On Solo Travel and Stopping to Smell the Roses

by Elizabeth Doney, FCLC ’21


My name is Elizabeth, I’m a junior in the Lincoln Center Honors Program, and this semester I’m studying abroad at Charles University in Prague. It’s been a very busy few months for me, but I’ve been able to make time for a few weekend trips to other parts of Europe. I mostly travel with the friends I’ve made in my program, but a few weekends ago I took a trip by myself for the first time. I decided on Vienna, booked train tickets, and packed homework to keep my mind busy when I wasn’t out in the city. I worried that I’d enjoy the things I saw less because I wouldn’t have anyone to share them with, but I planned to stay very busy in hopes of staving off the loneliness.

Immediately, my well-laid plans started to shift. When I got to my seat on the train and pulled out my laptop, I learned that our academic portal was out of service due to a virus, and I started to get increasingly anxious at the prospect of having to pass a four-hour train ride without any work to keep me occupied. As I went to put my laptop back in my bag, I glanced out the window and saw vivid colors flashing by. The Czech countryside had turned shades of gold and crimson with the fall weather, and I hadn’t even stopped to notice. Mindfulness is not an area of strength for me, but the scene outside the window was so picturesque that I didn’t want to pay attention to anything else. The four hours flew by and, having lost the crutch of my homework, I actually spent time with myself. I gave myself permission to stop thinking about school, fellowships, and internships and instead to reflect on myself and all of the special things I’ve experienced recently while I watched the scenery pass me by. 

Once I arrived in Vienna, I left my backpack at the hotel and challenged myself to lean into the discomfort of being alone. When I went out for dinner, instead of hiding behind it, I kept my phone in my bag and focused on taking in my surroundings. I went to museums and lingered as long as I wanted in front of the art, and I even stopped in a café to write in my journal about my impressions of the city. As I sat on my train back to Prague and reflected on the weekend, I was excited to see all of my friends again, but I was also surprised by how much I’d enjoyed traveling on my own. I’m someone who puts a lot of pressure on myself to be hard at work all the time, but setting aside time to think and breathe was refreshing. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to fit in another solo trip before returning to New York, but I’m trying to remind myself more often to stop and appreciate the moment I’m living.