The challenges of (in)dependence

By Caitlin Kelly

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I’ve been gone from my home near New York City since June 2 and won’t be back from Europe until July 19; apart from two weeks with husband and friends, and 3 days with others, I’m on my own.


It’s been humbling to realize how many things and people I now rely upon to stay safe and healthy:




Without which I can’t charge all devices and keep up with English language media.




Without its instant access to all the data I need in each new-to-me place, I’m not sure how I’d survive. (Unlike many of you, I’m not using my phone 24/7 with all the cool apps available; I don’t want to spend my life, on vacation, still attached to a screen. I also fear its theft or loss and overage fees.)

Whether how many forints to the dollar or a map of the city with tremendous detail or train schedules, it’s become essential.


A phone


I hate carrying and using a cellphone but was deeply grateful for it, (and an overseas plan) when my husband, after weeks of severe stomach pain, was at the doctor’s — our shared GP. I called him to hear the diagnosis, (thankfully, nothing serious), as he was in our doctor’s office.

With a six-hour time difference, communicating can be challenging — and worrying about my sweetie was horrific.




Yes, really. I like a paper map I carry in my purse or pack. You have to quickly orient yourself, especially as a woman traveling alone, especially at night. It’s unwise to appear befuddled or lost.



Hah! So much for that….While in Berlin, I rented a bike for 8 euros for a half day. Riders there whizzed past, with little to no warning — (no friendly, “Passing on the left!” or a ringing bell?!) — and I kept jamming my very damaged right knee as I jolted and stopped the bike to avoid getting hit or falling.


Now that knee, (bone on bone), is once more swollen and painful, and I’m wearing my brace and icing it and finally, in Budapest, was able to buy anti-inflammatory meds. But it’s put a damper on a six-week trip that, de facto, requires lots of walking and stairs. Taxis are expensive!



I speak fluent French, so Paris was easy. Berlin is filled with people who speak excellent English and many words are pretty easy to figure out from context (they also offer English menus!) Hungarian and Croatian? Not so much! I felt absurdly proud in Budapest as, returning from dinner, my friends and I figured out which subway line to take, and had to change lines along the way.


Safe and Reliable Transportation


Without which, no travel!

Whether it’s a taxi, tram, subway, airplane or train, I need it to move at speed — and safely. My train journey from Budapest to Zagreb included a detour that had all of us moving into buses for a bit — track work — then transferring to a regional/commuter train for our final 20 minutes. It was handled efficiently, which was great.

As I was writing this post, I read (with horror), about a New York City subway derailment.

One friend recently flew all the way from our suburban New York town, Tarrytown, to the annual Leonard Cohen celebration on the Greek island of Hydra; the first leg of her very long return journey began by donkey!




I don’t use a Kindle, so have been carrying a few books.

The first — A Little Life (loved it)  — got me to Berlin (left it at the hotel for a local friend); the second, an excellent biography of Angela Merkel got me through 10 days in Berlin. Now reading The Tender Bar, a memoir, with two more left.

When you’re alone, you need something to read!




I’m loving my journey and so glad I’ve taken so much time away from work.

But, I admit it, I miss my friends! Evenings are more challenging when you travel alone — I end up pretty pooped, (esp. with a sore knee), and don’t venture out very far again after a day of walking/limping.

So I’m still tweeting and Facebooking and emailing, even finally catching up with a photographer living nomadically, a longtime friend of the blog  who’s now home in Singapore.




I’m a big baby, it turns out — I miss my husband!

Jose and I have been emailing a lot and have Skyped several times, to our mutual joy. Even 17 years into our marriage, I miss him terribly; we work in the same field, share many interests and normally talk to one another a lot.

I traveled alone at age of 23, for four months in Europe, and have traveled alone many times since. I do love it.

But…I miss my sweetie.

16 thoughts on “The challenges of (in)dependence

  1. i love all of this, caitlin. the realities, the good, along with the challenges, that come with such an endeavor. i really like that you have done your best to adapt, fit in, or just make the best of things and go with the flow as needed. it’s the small victories along the way, (finding your subway route), that make all the difference. that, and the people along the way, as well as back at home, get you through the times when it’s not so easy. bravo.

    1. Thanks! I know you’ve traveled solo, too…

      Just spent a great 90 minutes chatting w a local tourist agency owner, a corporate refugee (!) and learned a lot. We met thru Twitterchats and she chose my hotel here for me in Zagreb (which I love.) I treasure the candid conversations I’m able to have here with people who (how humbling!) speak such excellent English.

  2. I love how honest this is; most people talking about solo travel only share the good bits!

    I was the same as you when I was by myself in Rome last year. Loved exploring by myself, felt proud when I navigated my way on the subway when there was no English, but at night missed having company, especially in a city as social as Rome (although walking about 10 miles a day meant I was falling asleep much earlier than the Romans do!).

    Sounds like you’re having a great time!

    1. Thanks!

      I have little patience for the happy/shiny posts I keep reading…every trip has its issues, no matter how small.

      Today is SOOOOOO hot and humid…I’ve retreated to my cool hotel room to shower and nap and get (!) a massage. I need downtime even during my downtime. 🙂

      I am having a fantastic time. I get up every day with NO idea what day it is.

      1. Geez, I hope my travel posts aren’t the happy, shiny ones you’re referring to.

        Sorry to hear about your knee. Anything that impedes forward movement, or movement of any kind, is a bummer. Sorry too that we didn’t hook up in Paris.

        Anyway, sounds like you’re having a good time. The heatwave has broken here; hope it has over there too. It’s true, the Europeans aren’t big on air conditioning.

      2. No, no…I’m thinking more of some of the Twitterchat comments I see. They get really banal at worst.

        Thanks…I now have Voltaren analgesic cream and my knee is better than it was in Berlin, although still not 100%.

        Having a fantastic time. SO SO glad to be away from the United States for so long; it is now a toxic shithole that gets worse every single day under Trump and his billionaire incompetents.

        I am spending a fortune in this hotel (which (?!) forbids hand laundry, as I return every day from walking drenched in sweat. Not loving that! But it’s a great trip and I’m really enjoying it.

        Paris la prochaine fois!

  3. Hey Caitlin-

    Lol! Interesting that you don’t mind being a little old-fashioned with paper map and paper books, but being “old-fashioned” about being in love makes you a “big baby”?

    Au contraire, that seems to be the most “grown up” thing of all. Knowing who feeds your soul, and whose well being thrives when yours does, that’s a beautiful thing… you two are fortunate adults indeed. ❤

    Continued safe travels! Thanks for letting us in on your journey.

      1. It is driving me nuts — it’s almost impossible to tour Europe in any meaningful way when walking is slow and difficult. I got a VERY good massage tonight and hope that will help a bit.

        So fed up with weakness and knee drama. (Not being able to get to the gym has made it worse.)

  4. Pingback: [BLOG] Some Thursday links | A Bit More Detail

    1. Thanks…luckily it’s much better — as I am now on the top floor (!) w stairs, of a 4 storey hotel and the streets (cobble stones) are very slippery.

      I’m fine dining alone. I just take a book.

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