The University of Iowa

Traveling alone

November 21st, 2014

By Peter Frankman

It sounds anti-social to prefer traveling alone, but so far that’s been the case. I haven’t left Germany. I cancelled a trip to Prague to avoid the annoyance of the Deutsche Bahn train strikes, but beyond that all my travels have been day-trips aside from one sleepover in Berlin.

Lacey sketching artists in Hamburg.

I’ve traveled mostly with others because coincidence set us up next to each other. One of my favorite days in Hamburg was spent with Lacey after I found her brooding about her future on the bus towards Am Sande.

She bought a sketch pad and some markers before I cajoled her onto a train to Hamburg where she sketched street artists and I bought Dikembe Mutumbo style basketball shoes.

Lacey’s nice to travel with because she likes artsy stuff and doesn’t mind wandering. She’s got an unusual perspective. 

I’ve been to Hamburg a lot of other times, usually alone, but I’ve gone with Martin and Chloe and Jose, Hannah and Shiloh, and Kieren and Justin, and probably other people I’ve forgotten. 

I’m happy I went with Martin, a German buddy, and the others early in the year. Martin showed us around Hamburg because he’s German and this is his town. He showed us some nice places to eat and to relax, some landmarks we might have otherwise not seen, and ferries, which I wish I took more often.

Even that trip might have been highlighted by quiet reflection on the beach, when I excused myself and went on a walk alone.

Posing with Martin, a German friend.

My favorite person that I’ve traveled with was Amanda. Amanda isn’t on the program, she’s an American I studied with in Ireland three years ago. We’ve never seen in each other in America, but we kept in touch. She was modeling in Istanbul but was able to get work in Berlin and Hamburg so we could hang out.

Part of why traveling with Amanda was fun is the ‘long-distance’ factor. We hadn’t seen each other in so long it had to be fun to spend time together. We could’ve spent three days chatting in a coffee shop (we almost did, we went to Starbucks like five times) and we would’ve enjoyed it, but traveling was that icing on the cake.

It was also great because Amanda is exciting and excitable. This was her first time in Germany; everything was new and shiny. Since Amanda doesn’t speak German, every 20-second conversation I had with a stranger was impressive.

“Oh my gosh, your German is great!” she would say, which is awesome to hear after I’ve started every conversation with, “Es tut mir leid, mein Deutsch ist nicht so gut.”

We spent about two hours in Berlin lost on public transportation and even that was fun. Despite persistent apologies from Amanda for not knowing the city she was staying in and counter-apologies from me for not paying attention to the language I am learning, neither of us was upset. That’s a rare and important quality. Traveling with someone of a different temperament would be a nightmare, but Amanda just sort of inspired positivity.

I don’t mean to put anyone down when I say I prefer to travel alone, but that’s how it is. Maybe if Amanda was around longer, it’d be different, but besides that I enjoy traveling alone. 

On Friday when we finished our exam, Jose and Nick invited a few people to join in their odyssey to the post office that is an ungodly distance from my bus stop, and I said yes. As our bus approached the train station I said I might go to Bremen.

Simon told me to go to Hannover instead, so I did.

Memorial in Hannover

I waved goodbye and got off the bus and onto the train. The process would have been too long if I wanted companionship. I would’ve gone back to my house and decided that 40% battery life on my iPad Mini is far too little for a trek like going to Hannover. I would’ve gone to the library and posted about wanting to go on the Facebook group. No one would say yes, but maybe a few people would ‘Like’ the post. I’d message them and get a “maybe later” or “how about tomorrow?” or “why not Hamburg?” Time would’ve passed and it’d be 3pm, which means a lot when the sun sets at 5pm and Hannover is two hours away. I wouldn’t go, but set my heart on going the next day, but then I’d sleep in too late to feel good about doing anything.

Going alone is simpler. Following every whim without embarrassment of a need to hide selfish impulses.

Peter is a senior from Burbank, California, majoring in English and Journalism at the University of Iowa. He is spending his fall semester studying abroad on the USAC Lüneburg program in Lüneburg, Germany.