Manchester, England

ENTRY 1: 3/2/18

It is midnight and I am in Hatters Hostel and just arrived from the Manchester airport. Note to self – never again arrive to a country for the first time in the dark. I can actually see nothing in this group suite. My phone is near dead and I have to keep it on the charger which is below my lofted dorm bed. I have so much to write but can literally see nothing. I more or less feel like I’m in a women’s prison. There are literally women having sex all around me and it is rather loud. The wifi in this building also does not work, rather unfortunate. I am also very hungry but damn England currency. Note to self – exchange a small amount of currency immediately upon arriving to a new country. Adventure is not as glamorous as they told me it would be. Until I arrived at the airport, my dumbass assumed I could use euros. I have a feeling a lot of struggles such as not exchanging currency will come of this last minute planned trip.

I am so excited to see MiguelAndres! Any familiar face from home. However, I am very apprehensive about continuing to travel alone. It’s really cool but much harder than cool. Challenging most of the time, it is really pushing my comfort levels in ways I could have never anticipated. It would be really amazing to meet other solo female travellers. Highlight of Manchester so far was definitely the Iranian taxi driver Abi who was astounded I knew the difference between Arabic and Farsi. He said I was clever, and upon sensing my nervousness when dropping me off at the hostel at 10:00pm on a Saturday night surrounded by drunk youngsters, he shared with me that he was “sure I was going to be just fine” :).

ENTRY 2: 4/2/18

Good morning! I love Manchester!! At first I thought it was a bit unwelcoming, which it sure is in some places. It is very dark and wet. However, it’s wonderfully walkable and maybe I’ve just been having good luck post-hostel moderately traumatizing experience. Currently sitting at this adorable healthy food café called Eat and the soup I’m having (chicken caska) is maybe the best I’ve ever had, and super cheap! I adore how solo traveling highlights the tiniest things that bring you the greatest amount of joy. In pursuit of random free activities, I wandered around a gorgeous old historic library. At the info center of the library, I went into a corner of the room to pick a wedgie… and stumbled upon pamphlets full of community events happening this weekend. The most promising event I found was at a music school hosting a free student showcase all day! About to go watch piano and cello performances, could not be more perfect! Hope it lives up to the rest of this lucky day.

ENTRY 2: 4/2/18 PART II: ~5 hours later

Well the day took a bit of a turn. The music showcase was beautiful but I’m currently sitting in my moderately smelly hostel bed by myself crying. Writing and crying. Truly cannot remember the last time I cried like this. For some reason what triggered it was when the front desk guy couldn’t help me with wifi, and wouldn’t give me the password to the office one. I think I just feel really lonely right now and just want to talk to Mom or Tulshi. Yup, crying harder right now so that’s definitely it. I hope I feel better when MiguelAndres gets here.

After watching stangers perform for a couple hours, I was trying to use public transportation and go to this stinking waterfront fancy shopping center but I got very lost and no one could help me, none of the bus drivers knew what I was talking about. Spending so much time alone in totally brand new surroundings and the anxiety that comes with that was taking its toll on me. Today, I almost expected a magical stranger to come and befriend me or help me, but that didn’t happen. I feel like that’s what always happens when people travel alone, right? Magical new friends? I got really sad about the bus thing. I was stuck on this Route 1 looking area for multiple hours, hopping between bus stops trying to figure out where the hell to go. I don’t want to end my day like this but I feel so in the middle of the world without anyone I know anywhere near me at all.

I can’t let the negative overpower the positive, because most of today was really great. I’m going to try and finish it great by going to watch the SuperBowl. That will either make am feel more alone and sad or maybe proud that I kept pushing and pushing and shattering my comfort zone. Either way, better to say I tried.

Not having internet is hard. I depend on my phone for way way way too much. Traveling alone is the most up and down experience I’ve ever had. I slightly remember feeling this scared when I was alone in Uganda, but then it went away and I wasn’t there enough time for it to come back. I love the feeling of self accomplishment I get from being alone and the loneliness is not exactly because I don’t have anyone with me it’s more like it only makes me miss those closest to me in those exact moments. It makes me feel anxious and vulnerable in a scary way and the size of the world around me all of a sudden seems incredible intimidating. Hopefully this is good for me? Honestly not really sure. Just telling myself that it’s all part of a bigger self-development journey.

I’m also struggling so much with spending money! I get so worked up about it. Conversion rates throw me off so much and this weekend trip in general was insanely expensive. Then when I get lost on a bus for two hours I feel like I’m throwing my money away by wasting that time. Or when I come back to my hostel sobbing, I wonder what the hell I’m doing this for. I miss familiarity. I miss Alexandria. I miss my sisters and Ajax. I miss my ex boyfriend (what the hell). My brain just wants to go to what is most comforting because I feel so uncomfortable and out of place. I miss Arabic squad. I just want to be snuggled up in a blanket in Newman library at my university, how weird.

Okay, ahora seguimos adelante. Relax for a little bit. Let phone charge. Get changed, feel pretty. Go to watch the SuperBowl for at least an hour. If I don’t feel good, I will come back to the hostel and rest up tomorrow to see my good friend! I should be so excited to see someone that I love so much, just have to get through tonight and I can call Mom and Tulshi from the airport or in Murcia. This too shall pass. Focus on the positive and try to embrace Manchester.

ENTRY 2: 4/2/18 PART III: ~6 hours later

Manchester got SO MUCH better. While I forgot about the time difference and arrived to the bar 2 hours early to the start time of the SuperBowl, a kind bartender who kept checking on me made me feel comfortable waiting it out like an idiot until the game started. I ran into a couple rambunctious borrachos (drunk folk) that made it one of the most unforgettable nights of my life. We started chatting at the bar and I had no idea there were so many excited Brits that were fans of American football. They couldn’t believe that I was in “shithole Manchester” on the greatest day of the year! They were also very shocked at everything I was doing. “You’re in Manchester?! Stayin by yourself?! In a hostel?!” they genuinely inquired. “Yes…” I replied hesitantly, thinking about how I was not trying to emphasize exactly how alone I was to these men I did not know. “You must have a death wish! You’re bloody brave… this is how you Americans won your independence… you said fuck you Brits! And fuck your bloody tea party!” We all laughed. The restaurant was completely filled so I was sure that I was going to spend the night at a bar stool, but the borracho Brits invited me to their booth with about 6 or 8 other borrachos. The kind bartender assured that he would keep an eye out for me when he noticed my hesitation. I figured why the hell not.

They bought me so many chicken wings and expensive mojitos. One of the old guys did start feeling up my leg but he was easily shrugged off and there was no more of it, I can deal with that. I left the game around half time before they all got too drunk. It was the most glorious evening. My first time going to a bar by myself, trusted my gut, and did not give up on the day!

Lessons learned: In the future, trust when hostel reviews are shitty. Have more guided plans for when traveling alone. I love Manchester!

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