I have a strange relationship with being alone. Growing up with a twin sister, I was never truly on my own. At the same time, I have always been introverted, and spending time by myself is not only something I enjoy but something I couldn't get by without. I am independent, shy, and awkward, but I also have a deep-rooted need for human interaction and emotional support. It's the reason that I want to be a journalist despite my fear of casual conversation. I am an introvert who loves people.
Two weeks ago, I found myself separated from my roommate as our group traveled to Gorey in County Wexford for our homestay weekend. Although I would be placed with another girl from our program, I was worried I would feel alone, staying with this unfamiliar person, with an unfamiliar family, in an unfamiliar environment. As we got into our host mom's car, she asked us if we knew each other. We paused for just a moment, before saying that yes, we did (technically) know each other.
But I shouldn't have worried. Our host parents, Deirdre (Dee) and Chris, were lovely, friendly, and welcoming. Gorey was a beautiful, quaint little town, and most of all, I got along with my housemate for the weekend better than I could have ever hoped. Sheysel, if you are reaching this, I will never forget watching The Good Place and eating cereal with you at 2 am. I was so far from feeling alone.
While in Gorey, I also started making plans to travel to Glasgow for the Celtic Connections traditional and folk music festival the next weekend. Traveling to Glasgow was a last-minute decision, spurred by the Facebook posts of folk bands I'm a fan of and the knowledge that I would be missing my favorite event of Spring semester in Saratoga Springs, the incomparable Flurry Festival. This year would be the 25th of the Celtic Connections festival, and probably my only chance to travel to a festival in Scotland without spending my entire savings. So after a homestay weekend filled with planning, I booked a flight to Glasgow the following Monday.
My trip to Glasgow was a first for me in so many ways. It was my first trip truly alone, where I planned everything, from my flights to where I stayed. Speaking of where I stayed, it was my first time staying in a hostel, something I had more than a few doubts about.
And strangely enough, it ended up being one of the best weekends of my life. I also made friends: Nina, a fellow US university student studying abroad, also traveled here for Celtic Connections, and Michael was a young Polish employee at the hostel. And so it came to be that instead of being alone, I found myself cooking an eclectic dinner of whatever ingredients Nina and Michael had around at midnight on Saturday night. After dinner, we sat and talked with people from the hostel until 3 am. It was such an unexpected and wonderful night.
I also went to some of the best concerts of my life, including the exuberant fiddle band Blazin Fiddles, at which I wondered if fiddles really could burst into flame, and Celtic folk-rock band Elephant Sessions, which exceeded all my expectations as the most high-energy, dance-inducing concert I have ever witnessed. And even though I attended both of these concerts alone, I will remember them fondly for the rest of my life.
As I type this blog on my phone in the common room of my hostel, I am anxious to go to one of the final concerts of my weekend. Nina has left for her abroad program in Spain, and early tomorrow, I will leave as well. And I will be alone. But to think I can make memories and even new friends when traveling alone seems miraculous to me. It just may be that this huge and confusing world is not as lonely as I once thought.