts out about my fall break trip to England.  Feel free to read it, but know that this post is mostly for me to keep track of my own growth via my blog this semester.

The Hostel Experience

I would stay in a hostel again (and I'm not just saying that because I'm staying in a hostel again next week), but I would not stay in the hostel that I stayed in again.  I stayed at the Globe Trott Inns, which was situated in East Ham, east of the center of London.  It was advertised as a hostel for non-fussy backpackers that was clean and friendly.  Globe Trott Inns only kind of fulfilled what was advertised.  Whenever I approached the staff about something (to lock up my bag for the day, to get a map, etc) I usually felt like I was bothering them.  I didn't care for that.  I was also never really sure who actually worked in the hostel.  There were people behind the desk whom I thought were simply staying there, but they'd help me lock up my bag in the closet and give me bedding or help me find something.  So usually, I'd try and handle things myself whenever I could help it.

The bathrooms were clean, which was awesome, the dorms were as clean as the inhabitants made it (sometimes luggage was thrown into the middle of the floor and left there, which I hated, but that's not the hostel's fault), but the kitchen was... atrocious.  Disgusting.  And misleading.  Before arriving at the hostel, I didn't expect much of a kitchen.  A stove top, a microwave or two, things like that.  Similar to what I have in my building in Leiden.  I got even less of a kitchen than that at this hostel.  There was a tiny George Foreman grill, a microwave, a toaster, a water heater, and that's it.  The fridge smelled funny.  Whenever I walked from the kitchen back to my dorm, the bottoms of my feet would be black with dirt.  There were fruit flies everywhere.  I saw a mouse run across the floor.  Not okay.  Yes, this hostel is for non-fussy backpackers, but it also must be for backpackers with really low standards.  I don't consider myself to be especially fussy, but I do have standards and this kitchen wasn't acceptable.  I don't think it's too much to ask to have a squeaky clean kitchen.

Accommodations aside, I did like my stay.  I met quite a few people who came from different walks of life.  I'll remember the girl from France, I'll call her S, since she doesn't know I keep a blog and I don't know if she'd want her name released like that.  She shared the same room as me the longest.  She was really nice to talk to.  Then a group of four, three Danish people and one English person, came for London Comic Con and they were an absolute joy to talk to.  Very friendly, very funny.  Best of all, they like Minnesotans and our accents :)  One girl, A, thinks Minnesotan accents are cute :)  I can't wait to visit Copenhagen someday!  I don't think I've made any forever friends (it takes me a while to make friends), but I've definitely met some interesting people and that's really exciting to me!  That's mainly why I'd stay in a hostel again.  That and it wasn't as weird as I thought it would be sharing a room with so many people.  Although the snoring that occurred my last couple of nights was outrageous... I won't miss that.  Or that group of four guys... apparently when I fell asleep, one of them, who was sleeping on the bunk above me, started shaking the bunk to see if I would wake up.  Luckily, one of the other guys he was with told him to "Stop being a dick."  That's what A told me any way.  I already wasn't a big fan of that group of guys.

Traveling Alone

I actually didn't mind moving about the city on my own during the day, especially since I was staying in a hostel where I knew I'd come back to people I could talk to if I felt like it.  I didn't feel lonely, really, and I wasn't as scared as I thought I would be.  I seem to get anxiety over dumb things (taking the metro, for one) so this was a good challenge for me.  I'd be scared to leave on my own and do my own exploring, but I didn't want to spend six days in a hostel on the outskirts of London, so I would force myself to get up.

I liked sitting on my bed each evening and poring over my map of London and deciding what I wanted to see.  That meant I could make quick decisions when I needed to.  I could figure out what routes and methods of getting places were best for me.  I could make decisions on the go to go somewhere I didn't plan on going or not do something I was planning on doing.  I didn't have to check in with anyone: "Hey, do you want to do this tomorrow?"  "Would you be very upset if we didn't do this thing tomorrow like we've been planning?"  It was really nice.

Traveling alone has taught me a few things.  First, it's taught me to solve my own problems.  Train line ends earlier than it did yesterday due to construction?  Alright, let's figure out an alternative train route to take.  Mouse in the kitchen?  Alright, cups at the ready, we're going to catch this bugger (I didn't by the way).  Guy snoring like no tomorrow?  Headphones and a strong will to ignore said snoring that still manages to filter through headphones.  Secondly, traveling alone taught me to rely on myself.  I think I've improved my map-reading skills more.  Both the metro map and the city map.  I haven't joined the present day and don't have a smart phone, so this really comes in handy.  Thirdly, it taught me not to be afraid to ask for help when I need it.  I had trouble finding the Queen's Theater when I went to see Les Mis, so I stopped in a phone store (the closest store) and asked for directions.  If I didn't understand how something worked, I would ask someone who looked like they might know for help.

Traveling alone has been a really empowering experience for me.  Even if it gives my mom a little bit of a heart attack to hear that I'm traveling on my own. :)


Time for a list!
  1. Got better at reading maps (city maps and tube maps)
  2. Got better at dealing with problems as they came up (Painful feet due to blisters?  Bandage up feet and keep walking.  Train line closed halfway through?  Pull out a map and find a new route).
  3. Improved at talking to people I don't know
  4. Thoroughly learned the importance of keeping things clean and in order (including why one needs to make their bed, no matter how long they're staying... that group of four guys that shook my bed in an attempt to wake me up-- not one of them made their bed while they were there.  I was absolutely disgusted.  Like, I had a physical reaction to the disgust that I was feeling towards this situation).  
  5. Learned my limits when it comes to visiting a place.  It's not very realistic to plan to visit five places in a day, but three is pretty reasonable for me, especially in a large city like London.
My next trip is on 6 November.  I'm going to Munich, Germany for the weekend and I'm really excited!  I'm not so nervous for this trip as I was for England.  So now that I've traveled to a different country on my own, stayed at a hostel before, and have gone to said different country for about a week, I know that I can handle a weekend trip in Germany, even if I don't know German.  It'll be really fun!  You'll hear about that trip in a couple weeks.

Thanks for Reading!


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